A few months ago, I was asked by an NVR trainee to discuss my thoughts about supervision in NVR to contribute to some research on supervision he was undertaking. I thought it would be interesting to share my responses with you here. Here are his supervision questions, along with my responses.
1. What issues/themes do you feel are important to cover in NVR supervision?
The themes and issues to be discussed would be brought by the supervisee so the supervisor develops ideas together with the supervisee, as in the process with parents. This is a collaborative process. I think overall, keeping a focus on NVR positive action/resistance to violence and controlling behaviour is important in ensuring practitioners, while working collaboratively with parents, also embody a leadership role in the work, particularly in the initial stages.
Moving parents from a position of helplessness to active protest is hugely important, so supervision can assist practitioners to remain in this place of action by noticing and emphasising the small steps to success and building on these. Essentially, helping the supervisee to remember to do NVR! Further, role play with the supervisee can keep things active, stimulate thinking and improve connectedness with the techniques as well as confidence. Roles and organisational issues and ensuring there is no duplication /conflict in terms of what therapies/services are being offered is important. Goal setting and focus on what parents and practitioners are trying to achieve.
2. What are the typical queries/struggles that practitioners bring to Supervision?
Often, I find the positive acts of protest most difficult for parents and also for the supervisee. Staying with NVR when parents are feeling negative, empathizing while not sitting in despair with them, but staying focussed on moving into action. The supervisor is in a position to assist the supervisee in recognising the processes which are going on in their work with the parents and helping them shift perspective and develop plans going forward. Our own dominance thinking also means we can get stuck at times in trying to force the pace of work or feel we know what needs to happen, and we can therefore loose empathy with the parent.
Supervisors can notice what is happening for the supervisee and question this with them, often in an exploration of the supervisee’s own beliefs and values about parenting and helping them to stay resourceful for the parent. Acceptance of the inevitability of making mistakes but being able to correct them next time is also a theme, as there is frequently a low tolerance of this within organisations, and a catastrophizing tendency among agencies when there are set-backs. Helping practitioners to persist, stay calm and have faith in the process (and encourage mistakes as part of the process) even when the end does not feel in sight is part of supervision.
3. Assuming that you do, why do you feel it is important for NVR to have a specific type of supervision?
NVR supervisors are also NVR practitioners trained to an advanced level and face the same struggles as their supervisees, so are always questioning and refining their own practice in supervision themselves. The NVR approach is based on practice, trying things out, reflection and refining of techniques and plans. It runs counter to many accepted parenting approaches and does not focus on the ‘psycho-archaeology’ of looking for the root causes of violence that some professionals would favour.
Supervisors have experience at the sharp end of the struggle for peace in an NVR frame and can bring ideas from this into supervision. NVR supervision offered by practitioners who have not been trained and are not practicing dilutes NVR and will not adhere to NVR principles.
4. Which of the NVR principles do you feel relate most to supervision?
That we cannot do this work alone. Supervision is part of our support network. This is a hugely important point and is why supervision is so key in NVR.
It makes our practice transparent and ethical as we share our successes and our mistakes, refine our techniques and commit to nonviolent struggle. Asking for help and using it is what we encourage our parents to do, and therefore we ask as much for ourselves. It’s really a parallel process I think.
- It is important to look after ourselves, and that is why supervision is not a luxury but a necessary part of professional practice.
- It can encourage persistence in the face of setbacks and slow progress.
- Appreciation of what successes have been achieved, however small, and amplification of these.
Lowers arousal levels to talk to a compassionate and empathic other after taking part in direct action e.g. announcement, sit in and supporters’ meetings and enables the practitioner to stay present and embodied for the parent going forward.
5. Any other thoughts on effective NVR supervision would be very gratefully received.
Like all supervision, there are general principles e.g. a contract detailing an agreed structure, purpose and cost, frequency, duration, venue. With group supervision, it helps to have clarity about an agenda, venue, times, and someone who is responsible for being the contact person. It is helpful to have time slots for each item on the agenda so everyone knows how much time they are committing.
I like to include time to discuss a recent NVR based article in group supervision where possible. I always encourage practitioners to read widely on NVR as well as talk and reflect.
These are my musings -would anyone like to add to the conversation?
Systemic Psychotherapist and Social Worker
Jill is a qualified Systemic Psychotherapist and Social Worker. With 30 years experience of working with children and families. Read more…