This regular column on supervision is curated by the Association of Coaching Supervisors (AoCS). This issue: supervision as a restorative practice during a challenging time, with a spotlight on the practice of Jill Savage

In a recent US-run webinar during International Coaching Week organised by the International Coach Federation, attendees were curious about coach supervision and asked, “what actually goes on in a supervision session?” The other most-asked question was about the differences between coach supervision and mentor coaching; I’ll leave it to the reader to explore the differences.

Our column this month opens up what a coach supervisor might cover in sessions with their clients. It gives an insight into what comes up for both the client/coach and for the supervisor as they work in partnership together.

This month we feature the work of one coach supervisor, Jill Savage, who is supporting her clients in dealing with the effects of Covid-19. You’ll see how she dances in the moment and adjusts her pace and style to help her clients through their anxieties.

She says:

I always enjoy the image of the three-legged stool in coaching supervision where the legs represent a safe, stable and balanced practice supported by exploring ethical dilemmas, learning from our client work and having a restorative and supportive element to our practice.

I feel there is an even bigger need for the ‘restorative’ leg of refreshment, encouragement and self-care for both coach and coach supervisor as this stool can have a wobble without it, as we all navigate the uncharted waters this pandemic has brought.

In particular, how old patterns can easily be triggered in the wobble for me, my clients and their coaching clients, against the backdrop of Covid-19. Themes that are emerging range from: ‘Where will my future business come from?’, the adaption to a virtual world, feelings of fear and helplessness for clients on the front-line to being overly helpful where this is masking the shadow side of ‘rescuing’ from the Karpman Drama Triangle.

This was illustrated by a client who wanted to explore their energy for embracing technology, when the belief held is that this cannot replace the physical space of one-to-one and group work, and feeling sadness already that this might be part of the new normal beyond the pandemic.

The parallel process was never far from my thoughts as I was adjusting to Zoom very clumsily for our meeting. I could sense the anxiety in my client’s voice as they explored what their digital business might look like and I tuned into the tightness in my own body as their words spilled out quickly. I invited us to ground ourselves and guided us through a short mindfulness centring exercise.

The energy changed and my client’s tempo slowed. Their perspective widened as they noticed an old pattern was being triggered of ‘moving away from’ in that moment and consequently more options opened up. My client ended the session ‘moving towards’ some insights on how they might embrace this adaption in their coaching business.

Another example was where my client’s coaching client had their high control pattern triggered and how disabling it was as they were nmicro-managing, working long days and adding to layers of stress already present in a future that would remain uncertain for the time being.

Their client works on the front-line and is fearful of the tsunami of Covid-19 that may hit, is uncertain of how the workplace would be in the future, not to mention the daily risk experienced in showing up for work.

My supervisee had an overwhelming sense of her client’s helplessness pattern and felt de-skilled, as did her client. The parallel process was ever-present as these feelings pervaded me.

We normalised the emotions, accepted them and deeply appreciated the work my client had already shown, such as deep listening, holding the space compassionately which allowed tears to fall and a level of healing to emerge.

Another client was tripping up on an old ‘rescuer’ pattern to be always available to one particular client’s needs in a way that wasn’t healthy and without the usual robust contracting to advocate how they work. This noticing was a cathartic moment that allowed space to open up to explore how to sidestep the Drama Triangle.

I offered up some self-compassion work and we both practised the 5:5 soothing breathing rhythm to offer ourselves more grounding and kindness as our mind and body slowed down, which felt like the restorative support required.

So never before was the restorative element of coaching supervision so needed on so many levels. It allows us to be more reflective, have perspective and make wiser decisions for ourselves, our business and interventions with our clients. It allows us to recognise our gifts that we can harvest during this period of uncertainty.

Take time to reflect and restore and bring yourself back to the aligned, authentic and purposeful coach that you are, to serve your clients well and wholeheartedly. And in parallel process that is what I am doing for myself as best I can because “we are all in this together,” like never before.

Jill Savage


  • P Gilbert, 5:5 soothing breathing rhythm, The Compassionate Mind, Constable, 2010
  • A Mountain and C Davidson, The Drama Triangle KDT (Stephen Karpman 1968), in Working Together, Gower, 2011
  • R Bandler and J Grinder, The Away from/Towards model in ‘Metaprograms, J O’ Connor and J Seymour, Introducing NLP, HarperCollins, 1990
  • Parallel Process (Harold Searles 1955) in P Hawkins and N Smith, Coaching, Mentoring & Organizational Consultancy: Supervision and Development, McGraw Hill, 2010