“Supervision, supervision, supervision”! This is one of the mantras that I took away from my training program in Spiritual Direction. We had been supervised during the 3 years of training but we had yet to experience the value and purpose of supervision once we were practicing spiritual direction on our own. Many of us don’t like the idea of being “supervised” because we may believe it will be a time when we discover how many mistakes we made and somehow show us how inadequate we are. Actually, the process of supervision is meant to build up our confidence in the things we have done well and to deepen our abilities to do them even better. It can also be an opportunity to explore alternative ways of directing, not necessarily “better” ways but simply other approaches.
So why supervision? Isn’t it enough that we meet with a Spiritual Director? Why do I also need a supervisor?
In the practice of offering Spiritual Direction to another, we seek to listen to their story and, in the process of deep listening, we seek to co-discern the movement of God/Spirit within the directee. In order to be an effective Spiritual Director, we also need to pay attention to our own spiritual experiences which is why we meet with a Spiritual Director in order to deepen our own relationship with God.
However, in the process of working with a directee we can experience reactions to their story that evoke affective responses within us. These can be positive reactions which evoke a warm and happy memory for us, or it can be a sad or traumatic memory which we want to avoid talking or thinking about. In this case, we can do just that and not even mention this to the directee, even if he or she wants to talk about it. This is a good reason to take this session to a supervisor to explore what it is about our reaction that caused us to avoid talking about it. Without bringing this reaction into the light of supervision, we can continue to avoid issues in direction that we find uncomfortable to confront. This process of self-reflection is just one aspect that supervision can attend to.
There is also the process of education the supervisor can help with. There may be areas that a director has not had experience with as yet that the supervisor can offer helpful information about.
A third part of "why" supervision is important is consultation where the supervisor can offer the director a perspective on an issue or a topic which the director has not encountered in a direction session before. There is much to be learned from the experience of a seasoned supervisor.
While a director can learn much from a one-on-one supervisor relationship, there is also great value in being a part of a peer supervision group which meets on a regular basis. In this case, one or two persons will bring a case study to the group with a “focus question” as to what exactly they need help with in working with a particular directee. The case is presented to the group and through deep listening the members help the director to focus on what is going on interiorly that may be causing the unease in the director. Or, they could also be a mirror to reflect affirmation of a session deeply heard and to which the director has responded with wisdom and grace. The group members are there to encourage and offer support to the actions and reflections of the director.
Recognizing the importance supervision is to the ministry of Spiritual Direction, the staff at Rolling Ridge is committed to building the programs and offerings to support this ministry through Deep Listening Supervision. We offer a guided supervision program called “Insight” in which a group of Spiritual Directors gather on a regular basis, led by two seasoned supervisors, to provide supervision to directors who bring their cases to the group. This has proven to be a meaningful way to grow in our Spiritual Direction skills as well as to learn and grow as peer supervisors.
Along with "Insight," the Ridge is launching a new Peer Supervision group where participants follow a contemplative, evocative model in a peer format. We are offering a "taste of" Peer Supervision on June 10th with the intent of launch a new cohort of Peer Supervision in the fall of 2021.
The difference between Insight and a Peer Supervision group is that Insight is guided and led by seasoned supervisors, while Peer Supervision is group led with rotating facilitation. Our next cohort for Insight begins in 2022.
In addition, the Ridge is in the process of gathering names of persons who are trained in the art of Supervision and can offer this ministry to directors in need of a supervisor. Please email us if you are a Supervisor and are receiving new supervisees. Finally, we are hoping to develop a training program to train those who would like to serve in the capacity as a Supervisor. Watch our monthly Companioning enewsletter for spiritual directors for upcoming details.
If you have suggestions or ideas as to how we can better serve the Spiritual Directors Community please do not hesitate to contact Lawrence Jay, the Executive Director of Rolling Ridge, or John Kiemele, the Program Director at Rolling Ridge.
Gayle Kerr has been involved in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Ministry since 1990. She is a graduate of Trenton (NJ) State College and Chestnut Hill College (PA) and holds degrees in education and Holistic Spirituality and Certificates in ...