Christopher Mills

Christopher Mills

South West

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At the start of my training as a psychotherapist, I envisaged supervision as a form of overbearing interference. The discovery of how wrong I was led to the flowering of what I now see as the true nature of care: that it is a shared human endeavour, based on kindness, goodwill, commitment to making mistakes, to learning from them, and to expanding the range of what’s possible through empathic relating. Supervision is not about discipline or control, but about the deliberate preservation of space to learn about self and others. Above all, it teaches us that we and our suffering clients belong to the same species. Through becoming more tolerant of our own uncertainty and vulnerability we can become more compassionate towards theirs, along the way dropping the tyrannical hold, so endemic among lawyers, of always needing to know, or always needing to be right.

Family Law Supervision is a private dialogue with a huge public impact. It broadens in scope and potential as trust in it grows over time, creating much-needed nourishment for a workspace so characterised by stress. It is a joy to me to see my supervisees and trainees increasingly practise in more integrated, self-reflective and self-sustaining ways.

I began my working life as a primary school teacher. I then spent a decade as a broadcast journalist and voice artist, during which I also began my long training as a psychotherapist. I qualified and gained admission to the UKCP register in 1999, specialising in work with couples. It was a chance meeting in 2006 that started my professional alliance with family lawyers, working alongside them in collaborative divorce cases. I was struck by the extent to which they had normalised the emotional stress of their job, ‘self-care’ not featuring at all as a subject for discussion or CPD. While writing a qualitative research MA thesis about the impact on me of working with divorcing clients, I experimentally introduced supervision to a small number of lawyer colleagues. Some time later I met Gillian Bishop of FLiP, whose enthusiasm for supervision and drive to extend awareness of it led to the FLiP Faculty training, and my role on it as teacher and tutor. In an attempt to illustrate my approach to supervision, and its potential scope, I wrote six fictional supervisory dialogues in the book The Case That Really Got To Me, published in 2018.

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