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Becoming a Supervisor: Three Reasons Why Supervising is Good for Your Practice

Natalie is an Australian Registered Music Therapist working in forensic mental health and with a private practice in supervision. She can be contacted at www.musictherapybento.com

Music therapists become supervisors for many reasons – perhaps they feel they are ready to ‘give back’ to students and interns, maybe they employ contracted music therapists and provide supervision as part of that employment, or maybe it is a condition of a salaried position. Whatever the reason, becoming a supervisor represents a milestone in your career – you are now helping shape the future of the music therapy profession! This realisation is energising for some, yet daunting for others. It is vitally important to the future of music therapy that students, interns and practitioners have access to high quality supervision to ensure the continuation of clinical music therapy services to our patients and clients. With that in mind, I have created a list of three reasons supervising is good for your practice, that may help you to decide to become a supervisor, or help you on your supervision journey already begun. Here goes –

1. Supervising requires you to evaluate your own work
There’s nothing like having to explain to someone how to do something, to make you rethink how you do that particular something! How do you create great rapport with your patients or clients? How do you learn a new song by heart, overnight? How do you successfully negotiate days/times/venue with facility administrators? Looking at your work through the eyes of a supervisee can certainly provide some useful objective information. Also, hopefully your insightful supervisees are asking lots of questions about the work you do, including the most important one – “Why?”. Why did you say that to your client? Why did you use those songs during that session? Why did you make that decision regarding the billing of that client? We should all be asking ourselves why we do things the way we do – when we supervise others, with any luck the why question is at the forefront of our minds.

2. Supervising allows you to learn from others
Each time I supervise a student, intern or professional, I learn something. Mature aged supervisees can have wisdom and knowledge that I have not had the opportunity to gain (as can younger ones) and younger students or graduates can have fresh new ideas I haven’t had the opportunity to learn yet, so I always look forward to hearing ideas, questions and suggestions from my supervisees, as I know that together we can create great new programs, solve problems and enhance the lives of our patients. In the past I have learned from supervisees the following skills – new guitar playing skills, new ways of writing clinical notes, better ways to use my iPad in the clinical setting, new ways of approaching tricky situations, and more.

3. Supervising involves reflecting on and developing your personal style
I have had experiences with several supervisors, both as a student and as a professional, and each have had their own style and way of working. Some of those styles resonated well with me, and some didn’t. In my own supervision practice, I reflect constantly on my own supervision style, and ensure that my way of working suits my supervisees. I am naturally an outgoing and open person – this style may suit some, but not all of my professional supervisees and students, so it is my job to change my style if need be, so that my supervisee has the best possible experience and gets the most support. I have had student and professional supervisees that have benefitted from a forthright, outgoing style, and yet others who have been more comfortable with a softer, quieter approach. Supervising others is a great way to enhance your skills in various aspects of personal style and relationship development.

In summary, supervising is good for you! I hope some of what I have said resonates with you, and that if your journey includes supervising others, that you enjoy the experience. Natalie ☺

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