The Importance of Supervision for the Christian Coach & Mentor

Lighthouse with a pink sky

The Importance of Supervision for the Christian Coach & Mentor

Lighthouse with a pink sky

Being a trainer of mentors and coaches, I am well aware of the importance of looking after ourselves as well as our clients. It is no secret that what we do and how we act often carries more importance than what we say. When we are mentoring and coaching, our whole being is involved in the process whether we acknowledge it or not. A frequent lecture I undertake challenges whether the people I am training are emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually ready for the position of Christian mentor or coach.

Looking at the Johari Window, the smaller our area of openness and awareness is, (our public self), the less effective our work will be. The less open we are to ourselves, the less we will be able to use the knowledge of ourselves wisely in the process of a mentoring and coaching conversation. For instance, if we as the mentor or coach, do not understand our own tendencies and responses to rejection, how can we enable and empower our clients to navigate their own self-limiting beliefs for fear of rejection? Our own self will get in the way of our facilitation and incisive questions.

Johari Window showing unknown as the bigger part

Johari Window, Joseph Luft, Harry Ingham, 1955

The process of supervision allows us to become aware of not only our reasons for keeping aspects of ourselves hidden, but it also allows the Holy Spirit to illuminate and heal previously blind and unknown areas to us.

As we continue with supervision, we become more mature in ourselves, but also in our work with our clients. It is the task of the supervisor to provide a safe and confidential space for the mentor or coach. In supervision the mentor or coach might be looking at the way they have handled or dealt with client situations or developing their skills (formative issues). They may need to be concerned with boundary issues: ethics, policies and procedures, (normative issues), or may need to restore emotionally, and to learn more about their emotional selves within mentoring and coaching, (restorative issues). (The three legged stool of supervision, Inskipp & Proctor 1995, adapted by Leach & Patterson, Pastoral Supervision: A handbook, 2015 (SCM), p.11).

The process of maturing enables us to know ourselves deeper, and to have more available emotional energy for our clients.

Johari Window showing our public self as the bigger part

Johari Window, Joseph Luft, Harry Ingham, 1955

I have been asked the following question many times, “Surely it is enough to have my own mentor if I am mentoring. Do I really need a supervisor?”

In a word, no, it is not enough to have your own mentor, and yes, you do need a supervisor! It is vital that as mentors and coaches, we do engage in our own mentoring and coaching process. It is essential to know how it feels on ‘the other side of the fence’ and to be healthy in our own approach to life.

However, a trained supervisor has a distinct and different focus. A supervisor is trained to illuminate the way we work. They help identify the gaps in our skills and point us to training we might need, the areas where we have become ‘blind’ to our clients, (yes, it happens to us all!), and be there for us when we are struggling with aspects of our work. I cannot stress enough how important the role of a trained supervisor is to the health and promotion of the work we do. This applies whether we are doing unpaid informal work or paid, more formal work.

In considering how we connect to God and one another in the work we do as mentors and coaches, supervisors and therapeutic coaches, the following poem offers a beautiful reflection. In overlaying the understanding of God here, God becomes the vast tapestry we cannot know alone, and we are far stronger and see further, together. In acknowledging God in the work with our supervisors, we find welcome help to select and lift the important threads of our work on behalf of, and with our clients.

Image of skeins of thread of all colours forming a heart


Each of us
holds a strand
of some vast tapestry
that we cannot
know alone.
It is in that awareness
that we gather,
laying down
our burdens
lifting up the threads.

Judy Brown, poet and mentor to other poets, in The Art and Spirit of Leadership, Trafford, 2012.



Alison Cansdale 

Headshot of Alison Cansdale

Alison is an accredited Senior Practitioner Mentor/Coach with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, (EMCC). She is also a qualified Therapeutic Coach (FTCT) and a qualified Pastoral Supervisor, providing individual and group supervision. She is a member of the Association for Pastoral Supervision and Education (APSE). She lectures in Christian mentoring and coaching at theological colleges, ranging from Certificate to Master’s degree level.

Alison has a deep passion for supporting, empowering and enabling people to navigate life and spiritual struggles. She helps people become the best version of themselves, fulfilling their God-given potential, whatever that means in their situation. No issue is too big or too small, and her clients report significant benefit from Alison journeying with them. For Alison, it is a privilege and a joy to be alongside others in their development both in life, and in becoming a mentor/coach.

One of her current appointments is a module leader for mentoring and coaching, as part of a Spiritual Formation Master’s Degree at Waverley Abbey College (Middlesex University).

Alison has achieved a European Quality Award with the EMCC for this course, and as a result is able to support those whom she teaches towards EMCC professional accreditation. Alison has designed the Christian mentoring and coaching module to connect theological understanding and framework with the applied work of the Christian mentor/coach. In the last academic year, (2018/19), Alison was delighted to support a number of Christian mentors and coaches into their professional accreditation, including those who are doing a CPD module, Waverley certificate, diploma, degree or postgraduate degree.

She also lectures yearly at Cliff College on an intensive week’s training of Christian mentoring and coaching.

Alison works with clients individually, face to face and through Skype/Zoom, with people of different faiths and no faith. She has been mentoring and coaching for the past 10 years. Her mentoring and coaching roles have included leading the development of two national projects for promoting mentoring and coaching in the Christian community. The most recent project was The Christian Coach and Mentor Network.

Her previous professional background culminated as a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in communication aids for young people with physical disability. She has an MA in Christian Mentoring (Missiology) from Manchester University. Alison and her husband run a business, letting out flats to homeless people in the Leeds area, working alongside Leeds City Council. Alison undertakes volunteer roles in her local community with her husband in providing marriage courses, covering preparation and support for marriage. She has lived in Llanelli in South West Wales for the past 5 years, with her husband of 30 years. They have an adult son and daughter who live elsewhere in the UK. Contact details for assessment and session costs: Based in Llanelli, South West Wales 0795 822 5939




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I have a deep passion for supporting those in frontline ministry and empowering people to navigate life and spiritual struggles to become all that God intended them to be. No issue is too big or too small to benefit from someone journeying with them! I am a professionally accredited Senior Practitioner Mentor/Coach with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, (EMCC). I am also a qualified Therapeutic Coach (FTCT) and a qualified Pastoral Supervisor. I lecture in Christian mentoring and coaching at theological colleges. My professional background is as a Speech and Language Therapist and I have an MA in Christian Mentoring (Missiology). My breadth of studying has roots in equipping myself as well as I can to help others.

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