I’ve been thinking lately about what I put on the agenda to discuss in my own supervision. What are the conversations which I need to have about my supervision practice in supervision? There are so many different conversations or agenda items we could take to supervision when we are supervisors.
Discussions about how supervisors use their own supervision often emerges in supervision training such as:
- “Do supervisors have supervision about their own supervision practice?”
- “Should those who do supervision within an organisation context take ‘client’ content to discuss in their own supervision or do they take their supervision practice questions and/or questions about their supervisee and their supervision work with them?”.
- “Are supervisors reflecting in supervision on the outcome for ‘clients’ and whanau or on the outcome for their ‘client’, the supervisee?”
I think it is essential, whether our role is as an external supervisor, or engaged in supervision within an organisation, that we ensure some of our own supervision conversation is about our supervision practice and how we are doing as a supervisor. Our supervision should not be dominated by conversations about our supervisee’s ‘client’ needs or the organisations needs, although this may be important too. It is important to consider covering all ‘functions’ of supervision within our own supervision, ensuring our supervision is a place for restoring/supporting, learning/developing and managing/accountability, a place where our needs as a supervisor are met. (NB: It is noteworthy that since drafting this blog, ANZASW have produced their draft supervision strategy affirming that social work supervisors should use at least some of their supervision time to reflect on their practice and skills as a supervisor, and also attribute some of their CPD hours to supervision practice development).
After more than 20 years in the role of supervisor, and most of this as external to an organisation I have found it interesting to take a breath and notice what I do use my supervision reflection time for. I notice a number of themes:
- My own self-care, well-being, boundaries and balance
- My perception of relational challenges between myself and any particular supervisee
- Ethical concerns I have worked with in supervision with a supervisee, to gain another pair of eyes, as a check to see if I have ethically missed anything, as well as any ethical dilemmas that emerge for me in my work
- The strategic direction of my practice (what work am I saying ‘yes’ to and what work am I saying ‘no’ to)
- My own CPD needs, what I have attended to and what I recognise I still need to attend to
- Celebrating work that has gone well or any observed success or change in situations
- Review of ‘content’ or ‘client stories’ from supervision conversations I have had with my supervisees; to check knowledge, information, or blindspots, for example if I am working with a supervisee who has discussed a significant trauma for a client, or who has particular health needs (what don’t I know that I don’t know, which my supervisor may help me to see)
- Noting and reviewing the developmental needs and reflective style of supervisees and whether I am meeting their needs
- Noticing what theory or approach I have used with a person and sometimes noticing what approach would be most helpful
- Common themes noticed across my supervision conversations experienced by many supervisees, e.g. tiredness post covid, financial pressure, housing challenges, resource and workload challenges; and then sometimes considering if there is anything I need to do about these common themes and if so what
- My own workload management, including any frustrations of private practice such as chasing up late payers, last minute cancellations, and the ebbs and flows of too busy and not busy enough
- Non supervision practice agenda items, such as time to discuss EAP work, facilitation or training work
- Reviewing group process and dynamics for group supervision practice
- Tools and resources my supervisor may know about that can assist my supervision practice in particular areas (e.g. trauma)
My supervision is a reciprocal peer supervision arrangement, and we have some rhythm and structure to our supervision sessions which helps to land and clarify our conversations. We always begin with karakia or a reflection. This provides an opportunity to settle, as well as a chance to sometimes practice our te reo and karakia, to honour the importance of our support of tangata whenua and mātauranga Māori. Next we share two good news stories each from our supervision practice, one individual and one organisational. This has been a great way to see the positives in our work and in the wider sector and notice thriving and change that can occur even when we may have had a week of listening to supervisees’ challenges and hard stories. Keeping a focus on success and good news stories also keeps a competency and strengths-based frame in our practice together and honours our principle that supervision is not just a place for challenges or problems, but also a place to celebrate and learn from successes. The rest of our supervision time is then structured around the agenda items which each of us bring. As you can see from the above list, there are many possibilities for the agenda.
It has been good to look back and notice that a majority of my own supervision time is spent considering my own supervision practice and my use of self and skills when working with others in supervision. I invite you also to consider how you as a supervisor use you supervision (and even if you are not a supervisor, these are still some helpful questions to ponder).
- Are you ensuring you talk about you and how you are doing in supervision?
- Are you keeping a focus on your practice as a supervisor, your skills, recognition of the skills you are using and any development needs?
- Are you recognising your supervisee as your ‘client’ in supervision and trying to work with your supervisee and their perceptions of the client, not the client content directly? How does this influence what you then need from your own supervision?
- Are you noticing the supervision theory and models that you are using in your supervision practice?
- Are you catching and noticing themes in your supervision practice? How do they emerge in your own supervision?
- Are you remembering to celebrate success and good news stories of your work with supervisees and of their work with whanau and communities?
All the best with pondering these questions and making the most of your own supervision.