Professional Legal supervision is a journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to undertake reflective practice; it is an ongoing process rather than a one-off experience –although lightbulb moments do occur! Professional supervision can be undertaken by lawyers in all disciplines of law but it is often used by family, criminal and private client lawyers as a professional tool to ensure safe practice and maintain professional wellbeing.
As lawyers you are working every day with clients who are facing unwanted change, the distress of relationship breakdowns or bereavements. Many clients are upset, angry, fearful and traumatised and some can be manipulative or aggressive. You are also working with opposing lawyers, often in a confrontational or adversarial setting and this can cause anxiety and stress. To add to these challenges you are working within a court system where change appears to be the only constant, delays are common place and the option for you to pick up the phone and speak to a human being seems to have been removed.
It is unwise to believe that your daily exposure to these situations will have no long-term effect on you and your wellbeing. Overtime, if professional self-care is neglected, workloads become too large or the stress of the job becomes unchecked, your ability to perform effectively will diminish and you may become unwell, face burnout and even look to leave the profession you worked so hard to join. Family law supervision is designed to protect you from that happening.
“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long”Michael Gungo
As lawyers you often hear things that are disturbing, see things that are distressing and work on cases that involved abuse, neglect, and violence. You have a strict duty of confidentiality. This can mean that you feel isolated and unable to talk about what you have heard or seen or have experienced and overtime this can give rise to empathy fatigue. Professional supervision provides you with the necessary confidentiality to allow you to talk freely about your cases and to protect yourself from vicarious trauma and emotional burnout.
The supervision process is about providing you with a safe and confidential space to discuss your case work, your career, your employment situation, indeed anything work related that you feel is either holding you back or weighing you down. You bring to supervision what you want to talk about; the session is yours and you are in control.
What is important is that Professional Legal Supervision offers you the opportunity to professionally ‘sound off’ and ‘let off steam’ in a safe and confidential space. Why is this so important? It is important because if you don’t give yourself the time and space to unburden yourself about the work that you do, one day you may ‘sound off’ or ‘let off steam’ inappropriately or your body may respond to the years of stress that you have been carrying in such a way that you may have to live with the consequences for years to come. Supervision is an opportunity for you to invest in your own professional wellbeing. It is the oil you need to ensure you run smoothly and you do not grind to an unexpected stop.
It is also worth noting that Professional Supervision can form part of your requirements for reflective practice and CPD requirements.
“Supervision is an opportunity to bring somone back to their own mind, to show them how good they can be“Nancy Kline