Supervision: what is it and why should I engage in Supervision?

This guide will give you some insights into the key elements of coaching supervision, and offer some suggestions for building and developing your own supervision strategy.

Simply put, coaching supervision enables us to become a better coach. It is a way of reflecting on the work that we are doing, developing our practice and is great way of enabling some ‘breathing space’ for self-care. It can also be a great resource to use when we need an outside perspective.


There are various formal definitions of Coaching Supervision.

The ICF defines it as ‘a collaborative learning practice to continually build the capacity of the coach through reflective dialogue for the benefit of both coaches and clients.’

The Association of Coaching defines it as ‘a formal and protected time for facilitating a coach’s in-depth reflection on their practice with an experienced coaching supervisor. Supervision offers a reflective framework within a collaborative working relationship in which the practice, tasks, process and challenges of the coaching work can be explored. The primary aim of supervision is to enable the coach to gain in ethical competency, confidence and creativity so as to ensure best possible service to the coaching client, both coachees and coaching supervisors.’

The EMCC’s definition is ‘a safe space for reflective dialogue with a practicing supervisor, supporting the supervisee’s practice, development and well-being.’


The International Coaching Psychology Review (March 2017) identified a number of key benefits for coaches who receive Coaching Supervision, including:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Greater confidence
  • Increased objectivity
  • Heightened sense of belonging
  • Reduced feelings of isolation
  • Increased resourcefulness

What does Supervision mean in practice?

Supervision provides us with a dedicated time for reflection – a space to review our coaching practices or prepare for future coaching. Working with someone who has a deep understanding of what it means to be a coach enables us to focus on:

• Our development – review what we chose to do in a coaching situation and potential alternative approaches for future coaching, actively working on improving skills

• Being supported – working through anything that coaching may have brought to the surface for us as a coach

• Professional Assurance – helping to raise awareness of best practices and reviewing any ethical considerations.

What can I/should I work on with a supervisor?

Each supervisor will share with you the areas that they work with coaches to explore and these can include:

• Exploring your internal process through reflective practice

• Reviewing agreements and contracts (implicit and explicit)

• Uncovering blind spots

• Ethical issues

• Opportunities for growth

• Practical issues (e.g. what should I be including in my chemistry sessions and in my coaching contract?)

Building and maintaining your own supervision strategy

As you start to build your supervision strategy, there are some key elements to consider and to be clear about:

  • What do you want to get from supervision?
  • What specific skills and/or experience are you looking for in a supervisor?
  • Do you prefer to work individually or in a group?
  • What levels of support and challenge do you need for this stage of your coaching career?

    The relationship between the coach and the supervisor is at the heart of any supervision strategy. Choosing who to work with as a supervisor can be a very similar process to the way that a client considers who to work with as a coach:

    • Look for a supervisor who has a style, set of experiences and approaches that work for you – chemistry is as important as it is with a client
    • Consider the values that are important to you and that you are looking for in a supervisor
    • Consider if you feel safe enough with them to be open and vulnerable and if they are able to bring the appropriate amounts of stretch, challenge and reflection – do you feel comfortable to be uncomfortable with them?
    • Check out the supervisor’s qualifications, experience and accreditation
    • Explore the supervisor’s practice – do they still coach? What kinds of work do they do?
    • Discuss the supervisor’s approach to: Contracting & boundaries; Ethics; Models/frameworks; Their own supervision; and Preparation – what are their expectations about how you will prepare for your supervision sessions?

    Where can I find a supervisor?

    • The Association for Coaching (AC), the European Mentoring & Coaching Council and the Association for Professional Executive Coaching & Supervision (APECS) each have a directory of members who are supervisors. At this time, the ICF does not provide a directory of qualified supervisors.

    • The Trusted Coach Directory has recently updated their website to include a list of coach supervisors

    How much does supervision cost?

    The cost of supervision varies. Some supervisors agree a rate depending on the number of clients you have, your level of experience or the coaching rate you charge your own clients. A recent study (2018) by Coaching Supervision Research suggested an average cost of £150 per session in the UK.

    How often do I need supervision?

    Supervision is a necessary and crucial part of being a coach – so having regular supervision is the best way to get the most benefit from it.

    ‘Requirement’ of supervision varies. For example, the AC recommends 1 hour of supervision per month, not linked to the number of hours of coaching you have delivered. The EMCC believes that experienced coaches require a minimum of 4 hours of individual supervision, evenly distributed across 12 months.

    There is no prescribed amount of supervision – it usually depends on your experience as a coach, and how often you are coaching. Consider monthly supervision (or quarterly supervision as a minimum). Your supervisor can provide you with some guidance.

    Each coaching body provides specific guidelines for Coach Accreditation – this information can be found on their websites.

    What if I have nothing to bring to supervision, or I have nothing to talk about?

    Sometimes you’ll find yourself with a ‘list’ of supervision topics and sometimes, preparing for the session may take a bit more searching. It can help to review your coaching notes from client sessions – what patterns are you noticing? What can you celebrate? What would move your coaching to ‘+1’?

    What’s the difference between individual and group supervision?

    • Supervision is usually offered either as an individual space, or within a group

    • One-to-one supervision is very similar to individual coaching – a coach identifies who they want to work with, they contract with an individual supervisor and get to work. Individual supervision lets you focus on you and do a deep dive on whatever you bring to supervision. Individual supervision is often easier to schedule as there is less need to consider a bigger group of calendars

    • Group supervision can take 2 forms:

    o A closed group of coaches who participate in each session

    o An open group with potentially a different mix of people in each session

    • Group supervision brings a diversity of topics and views, and the ability to learn from a variety of individuals in the group. It can also be a great way of feeling ‘connected’ with other coaches. Group supervision usually has less flexibility around logistics. Depending on your choice of joining a closed or an open group, it’s also worth giving some thought to the impact of group dynamics, individual styles and psychological safety

    • Peer supervision, where coaches provide supervision to each other (without a qualified supervisor) can be a useful addition to working with a supervisor and can offer mutual support, challenge and a way to share experiences.

    • Do you prefer to work in-person or remotely?
    • Do you prefer to work one-to-one or in a group
    • What is your budget?

    • What previous experience do you have of supervision and how is it informing what you are looking for now?
    • What kinds of topics do you want to bring to supervision?
    • What kinds of support are you expecting to receive from supervision?
    • What is motivating your supervision strategy – is it because ‘you have to’ (for accreditation purposes for example) or because ‘you want to’ develop your practice

    If you work as an internal coach, it’s worth being aware of the challenges around confidentiality and boundaries and building your supervision strategy to take these into account.