• Andrew Scott

Intuition in supervision

Updated: Sep 1


Image: Marina Vitale on Unsplash

I have long been interested in intuition, and in particular, the intuition of coaches during coaching sessions with their clients; and likewise the intuitions of supervisors during sessions with coaches.


It happened again the other day, in a supervision session. The coach I was working with had asked me, as her supervisor, to share some of the interventions I frequently use in coaching, so we spent a few minutes towards the end of our session on that, and it was a useful and interesting conversation. And we moved on and talked about other things. 


And then, I was struck by... well let's call it an intuition, for want of a better word: another tool that I thought it would be helpful to share. And this one really caught her attention - as I was describing it I could see her engagement and she only just managed to stop herself from interrupting my explanation to tell me about a situation that she faced (and which she had not previously mentioned) in which this particular tool would be invaluable.


As I reflected on this, wondering where the intuition had come from, it became clear to me. Although she had not discussed the specific situation with me, she had discussed that client with me; and I think at some barely-conscious level I was noticing a pattern in their interactions, as she described them, that this tool would helpfully disrupt. So perhaps it was no surprise that she should see its relevance and apply it immediately - in the same context, albeit to a different specific situation, to the one that had prompted me to think about it.


I suspect that is often the case; and that intuition is a name that we give to a process that includes:


  • developing awareness though listening, observing and noticing with a high degree of attention and accuracy; 

  • processing that awareness in a part of our mind that is not under our direct observation (barely-conscious, or unconscious are words I often find myself using in that context) 

  • discovering (as if from nowhere) an idea that is highly relevant (drawing from a huge range of our previous knowledge and experience those elements that are most appropriate) 


And my CSP colleague, and co-supervisor, Jan Allon-Smith has pointed out that such intuitions are actually co-created by the two parties involved and the process that they are working through, so again, it should be no surprise that the insight I mention above was so readily recognised as valuable by the coach with whom I was working.