Fighting Loneliness in Private Practice by Supervising

By Allison Puryear, LCSW, CEDS on April 22, 2020

Networking and participating in consultation groups are great ways to connect with other therapists and ward off loneliness, but let's talk about a completely different kind of relationship: supervision.

Your boundaries as a supervisor won’t be as lax as they might be with consultation groups or networking. We have to be careful about our boundaries when we’re feeling lonely. I want you to be able to flex your supervisor muscles in a way that is healthy for you and your supervisee. If you’re starting to feel lonely, it might be tempting to constantly reach out to your supervisees. At the same time, you might find yourself less focused on their needs as they grow their skills—it’s like the ultimate empty nest syndrome! Remember that your supervisee is not necessarily your peer. There’s a power differential embedded in the relationship. Having this different kind of relationship allows you to help someone build their clinical skills through mentorship, which is vastly different from our relationship with clients. Our relationship with clients helps them build their skills for dealing with life. The nature of those relationships are different because they need to be. Mentoring makes me feel a little less alone in the world without gabbing about my weekend or something that’s stressing me out. 

When I’m supervising people, it helps me think about what I’m doing in my own clinical work in a new and different way. I’m thinking about allowing my practice to serve as an example, I’m thinking about my own leadership abilities, and I'm modeling these things for people, even though they’re not watching my sessions.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention getting great supervision training. I think most states require it at this point, but just in case yours doesn’t, I’d love for you to get actual training in how to supervise because those dynamics are different. Remember, you and your future supervisees deserve to do it right. 

A loneliness-busting aspect of supervising is that you have someone with whom you can geek out about some of the clinical stuff! One of my supervisees and I love to nerd-out on research together, and to be honest, I don’t have many people in my life I can do that with! I have people who will indulge me but few who will bring articles or books to the table, so that we can dive deeper together.

* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.

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