Supervision (Latin for overview) is a form of counseling for employees, including those in psychosocial professions. Supervision sessions are led by a supervisor, who usually has a relevant qualification or additional training. In supervision, individuals, groups and organizations learn to examine and improve their professional or voluntary work. To this end, the participants agree goals with the supervisor. Contents include practical work, the role and relationship dynamics between employee and client, cooperation in the team or in the organization. Supervision is mainly used in the medical, social, educational and therapeutic fields (social workers, social pedagogues, educators, doctors, nursing staff, psychotherapists, teachers, pastors, etc.), and increasingly also in business (managers).

The supervisor

  • makes the contract with the client and the supervisee
  • leads the sessions with the aim of supporting the supervisee's learning
  • carries out the evaluation together with the supervisee and, if necessary, with the client
  • works authentically and empathically with the supervisee
  • does not act on behalf of the supervisee outside the supervision system
  • guarantees data protection

The supervisee

  • takes part in contract, supervision and evaluation meetings
  • utilizes the competence of the supervisor and, if applicable, co-supervisors
  • reflects on his practice in the interaction
  • with the intention of relieving themselves and/or learning

The client

  • negotiates or sets conditions on scope, frequency, price, objectives
  • participates in the contract meeting or evaluation meetings, if applicable

Content of the supervision
Depending on the agreed objectives, the focus is on methodological competence, values and norms, personality traits, feelings, thoughts and behavior, personal development, spirituality, goals and strategies, the relationship between supervisee and client, cooperation within the team or organization, interfaces and synergies, role expectations and role behavior, diagnosis of clients (case supervision), structural and procedural organization, power and responsibility, decision-making processes, information and documentation in the organization, interfaces and synergies, role expectations and role behaviour, diagnosis of clients (case supervision), structural and procedural organization, power and responsibility, decision-making processes, information and documentation, quality management, (social) policy, role of newcomers to the profession, introduction and integration of new employees, leadership, neighbourly relations, relations with interest groups, cooperation with the provider. Last but not least, the relationship between supervisor and supervisee(s) is important and often a model topic. Supervision often includes elements of psychotherapy and organizational development.

Depending on the historical roots and "school", the thinking tends to be more depth-psychological, group-work, client-centered, systemic, constructivist-systemic or integrative. Depending on the school, different priorities are set accordingly: analytical reflection, here-and-now, solution orientation, consideration of affects in a systemic context, disrespect for certainties, etc. What they all have in common is the agreement of goals for a certain period of time and the regular monitoring of success. It is therefore always about goals, taking stock, reflecting on experiences - and then implementing skills in the direction of the agreed goal.

In practice, a broad inventory of methods is available across all schools and is used depending on the situation: what works is good. These include psychodrama, group dynamics, Gestalt therapy, NLP, theme-centered interaction, experiential education, systemic therapy, Grupo Operativo, role play, video analysis, homework and much more.

The setting is chosen depending on the objective and content:

Individual supervision
In individual supervision, a supervisee discusses their professional situation one-on-one with a supervisor. The focus is on personal behavior and the underlying values, experiences, thoughts and feelings. The advantage of individual supervision is that it is sometimes easier to bring up intimate questions.

Case supervision
In case supervision, representatives of different professions or members of a team meet to discuss the particularities of a specific client or patient and to plan and improve the way they are dealt with. The aim is to relieve the burden on carers and improve care. The group serves as a mirror in which conflicts and resources become clear and solutions can be found.
Case supervision is useful when several institutions are involved with the same client: Social welfare office, youth welfare office, psychiatrist, court, partner/family and, of course, the person concerned.

Group supervision
In group supervision, supervisees from different institutions and often from different professional fields meet and share their experiences and problems under the guidance of a supervisor. Each participant is given space in turn to contribute and learn for themselves. Here too, the group serves as a mirror in which conflicts and resources become clear and solutions can be found.
The advantage of group supervision is that experiences from different organizations and their methods and cultures come together and thus open up new perspectives.

Team supervision
Team supervision focuses on how team members interact with each other. Participants are the members of a work team or a training team. The aim is joint learning, synergy and solutions. Contents include cooperation, goals, processes, structures, values and culture. This also includes personal issues, but these are only dealt with to the extent that they particularly hinder or promote the joint process. The optimal handling of clients is the overriding goal.
The advantage of team supervision is that what has been learned can then be put into practice together.

Teaching supervision
In teaching supervision or training supervision, prospective supervisors learn and practise the method of supervision. The content includes individual practical situations, the relationship to and interaction with their supervisees, their own personality, their role as a supervisor and the role of the supervisor in the supervisee's organization. It also covers cooperation within the supervisee's own training group. Teaching supervision can take place as individual supervision or as group supervision.

Intervision or peer supervision is a type of group supervision without a supervisor. Supervisees supervise each other. Intervision is part of the training. Many professional supervision associations require their members to participate in intervision groups as a quality assurance measure.

Supervision and coaching
Supervision and coaching are merely similar names for comparable processes. Supervision originates from the psychosocial field ("nonprofit" or "socialprofit"). Supervision is also increasingly being used in the business world ("profit"), but often under the new German term "coaching". Managers in the psychosocial sector tend to call the method "supervision" (especially if they work closely with clients or hold a low-level management position). Managers in higher positions and those in business tend to call it coaching.
Supervision is aimed more at the behaviour of professionals towards clients, customers and patients, often involving the whole team and in relation to the organization. Coaching is aimed more at the behavior of individual managers towards employees.

Supervisor is a multi-year professional training program with an extensive curriculum and high entry requirements. Training to become a coach is less extensive.

Supervision in psychotherapy training
According to the "Training and Examination Regulations for Psychological Psychotherapists (PsychTh-APrV)" [1], supervision is mandatory in the training of psychotherapists. This is not supervision by a trained supervisor as defined in this article, but rather the monitoring of the therapeutic activity of the trainee therapist by an experienced colleague or teaching therapist. The qualification of the supervising therapist is defined in the training regulations:
"§ 4 Practical training:
The prerequisites for recognition as a supervisor in accordance with paragraph 2 sentence 2 are:
1. at least five years of psychotherapeutic activity in patient treatment after licensing as a psychological psychotherapist or after completion of further medical training in psychotherapy, focusing on the field of the scientifically recognized procedure that is the subject of the practical training,
2. at least three years of teaching experience at a training institution and
3. personal suitability."