Clinical supervision is so wild. Nothing in my educational or vocational career has prepared me for it.
I'm used to being evaluated. You go out, do the thing, people observe you, they tell you how you did. You get a mark on a report card, a raise, a list of your shortcomings, kicked out of the program, whatever. You go away. Done.
Meanwhile I come into my clinical supervisor's office for a session, dragging my laptop with a camera dangling from a USB cord, and we sit down. "So," she asks, "How has the week been?"
I fill her in on my cases and how I've been doing. Things I'm thinking about, books I'm reading, progress I've made that I'm proud of, the state of my to-do list. She asks what my goals for supervision are: concerns I want addressed, techniques I want to know more about, topics I want us to cover.
I can say, "I feel like I'm doing pretty well but I just want a gut-check and ideas of where to go next." Or I can say, "I'm really struggling to get this client to engage with me emotionally, can you suggest any techniques?" I can even say, "I feel awful, this session went really badly, can you watch the tape and tell me whether I should quit psychology and set up a hot dog stand?"
When we watch tape together, she always turns to me first and says, "What are you seeing?"
I'm not used to being treated as possessing essential competence. I can't say whether it was stated as such, but it always felt that in anything I did--taking a test at school, being coached in fencing, getting my story beta-read--I was being judged against a basic standard of "acceptable" and "unacceptable". There was "good enough" and "not good enough", and I was in a constant hustle to be good enough.
But in having graduated with my Master's, I'm assumed to be in a basic state of competence--a default "good enough", deviation from which would be a serious act of misconduct. So when I walk into supervision, my default is already good enough in the sense that I'm assumed not to be engaging in malpractice and fucking up my clients.
I tell you, therapy where I talked about myself to someone who gave me unconditional positive regard is great, but professional evaluation no longer conducted over a trapdoor labelled "UNACCEPTABLE" is fucking lifechanging.
(I can't tell if it's an actual change in professional culture, or if I would have had access to shades of this before had my mental health problems been less acute in the past. Because for the last few years my anxiety and depression are pale shadows of their former selves, which is definitely a factor.)
The other thing that's different, and this definitely feels like an external systemic thing, is that the purpose of supervision now--an absolute requirement for the early part of my career, but discretionary later on--is very largely to make me self-reflective and capable of assessing my own performance. In the future, I'll be allowed to practice with no supervisor, no boss, no god, one Master's. I'll need to be able to tell when I'm doing well or when I need to improve, so I'm being prepared for future independent practice.
Western education is entirely about training you to submit to external evaluation, and has practically no interest in making students autonomous judges of their own behaviour. The assumption is that if someone knows what the right thing to do is, they will, of course, do it; failure to do so is laziness or wickedness or some kind of moral failure. The assumption is that if you ask a child, "Do you think you behaved well today?" they will of course say yes--because that evaluation is of course achieving Acceptable over Unacceptable, and no one would willingly submit to the failure condition. We're trained never to draw attention to our mistakes or struggles, just to hold our breaths and hope the external judge will pass them over.
Clinical supervision is like... doing a spelling test, and then having the teacher tell you, "Put a check mark next to any words you absolutely know you spelled correctly. Circle words you aren't sure you spelled correctly. Put an X next to words you're sure you misspelled. Then I'll provide you with the correct spellings and you can see if you were right." (Except with more disclaimers that the teacher and dictionary are subjective resources and cannot be taken as 100% correct.) And then your mark is based not on your spelling, but your accuracy in guesses about your own performance.
God, it's just... it's so liberating. It's amazing.