After a busy day in clinic do you ever take the time to reflect on not just your treatment plans, but the different interactions you’ve had with your clients? Have you come home feeling unsettled or ruminating over what you could have done differently?
The majority of naturopaths and herbalists fly solo, or work in clinics without regular team meetings and opportunities to debrief.
When we work in a vacuum it can be difficult to effectively reflect on and gain insight into our work. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop about what a client has said or a question we forgot to ask. Spiraling into second guessing or self-recrimination contributes to lack of confidence in our clinical decision making.
The initial motivation for a practitioner to seek mentoring varies but frequently it’s driven by business issues such as the need to attract clients and earn more money.
But as a mentor I’ve often found that when we dig deeper, there are equally important personal and professional factors playing a major role in the success of the business.
Is mentoring the same as professional supervision?
Broadly speaking, a mentor is a guide. Our role is to support a mentee to grow their knowledge, ability and insight. This can be far ranging from business skills and creating systems, to our core work as healers.
Mentoring is an umbrella term that covers broad areas. Mentorship in the natural therapies world sometimes focuses on specific niches – such as supporting new graduates starting practice, creating online programs or focused learning in specific areas like nutrition, thyroid issues, etc. Mentoring can cover selfcare, business, clinical and interpersonal issues.
Sitting under the mentoring umbrella is professional supervision, which is primarily about growing our understanding of the clinical process. While it might focus on a case review, it can go beyond simply working together on a treatment plan.
The mentor doesn’t usually sit in on the practitioner-client consultation. Instead they offer an opportunity to reflect on therapeutic interaction, the clinical decision-making process and any personal impact arising from this.
Why choose professional supervision?
Supervision is a long standing tradition in psychology and many other health professions. Clinical psychologists in Australia are required to undertake at least a year of regular, paid supervision in order to gain full registration.
I was introduced to supervision long before becoming a naturopath, as a volunteer telephone counsellor. Individual debriefing was available with a supervisor after a tricky or upsetting call. It was mandatory to attend regular group sessions, to reflect our recent telephone counselling experiences and what may have influenced or triggered us personally, with an emphasis on growing our self-awareness and counselling skills.
As a brand-new naturopath, I often wished supervision was embedded in our professional development. On the days when I got home from work moved by a client’s story or feeling overwhelmed about where to begin with their treatment, I really wanted a supervisor to have my back and guide me through this steep learning curve.
Lecturing final year students in the late 1990s, I wanted to remedy that experience when they graduated. So I created the programme I wished I’d had, by offering group and individual supervision.
Over the decades I’ve observed that while some of our clinical tools have changed, the therapeutic process hasn’t. Emerging practitioners have all the same concerns around being effective and successful but with more pressures than before.
While case reviews are often a core part of professional supervision, it also provides space for reflection and insight. It can deepen self-awareness and resilience, along-side growing clinical confidence, knowledge and skills.
Reflective practice, is a powerful supervision tool. It gives us an opportunity to grow personally and professionally, not only in clinical competence but also awareness of our own reactions, boundaries and other issues that get in the way of succeeding as a practitioner.
Reflective practice happens when you explore an experience you have had to identify what happened, and what your role in this experience was – including your behaviour and thinking, and related emotions. This allows you to identify changes to your approach for similar future events. If reflective practice is performed comprehensively and honestly, it will lead to improved performance.
Latrobe University What is Reflective Practice in Health
The supervision process, including tools such as reflective practice, can help banish imposter syndrome and crippling self-doubt. It’s an invaluable skill that we can use throughout our career. It boosts confidence, helps us use our time more productively and creates healthier work/life boundaries.
Being a supervisor and mentor, is deeply rewarding. It’s a privilege to witness a practitioner journey from self-doubt and overwhelm, to blossom into a confident, effective and well-resourced clinician
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