Emerge and Spread Your Wings

Therapeutic Use of Self

The deadline for my final assignment in my post graduate paper on Therapeutic Use of Self is fast approaching. While I have always enjoyed the research and exploration aspects of study, the assignments not so much. I am pulling together the strands of the topic and clarifying my understanding of how I use my self in a therapeutic way in my supervision practice.

Initially, I needed to create my own definition of therapeutic use of self. In order to be useful to me any definition of therapeutic use of self needs to take into account my practice context as an occupational therapist providing supervision within bicultural Aotearoa New Zealand. The therapeutic relationship in this context becomes one between supervisor and supervisee, rather than therapist and patient. Supervision, rather than therapy is the focus. The purpose of intervention is therapeutic but not therapy.

My definition became:

“Therapeutic use of self is defined as a practitioner’s intentional (Taylor, 2008), artful and selective use of personal attributes (Hagedorn, 1995), to optimise the therapeutic supervision relationship (Taylor et al, 2011) in order to support supervisee’s growth. Competence in therapeutic use of self within this context is dependent upon empathy, cultural competence, self awareness and a commitment to ongoing self development (Taylor, 2008).”

What I have learned?

  • Therapeutic use of self holds different meaning for each of us depending on our professional background, practice context and the skills we use in our work.
  • Becoming conscious of how we use our self therapeutically enhances our ability to use this skill in our work
  • Engaging therapeutic use of self effectively and consciously can enhance therapeutic outcomes with our clients
  • Taylor (2008) describes different therapeutic modes which occupational therapists use in her Intentional Relationship Model: Advocating, Collaborating, Empathizing, Encouraging, Instructing and Problem-Solving.
  • We each naturally tend towards using modes of therapeutic use of self (Taylor, 2008) that fit our personality and values, however it is great for us to build our confidence in the wider range in order to have a wider repertoire to use with clients.
  • Although therapeutic use of self is present in literature in some professions (including occupational therapy, counselling, social work and psychotherapy) it is not always a focus within our training, and maybe something we develop as we become more experienced in our practice.

What Will I Take From My Study?

The opportunity to study in more depth and detail therapeutic use of self has been invaluable to me as I continue to grow in my skills as a professional supervisor. With this new knowledge I plan to:

  • Keep reflecting and reviewing my practice
  • Practice mindfulness and being in the moment with my supervisees
  • Keep the objective(s)of each supervision session in my conscious mind
  • Be conscious of the value, usefulness, improvement in practice, wellbeing of supervisee and results for clients
  • Practice modes of therapeutic use of self that are less familiar or utilised within my supervision sessions
  • Help support my supervisees to refine their own therapeutic use of self skills to support their work with clients.
  • Continue to view my supervision practice through a bicultural lens to ensure that how I work remains relevant for the Aotearoa, New Zealand context.

If you are interested to explore how you use your self therapeutically in your work contact me for a supervision session.

N.B. to follow up on the cited references just email me.