My Philosophy of Supervision/Consultation by Patti Swope RN, LMFT
As EFT therapists, we immerse ourselves in the lived experiences of our patients. We track pivotal and emotionally painful moments along with their context and the unmet emotional needs. We help patients tolerate painful affect so they can embody and digest the emotions that are or have been blocked. Patients experience for themselves how behavioral ways of managing their emotions inhibit connection to oneself and others and blocks them from reaching for, receiving, and providing comfort.
To ensure a secure supervisory alliance and to use the full power of the EFT model, therapists must be aware of their own behavioral ways of managing their emotions under duress, process the emotions underneath which allows for new behavioral responses to triggers that originate in the past. Therefore, working on self-of the-therapist is part of supervision and is isomorphic to the practice of EFT.
The research article “Supervising Emotionally Focused Therapists: A Systematic Research-Based Model” by Palmer-Olsen, Gold, and Woolley (2011) guides my supervision. According to Palmer-Olsen, the four main supervisory goals are: 1) co-creating and maintaining a secure supervisory alliance, 2) ensuring theoretical grounding in attachment theory and the EFT steps and stages, 3) ensuring supervisees’ ability to deepen and regulate clients’ emotions and facilitate bonding processes, and 4) ensuring supervisees’ ability to regulate and use their own emotional processes in therapy.
A secure supervisory alliance is crucial. I tune in to supervisees emotions with curiosity and check in with how they feel and repair if a rupture has occurred. I am open about EFT struggles I have had and/or continue to have. I am thoughtful about what, how and when to give feedback. Goals are collaboratively identified, evaluated, and adjusted as needed.
It is important to note that supervisory/consultant relationships have an implicit, inherent power dynamic(s) especially when a supervisee or consultee is wanting to become certified in EFT and/or working towards state licensure as a therapist. I strive to be conscious and explicit about these dynamics so that the supervisee/consultee can feel safe.
For seasoned therapists who are used to feeling confident about doing therapy, I attune to the emotional upheaval that comes with feeling like a beginner again. I let consultees know how I view them. As skilled, experienced, and competent practitioners. I tie the learning to what is already known and how it may be done in EFT.
EFT supervision is done by video review. Showing video of one’s work takes courage because feelings of anxiety and shame can be triggered. I listen and tune into supervisees feelings. I validate and do my best to be comforting and anti-shaming. It may be reassuring to the supervisee that after all these years I still video record sessions and get consultation.
The supervisee may have an area of focus to get help with, and if not, we will collaboratively identify an area to focus on from the video. Having an agreed upon focus prevents overwhelm, a state that is not conducive to learning. From there we will explore and deepen our understanding of what was happening in that moment for the therapist conceptually and/or emotionally. We will then move into a role play experience to acquire the skill needed or work on self-of-therapist. We will process, integrate, and put into practice the new learning. Showing future video where the therapist incorporates the new learning with patients is encouraged to evaluate effectiveness of this process.
Learning the EFT model relies on seven specific skill sets: focus on present process; attachment language; the five step Tango; pacing and RISSSC; the cycle, steps, and stages; pursue withdraw strategies/ intentions and attachment injury repair.
I utilize teaching methods that fit the supervisee. We learn via three modes: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most people depend on just one or two and not all three so I encourage my supervisees to use all three modes when they can. I recommend videos, books, research articles located on the ICEEFT website, YouTube, and podcasts. I want learning EFT to be fun. A supervisees native language may not be English, a supervisee may have a learning disability, physical disability, ADHD etc. and/or the cognitive impacts of long COVID-all that require methods of learning to be tailored to their individual needs.
I use (ACES) -alliance, conceptual, experiential, and self of therapist- and the Tango as a guide and to track the supervision process. After meeting with a supervisee, I self-reflect. Did I do a role play and how did the role play go? Did it have a clear focus? Was it brief? Did I use the Tango and was I explicit about that? Was the learning objective clear? Did it fit with the learning edge of the supervisee? Were there unacknowledged identity issues? If self-of-therapist work was done, did I ask for consent? Was the intent clear? Was the supervisees behavior that was impeding them from using EFT explored in a non-judgmental way? Was there a resolution and a new action tendency? Did we tie the new action tendency (behavior) back to the supervisee’s work with the patient(s)? How did I manage time?
EFT is sophisticated, nuanced, and complex. It’s not a linear model. I want to thank Dr. Sue Johnson for developing this brilliant model and for the Tango which helps to simplify learning and doing EFT. Learning EFT is demanding emotionally, time intensive and expensive. It is crucial that the supervisee be safely held through this process. It fits with my values and beliefs, it is non-judgmental, non-pathologizing and collaborative. EFT is rewarding in its effectiveness with patients, and in the lives of the therapists who learn it.