Mindfulness-based Relational Supervision: Mutual learning and transformation – a review for those in the coach supervision world

It has taken me a while to get round to reading this book, but goodness has it been worth it!

In it, Fiona Adamson and Jane Brendgen write about their deeply personal supervision relationship which grew over 12 years of working together. They describe how it developed from playing out socially learned and shaped behaviours (relative to the supervisory context) to establishing two-way psychological safety and trust and then to the supervisor stepping away from the expert role, developing greater mutuality ‘whilst inhabiting our respective roles lightly’.

Mindfulness-based supervision for deep transformational learning

Describing how mindfulness-based relational supervision brought forth deep transformational learning for them both, they analyse this by bringing in many disciplines, theories and ways of working. For example, from attachment theory, adult learning theory, the exploration of socially constructed reality and somatic working.

Mindfulness-based Relational Supervision

Their relating of such theories and thinking to their actual experience brings these to life in a very readable way, furthering the reader’s understanding of the concepts – enhanced even more by the asking of useful questions at the end of each chapter.

Reciprocity in supervision relationships

Adamson and Brendgen’s is not necessarily a conventional supervision relationship – they themselves describe it as ‘post-conventional’. However, whatever debates we have about the appropriateness of reciprocity in this work, it cannot be disputed that in all 1-1 work there is a reciprocal influence (maybe the degree of influence is what can be debated) because, as they suggest, when we work with others there is a ‘dance of two nervous systems’ and we are ‘highly sensitive social creatures’. This reciprocity results in deep complexity in our supervision work and presents many challenges. For example, it can trigger past conditioned emotional and behavioural defences. The authors argue that being aware of these reactions and patterns can have a number of benefits including that we end up being less caught up with them. They suggest that relational mindfulness is the foundational meta skill of transformative relationships.

Content and conditions for training coach and supervision practitioners

In the latter chapters the authors strongly challenge whether practitioners in this field are being given the best content and conditions for learning that will enable coaches and supervisors to become resilient and able to work with uncertainty and emotional challenge. The need for developing self-knowledge (such as understanding our triggers, traits and different aspects of ourselves) is stressed, furthering understanding of HOW we are in relationships which will have ‘formed as we were socialised in childhood’. They argue for relational teaching and learning, teachers and learners being in partnership, with the teachers modelling relational meta skills. And the need for learners to be guided by what will serve learning rather than over-identifying with models and tools, beautifully articulated by Adamson, ‘I have a lot of tools that I have collected over the years, but I find that if I start pulling those tools out and setting them down between myself and my client, then one of us is sure to trip over them’.
The book is inspirational, moving and challenging. To round off this short review, I leave the reader with one last thought from Adamson:

I am led to wonder how much more delight in the learning process could be achieved if more of us felt free to be truly and deeply ourselves

If you would like to find out more about supervision with Viv please get in touch. For more information see supervision page.

Adamson, F. and Brendgen, J. (2022). Mindfulness-based Relational Supervision: Mutual learning and transformation. Abingdon: Routledge