Recently I, Karen, have had the opportunity to engage in supervision reviews with several people I work with.  These reviews have provided the opportunity to look at the learning, growth and development for the supervisee as well as provide the chance to discuss how we work with each other and any ongoing development needs.  A key aspect of each of these reviews is they have culminated in a written ‘report’ back to the organisation on the supervision we have engaged in.

What?  Supervision is confidential I hear you say?! Isn’t it a breach of confidentiality to report back to the organisation?  Won’t the supervisee feel unsafe discussing matters in supervision if they are reported back to the organisation?

In a series of blogs, we intend to present a view that reporting back does not have to leave supervisee or supervisor with concerns over breaches of confidentiality and does not have to change the feeling of safety, honesty, and openness in the supervision space.  In the spirit of this assertion, the series of blogs have been written as a collaboration between supervisor (myself) and ‘guest blogger’, supervisee (Shane).

From a pragmatic perspective, the purpose of reporting back or feedback loops are often part of an organisations audit requirements and for accountability and evidence that supervision is occurring.  It is a way of supporting the three way contracting process and assists transparency between all parties (supervisor, supervisee, and organisation).  Reporting back and feedback loops can be used by organisations as a heads up on professional development needs and growth areas, as well as compliance evidence for funders.

Preparing a feedback report to an organisation is something as a supervisor I have often encouraged even when not requested by the organisation, as it is a move away from the assumption that ‘reporting back’ to the organisation only occurs when there are concerns of risk or practice issues and provides the opportunity for reporting back on success also.  In our experience as supervisor, and supervisee, the process of the ‘reporting back’ works better when it is done together, and when both supervisor and supervisee take shared responsibility for it.  When all parties buy-in to a clear purpose, the benefit of ‘reporting back’ has a good outcome for organisation, supervisor, and supervisee.  In our situation, as supervisor and supervisee, reporting back has involved compiling a written report together.  Doing this together is always a preference rather than asking a supervisor to report to an organisation about a supervisee.  This fits within a supervision paradigm of doing the work in supervision together and a principle of ‘nothing about me without me.’

There are of course some challenges in this.  Both parties need to be clear and understand the parametres of confidentiality and what is okay to share and what is not, in order for reporting back to be experienced as ‘safe’.  In fact, when a template is provided by the organisation on what to report on, this clarity is made easier to work with.  Being able to review and report back together pre-supposes an honest, safe, and robust relationship between supervisee and supervisor, where both can review the work, the relationship, and the content of supervision with rigour and transparency.  If this is not present it can present challenges in the process of feedback.  However even when this is present, our experience has shown that there can still be challenges in telling things totally straight to each other.

The benefits of this written review process outweigh the challenges in our opinion; providing the opportunity not just for accountability back to the organisation but for both supervisor and supervisee to look back on the work they have completed together beyond the immediate supervision session and learn from each other further the value and impact of the work.  It provides a way to notice and affirm developments and strengths of both parties and further enhances our reflective practice.  It provides the opportunity for us to practice our skills at summarising and being succinct, as well as our skills and methods for holding courageous conversations with each other.  So, while not always seen as the ‘norm’ and definitely not without challenges, as supervisor and supervisee, we believe the shared feedback via report writing is a highly beneficial process.  In our two next blogs we will consider a particular review we undertook which highlighted to us the immense value in the feedback and written report process.

In the meantime, we leave you to ponder for your own supervision practice and relationships, how does review happen?  How do you provide feedback loops/’reporting back?  In what ways is external (or even internal supervision) part of a three way contract?  In what ways are you capturing the learning, success and process of your supervision journeys together and how are these relayed back to the organisational context? 

Mā te wā

Karen and Shane K