Regular supervision supports ethical & professional practice. Being able to discuss your work, concerns, wellbeing & practice with a supervisor scaffolds a strong practice. External supervision has the additional benefit of having a supervisor who can focus on your needs rather than that of the agency or department while ensuring you are meeting the organisational requirements.
Supervision is a confidential space where you can unpack your practice & connect back with your social work identity.
External supervision in particular creates a safe, nurturing place for you to grow as a practitioner, a place where you can explore thoughts, goals & plans without the additional conflict of the supervisor being your manager or feelings of vulnerability in a professional space. It is the chance to create a safe place where you can be open, vulnerable & actively engage in tricky conversations that might be difficult or impossible elsewhere.
Do you have a dream of having your own practice? Perhaps you want to work remotely or take a year off to travel with your family? Do you want to try a new social work area of practice? External Supervision allows you space to discuss & plan how your professional & personal dreams can be realised. Conflict free supervision also allows you to discuss your hopes & wishes for your practice long term, investigate professional development opportunities & professional growth in a way that will not detrimentally effect your current position or relationships with fellow colleagues & managers.
Often in the pressure of each day we find ourselves ‘going through the motions’.
Supervision ensures that Social Workers retain their social work identity, connection to theory, evidence, ethics & practice standards.
A study I read recently talked about practice wisdom & that a high percentage of social workers interviewed for the research had identified this as their practice framework & had difficulty linking their day to day interactions & decisions with social work theory or recent evidence. Social work very much needs to rely on practice wisdom, it is an important part of our development & maturity as practitioners, however it is also really important that we can discuss & link to evience & justify our work also. We make some pretty big & life altering decisions in our work & being able to hold our practice up to a spot light & unpack our actions strengthens individual & collective accountability.
Supervision is also a confidential space to discuss wellbeing, personal & professional responsibilities & concerns.
Your therapeutic relationship with your supervisor can become an integral part of your resilience & longevity in the profession. Our profession often sends strong messages of self-care & the need to be aware of burn-out, these things are very important & must always be considered as part of our professional practice. It is however, common that an agency or workplace shifts responsibility for wellbeing & self-care back to the individual rather than making the systemic adjustments necessary to support better wellbeing for staff. It is also common that when burn-out occurs that individual staff member does not feel safe to disclose, this is linked to many reasons which include shame & stigma, fears that managers may consider us unfit for practice & our employment will be compromised.
External supervision provides a regular opportunity to check in with your wellbeing, create safety & self care plans, increase your knowledge of burn-out, vicarious trauma, moral distress & compassion fatigue in order to better understand & manage signs & symptoms. There is also opportunity to discuss personal & family wellbeing because this directly relates to our workplace risk of burn-out.
Supervision increases creative problem solving & creative practice.
The old two heads are better than one theory resonates here, sometimes when discussing things, reflecting & unpacking we find solutions we would have otherwise missed in the busy-ness of the day to day. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can reflect back your concerns or circumstances in a way that you would not have noticed. The safe space created in this therapeutic relationship with your supervisor increases your confidence & as a result can have you taking chances & risks with problem solving you may not have explored otherwise.
Benefit for clients & workplaces alike.
This is an important point to make. Our clients benefit from ethical & evidence based practice, they benefit from us being clear & precise in our work, they benefit from additional checks & balances that happen when we are receiving clinical supervision. Clients benefit when we are clear about who we are & why we are doing this work, when we can link our actions & decisions back to values, principles & practices that align with social work & professional practice.
Everyone benefits when we are grounded & supported in our practice. When we are well supported we flourish, when we have a safe place to unpack our work, concerns, frustrations & worries we often diffuse any long term damage which in turn means stability for us, for our clients & staff retention for our agencies. It measn we are better connected with our needs & in turn our family, friends & loved ones.
The argument for external supervision to be provided by your workplace.
External supervision also takes the mental load off managers & team leaders so they can better focus on the organisational needs of the service or agency. This is an important highlight to make because managers often do not have the training or skills to provide clinical supervision & due to their position description & expectations they must focus on the admin & program side of supervision. This means case load, case notes & referrals, key performance indicators & funding body evaluations. Often these supervisors are not social work qualified or perhaps have been in management positions for some time & are removed from their social work identity & cannot provide up to date & relevant supervision from this perspective.
Managers also often do not have supervision worked into their FTE meaning although supervision has a policy for once per month this is often rescheduled & pushed back because more pressing issues arise. There is also a chance that supervision upskilling is not in their FTE & the PD needed to retain the level of skill in practice to provide clinical supervision is not possible.
External supervisors include PD as part of their own practice, I am constantly attending webinars, reading & attending my own supervision to ensure I have the skills & current knowledge to provide what is necessary to my supervisee's. It is important here to highlight the need to check with your supervisor their qualifications & skillset to ensure they are a good fit for you & are indeed practicing from an ethical & best practice position also.