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Professional Growth as a Professional Supervisor

by Kimberly on November 15, 2012 · 3 comments

I believe that if you want to learn something really, really well…then teach it.

This belief has been reinforced over and over again as a PhD student. One of the perks of being a graduate music therapy student is having the opportunity to supervise student music therapists, which then allows you to learn about your craft at a deeper level. The questions students ask force you to analyze what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why. It forces self-analysis and it forces you to be crystal clear about your professional practice and beliefs (or if not crystal clear, at least you are reflecting on and analyzing your practices and beliefs. Besides, are we ever really crystal clear? Doesn’t that understanding continue to develop and evolve? But I digress…)

Given this, I can’t help but wonder if it should be the responsibility of every practicing music therapist to be involved in supervision at some point in their career? There is the option of being supervised yourself—say through peer or professional supervision—and that’s a smart choice. But what I’m talking about is being a supervisor yourself through working with a music therapy practicum student or intern.

For me, I learned a TON from my brief stint supervising practicum students and having an intern while out in Colorado. They asked questions that prompted me to analyze and clarify why I practice the way I do. It was a great way to stretch and grow  as a professional.

But beyond simply being a supervisor, I think there’s incredible value in getting supervision training. I (finally!) took my first music therapy supervision course last fall as a first-year doctoral student. And it has completely changed how I supervise! There are several elements of what I do that probably look the same as before, but I have a much clearer understanding of what the student/intern is going through and what they likely need from a student development standpoint.

So where can you find this supervisor training? Well to be honest…I don’t know. I was fortunate enough to have a course offered when I went back to school. But what about if you don’t have plans to return to school…what then?

One option is to start by purchasing and reading the Music Therapy Supervision book edited by Forinash. Maybe you can start a book club, virtual or in-person. And what about joining a peer supervision group—who says that peer supervision is limited to clinical work alone? You can also keep your eyes open for supervision workshops and sessions offered at regional and national conferences. Finally, consider looking for non-music therapy supervision courses being offered in your area. They will not be able to include the music portion of what we do (which admittedly is a huge hole), but I bet that a lot of what they’d cover would transfer.

What about you—what value do you see in being a supervisor? Do you have any other ideas for where to seek supervision training? If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the boxes below!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Kalas November 16, 2012 at 6:51 am

Hi Kimberly! I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with you. I supervise interns and practicum students from University of Miami and it has completely changed me as a therapist. I love supervision. You are correct – you have to be crystal clear about WHY you are doing things. Also, if you are instructing the students to do something in the session, you’d better be doing it too! Supervision has made me be a better therapist all around. Aside from that, I love seeing students progress from leading their very first interventions with clients EVER to leading an entire session (I witnessed that a few times this semester). That is pretty awesome 🙂
Amy Kalas´s last blog post ..Get Your Turkey Groove On!

John Lawrence November 16, 2012 at 10:23 am

This may or may not be an option for our U.S. colleagues – The Canadian Association for Music Therapy requires all potential internship supervisors to take a “Supervisor Training” course, prior to taking on interns. I will be taking the training this December so I will be able to more appropriately address issues such as quality of instruction and content. There are several instructors who might be willing to consider offering the course to a small group of interested individuals.

rachel November 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

I think this is an excellent topic. Something I wish I could see- is videos of other music therapists providing supervision, and then getting feedback from their interns as to what was helpful. I think with every intern being so different, it becomes a real experience based skill as to how to best supervise each different intern, since they all have different learning styles. But I am digressing into the difficulties of supervision- I agree in general supervising at all is a fantastic learning experience- and also exhausting!!!

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