By Michael Cullen
Book Review: Coaching Supervision: Advancing Practice, Changing Landscapes

Book Review: Coaching Supervision: Advancing Practice, Changing Landscapes

What is art?

What types of art inspire you, challenge you, or leave you indifferent?

What is it about the art that you like, don’t like, and why?

These are the types of questions that surfaced at the Association of Coaching Supervisors’ inaugural September 2019 meeting of the monthly Book Club. The book being reviewed and discussed was “Coaching Supervision: Changing Practice, Changing Landscapes” edited by Jo Birch & Peter Welch, Routledge, 2019.

As the Introduction to the book concludes, it prompts the reader to consider the book and its contents “as a gallery of pioneering work, curated to stimulate, challenge and inspire”. With 14 chapters of 14 differing perspectives on Coaching Supervision, the diversity of the topics was quickly noted and highlighted by the Book Club members. And, as is the case with many gallery visitors, the members’ opinions ranged from being confused, amused, challenged and intrigued by the works on display.

As a result of the debates and discussions about each chapter, the overall consensus was that this is a valuable book to return to several times. Indeed, the members agreed to re-visit this particular gallery of provocative collection the following month. As in all good coaching sessions, it was agreed that each of us would take action by purposely re-reading and actively challenging ourselves to better appreciate the chapter which provoked an adverse reaction. This exercise provided further discussion and insights (during the following meeting in October) into the reader’s own bias. Acknowledging that the (new) awareness, whether impactful or not, the members agreed that it, at the very least, stimulated further curiosity of the budding field of coaching supervision.

Many of the chapters are comprehensive landscapes of the various approaches and models of coaching supervision. However, not everyone appreciates landscape paintings; nevertheless, the expression “the map is not the territory” solicited appreciation for the analytical attempts to explain the various machinations of coaching supervision. Of note was the exception recognized by the Book Club reviewers for the chapter, “Working in the shadows; pain and suffering in coaching and supervision” by Patrick Hobbs. This is a particularly compelling portrait of a first-hand account of “the territory” experienced by the author. Strikingly raw in its authenticity and descriptive detail, this was one fine work of art that deeply resonated with all Book Club members.

The book eloquently concludes with the similar sentiments of the Book Club members, namely, “As in Art Galleries, some pieces require reflection – and return visits may be necessary”. Coaching supervision art lovers should consider this book/piece itself a valuable collector’s item that will appreciate over time!

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Michael Cullen

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