Setting up a supervision group

Thinking about starting a supervision group? The information below provides some points for consideration when setting up a group, be that a peer group or one facilitated by a supervisor.

Membership of the group
Consider the desired commonalities and diversities among the potential supervisees:

Do members have a similar number of years post-qualification experience?
It may be refreshing to have input from someone very new to the profession. Alternatively you might prefer to work with a group whose members have all been interpreting for a number of years.

Are members TSLI or RSLI? 
Do you want a mixture of both?

Do members of the group work in similar or different domains? 
If you work in mental health do you want the rest of the group to be drawn from the same domain or do you want a breadth of experience?

Have the group members been through a similar training route, e.g. university or NVQ?

Do the group members have a similar ethos/ approach to interpreting? 
A supervision group consisting of members who all have a similar style of working and a common approach to interpreting can have positive aspects. It means that members will be attuned to a shared approach or ethos. On the negative side of the balance sheet, there is a risk that the group will become collusive and lack a more objective perspective.

Should members be based in a similar geographical area, to aid access to supervision?
Consider the use of technology (e.g. Skype) to connect with more remote interpreters.

How many members do you want in your group? 
The larger the number the less time each member will have to discuss their issues. Four to five is regarded as an ideal number.

Will the group be open or closed to new members? 
Will you want to take on new members if an existing member leaves? How will this affect the group dynamic?

How well do members of the group know each other? 
You may want to consider the potentially for clashes between personalities. ‘Talking styles’ should also be carefully thought about- e.g. is one of the group members a ‘story teller’, does another individual struggle to get their view across, does one member have difficulty in understanding ‘turn-taking’?

The first meeting should largely be spent discussing expectations of supervision and the structure of the group. Consider:

Frequency of meetings 
How often do you want to meet? It may be worth booking in sessions for a block of time – 6 months/year. Arranging sessions on a fixed day can be helpful e.g. the 2nd Thursday in the month.

Where will you meet? 
Meetings can be held in member’s homes on a rota basis, but consider issues of confidentiality. Would you prefer a neutral, professional space for your meeting?

Time boundaries, including how time will be allocated?
Group members may want to agree to divide the time equally (e.g. 30 minutes each). Alternatively, members could identify the length of time they might need at the beginning of the session, and agreement reached between them.

What happens in supervision stays in supervision?
Confidentiality and trust are paramount. 
We interpret in a small community. You will need to agree how you discuss clients and co-workers known to other members of the group. Will you refer to individuals by name or initials? 
What if one member of the group feels uncomfortable/ there is a conflict of interest, e.g. would they leave the room?

Who is responsible for maintaining time boundaries, room bookings, dealing with interruptions, facilitating group discussion? In group supervision the supervisor would facilitate the above.

What does each member want from the group and what are their expectations?

Understanding terminology and concepts.
You may find it useful to have a discussion about your understanding of concepts such as ‘the drama triangle’, ‘vicarious trauma’, and ‘transference’. If your group is being facilitated, the supervisor may bring reading material for you to study. Alternatively, you may want to spend one session discussing these (and other terms) and considering how they relate to your work. See below for an explanation of these terms.