Finding A Supervisor

And so a new chapter begins.

During the first lockdown I was reading and reflecting on the previous blog series where I discuss what I learnt and how I go about things. Having now embarked on the 2 year journey to becoming a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist (the last hurdle) I imagine I will revisit some topics as I continue to learn more.

But we will discuss that when we come to it.

For now, this post explores the struggles of finding a supervisor during a global pandemic and my collection of thoughts, concerns and excitement when making the difficult decision to begin this journey now, amidst such uncertainty and change.

After graduating from my Masters degree in March 2020, I was faced with a difficult decision. The world had just gone into lockdown and I needed sport (and normality) to fulfil the requirements of the Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology (QSEP) with the British Psychological Society (BPS). QSEP is stage 2 of the BPS pathway to becoming a chartered sport and exercise psychologist in the U.K, the masters degree in applied sport psychology being stage 1.

I decided to wait until the world settled and we were more aware of the situation we were faced with. I used this time to really build Beyond Better (see previous post), have a solid online presence and build a bit of a following. I’d like to say this went well (feel free to make your own judgement by checking out the instagram page) and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of building something from the ground up. However, I still wanted to prepare for when I decided to take the step and start stage 2.

Unsure of the process, I contacted a trustworthy source for information and an interrogation. My Masters degree supervisor, Ross is my go to guy for all things sport psychology. In previous posts I mentioned the importance of building lasting relationships with lecturers and tutors. Besides the fact that Ross is one of the most genuine, kind, caring and honest people I know, his experience and knowledge has proved invaluable in steering me along this sport psych road, especially when some of the signposts aren’t very clear!

Ross had no reservations in supporting me to find a suitable supervisor and even provided a small step-by-step breakdown of how to go about it. As per Ross’ advice, the first thing I did was look up the directory of chartered psychologists to browse the pages and research any potential supervisors. Through the directory I received the names of all psychologists that could act as a supervisor. With that I researched each one to understand more about them, their previous work, interests and area of expertise. Many supervisors have a specific area they often work in, research or are interested in. By understanding each supervisors interests I am able to narrow down the list to those that have similar interests to mine or those that have worked in fields I wish to pursue e.g. football/soccer.

After some extensive research, I had a list of 10 supervisors that I felt were all good leads to pursue and discuss with Ross. Ross was able to give me more insight into the supervisors as people, instead of just educators, meaning I then had an understanding of if and how our personalities would match and if it was an overall good idea to seek that particular supervisors services. Of the 10, 4 were deemed suitable. Now, your criteria for what constitutes a ‘suitable’ supervisor will be different to mine. I wanted someone that worked in sport but also had experience in the corporate world and high performance/pressure business environments. Ideally, this person would have their own practice as I intend to work as self-employed or a consultant down the line. In terms of character, I didn’t really want someone who would hold my hand or baby me through the process. I wanted someone who would be direct, who wasn’t afraid to tell me I did something wrong and who would guide me through my professional development in a way that reflected independence, yet provided a supportive environment. You may want different characteristics, ensure you have understood what you want before you make your list, that way you know what to look for.

I was now tasked with contacting the first person on the list to discuss the possibility of them supervising me. If that didn’t work out I would move on to number 2 and so on. In the end, my first 2 options didn’t work out. My first option was at capacity for 2 years (each supervisor can only have 6 candidates at a time) and my second option never returned my e-mails. It was my third option that I eventually began this journey with and I can safely say, so far, I have no regrets!

After contacting this supervisor, their process of joining the supervision group was structured and simple. Yes, this was a group supervision. From what I had heard, the norm was you work with a qualified supervisor for the duration of your track and that’s that. I came to learn that this was a group supervision set up where there were 2 supervisors who each had 4-6 candidates. I was invited to observe one of the group supervision sessions to give me a better idea of how things worked. After observing a session (lasting 3 hours) I came away feeling rather impacted. The session was well thought out, structured, flowed and I found it to be rather profound. With discussions on the psychology of us, our beliefs and our perspective on life, it became apparent very quickly that this would be an emotionally heavy learning process. After an observation session, I already learnt so much, I was challenged and I was exposed to so much more about being a good practitioner and the sport psychology world in general. I took a few days to process the session and decide if I felt this was the place for me to pursue my chartered status.

I made the decision based on conversations with the supervisors individually and together, opinions from other members of the group and what I had seen within the session.

The group had what I felt I wanted from supervision. Anyone reading this, will want different things from a supervisor to what I want. So be sure to consider if the supervisor(s) provide what you are looking for.

What I looked for in a supervisor:

  • to be challenged
  • to be pushed outside my comfort zone
  • A mentor for the future
  • Both academic and emotional support (when necessary)
  • Sport psychology specific knowledge as well as business knowledge and experience

To ensure I would receive what I wanted from this course, I was very direct with the supervisors and asked if they were able to provide support in the ways mentioned above. In my opinion, it is best to be direct and communicate in a straight forward manner to avoid any misunderstandings.

From there, the process moved rather swiftly. Essentially, I was sent the T’s and C’s and payment information of being part of this supervision group. I will not disclose the financial information, however it is important to remember that as part of the BPS route you are required to pay for the course itself, directly to the BPS, as well your supervisors fees.

Once this was all understood, I signed a contract with my supervisors and got cracking with the enrolment process (see next post).

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