Why it’s ok to cry in supervision

Supervision is a relationship between two therapists. It’s not therapy. But it can involve emotions. It can even involve tears.

As a supervisor it happens sometimes that my supervisees will cry during the session. This is mostly followed by an apology and an expression of shame from the supervisee.

The supervisee may feel like they have broken some rule of professionalism and showed too much vulnerability. Or they fear I will judge them for whatever the issue is that has overwhelmed them or touched a raw spot.

This is not how I see it. I am glad that the supervisee trusts me enough that they can show me their struggle.

That I will be able to offer my support. If they don’t show me, I can’t know.

The work we do is challenging. It requires us to put our own needs aside to sit with the pain and problems of another human. It is all done with the caveat of confidentiality which means it is difficult to get support or offload the emotional stress with our usual coping strategies.

Some clients trigger us. Without any intention, clients can remind us of our past trauma, bad relationships, people who hurt us. Some client’s stories make us fear for our children’s safety in this world. We may find ourselves overidentifying.

Some clients have a very close set of problems to our own. Other client’s issues create a sense of hopelessness and overwhelm about the darker side of humanity. Some sessions leave us vicariously traumatised.

I’ve cried in supervision. I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve admitted a client was triggering me to the point I didn’t want to be in the room with them. I’ve even cried with a brand new supervisor. Session 1.

And it was ok. It helped.

It allowed my supervisor to guide me with awareness of the level of distress I was experiencing. Without it, they may have instead assumed I could handle something because I was hiding my feelings behind a shield of professional armour.

It’s ok to cry in supervision. Sometimes you even need to.

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