On Supervising and Being Supervised: Quinn M. Pearson’s “Getting the Most Out of Clinical Supervision.”
The first thing I thought when I saw the above photo was, this supervision session does not look like it’s going well. So, what is supervision? How can supervision function best? How do I ensure a good fit between me and my supervisor? I’ve been asking these questions as I get ready to interview for a new supervisor. Quinn M. Pearson offers some helpful answers to these questions in his very helpful essay, Getting the Most Out of Clinical Supervision: Strategies for Mental Health. We need to know what kinds of problems can arise during supervision processes. And so here I’d like to report on the four areas of focus that Pearson highlights in order to encourage a healthy and productive supervisor/ supervisee experience. Respectively, they are preparing for supervision experience, launching the supervision relationship, preparing for supervision sessions, and working between sessions.
Preparing for Supervision Experience.
1. We should reflect on whether we consider supervision a hoop to jump through or an opportunity for learning? Is supervision an inconvenience, a restriction, an imposition, or an opportunity to gain invaluable experience?
2. Consider the qualities of good social workers and strive to embody those qualities because they are the same qualities that support successful supervision. Qualities to strive toward are psychological mindedness and openness, interest and desire, motivation and initiative, enthusiasm and eagerness, dependability, interpersonal curiosity, empathy, willingness to risk, intellectual openness, habits of developing professional knowledge, minimal defensiveness, introspection, receptivity to feedback, and personal, theoretical, and clinical flexibility. It is also important to be willing to grow, takes responsibility for consequences of own behavior, actively participate in supervision sessions, demonstrate respect and appreciation for individual differences, and demonstrate an understanding of my own dynamics as they relate to therapy and supervision.
3. It may be helpful to rate ourselves on the above characteristics, choose two or three that appear as deficits, and then form supervision goals around those deficits.
4. During initial meeting with supervisor, it may be helpful to discuss what kinds of students have been most successful and satisfied in supervision? What are some behaviors or qualities you value most in your supervisees?
5. It is also important to be clear on what the supervisor’s roles are. Supervisors can be teachers, counselors, and/or consultants. As teacher, they are to help us learn techniques, apply interventions, and conceptualize. As counselor, they are to facilitate self- growth and aid in exploring personal reactions. This should be limited to helping us function more effectively as a professional. And as consultant, the supervisor should provide options and alternatives rather than answers. Not so much directing the us, but collaborating with us.
6. Ask if you have preferences for any one of these roles more than others? Do you have strong needs to assert your own autonomy, and are you open to being guided by the Supervisor in their various roles and at different times?
7. Try also to mirror the supervisor’s qualities and responsibilities. Be available and approachable. Track and monitor your work with clients, providing regular and consistent feedback for student, consider and offer suggestions for improvement, and restrict the relationship to supervision. Be ready to be proactive in creating solutions to deal with specific situations. Seek practical support, as well as modeling, coaching, emotional support and encouragement, and also constructive feedback.
Launching the Supervision Relationship
1. We should bring a resume that documents education and experience to the first meeting. It is also important to be prepared to discuss our theoretical orientation and assumptions, client populations, strengths and weaknesses, goals for professional growth and skills, any specialized interests, and hopes for supervision. Ask my supervisor about these and also be ready to answer these. A psychoanalytically oriented supervisor and an intern who is committed to CBT may need to reconsider their goodness of fit.
2. Within the first few meetings, ensure that:
– Forms for school are completed.
– Site policies and procedures are discussed and understood.
– Mechanisms for documenting and maintaining records discussed and understood.
– Procedures for informing clients of the supervisory relationship and its impact on confidentiality is discussed and understood.
– Guidelines for handling emergencies and other critical matters of discussion are identified and understood.
– Supervisor availability and regularly scheduled supervision sessions are discussed and agreed on.
Preparing for Supervision Sessions
1. The purpose of supervision is to enhance professional development and functioning for social work student, monitor the quality of services to clients, and serve as a gatekeeper to those allowed to enter the social work profession. So social students should be prepared to initiate topics consistent with these purposes and similarly respond to related supervisors questions. Focus on process, conceptualization, and personalization skills.
2. Process skills to reflect on before supervision meeting: what I do in my sessions, expressly all observable social work behaviors including, but not limited to, requesting information, reflecting, role playing, confronting, and supporting.
3. Conceptualization skills to reflect on before supervision meeting: What are my thoughts about working with clients? How am I actually going about my work? What are my covert behaviors such as identifying client concerns, discerning predominant client themes, designing therapeutic interventions, and planning future sessions?
4. Personalization skills to reflect on before supervision meeting: consider the interplay between my personal attributes and my work with clients as forming my identity as a social worker. Note especially the workings of transference/ counter-transference, defensiveness, emotional management, humor, etc.
5. Professional skills to consider before supervisor meetings: Am I aware of and adhering to the ethical standards of professional behaviors that are required of me? Am I consistently on time for appointments, honoring confidentiality, forming appropriate relationships with clients, working in a timely manner, and so on?
6. Ensure that we are prepared to discuss the three integral aspects of our supervisor/ supervisee meeting:
a) Any immediate needs such as crisis situations, ethical dilemmas, client welfare, etc.
b) Follow up on prior directives or needed information from previous sessions.
c) Mentally review caseload with supervisor by asking questions such as, What clients do I find myself often thinking about or seldom thinking about? When I think about a certain client, what thoughts, feelings, or reactions come to mind? Am I confused about what is driving a client’s behavior or a client’s internal dynamics? Am I uncertain about what to do to help a client change? Do I know what to do but am unsure how to do it? Have I encountered a topic that is unfamiliar or uncomfortable?
Participating in Supervision Sessions
1.Take time to make notes of important points, strategies, or reflections during or immediately after supervision sessions.
2. Translate those notes into specific plans for working with clients.