For this blog I am referring to Professional Supervision, which is supervision that occurs outside of your place of work.
Supervision remains a pivotal role in Social Work and Child Protection work but how many of us can say that we receive all of the necessary functions of supervision that we need to be strong practitioners? (See my blog on the What, Why and How of Supervision to find out more about the functions of supervision). Below are 5 reasons why you should consider Professional Supervision.
- There is never enough time to get to all functions of supervision in the workplace
While we along with our Managers may have good intentions when it comes to supervision (and our Manager may be skilled to provide great supervision), often we are so busy managing cases, writing case notes, responding to crisis that supervision with our line Manager just becomes talking about day to day work and making sure tasks are completed. Our supervision sessions can at times be unplanned, rushed and unfocused with priority given to urgent tasks over other elements of supervision. Usually this means we are missing out on crucial parts of supervision such as reflection, development and self care which are vital to our learning and to sound decision making for our clients.
- Development as a reflective practitioner
You are wanting to develop as a reflective practitioner, which as stated in number 1 can at times be challenging to develop in a workplace given workloads and priorities.
Self reflection is a critical part of child protection practice, allowing for reflection on practice, thinking about why things happened the way they did, what could be done differently and instilling hope in our work. Furthermore reflective supervision really challenges you in your own thinking and actions that are taken in your work, reflection supports thinking differently and opening up other ideas.
This is supported by Munro (2011) who recommends that staff are supported to achieve ‘…..a high level of critical reflection to test their thinking, drawing on relevant theory and research, and how they can create a work environment that encourages the development of expertise…’ See my self reflective worksheet if you would like a tool to help develop this skill further.
- It provides a separate, safe space to talk about issues free from line management.
It can be challenging when your line Manager is the one that provides you with supervision. It may prevent you from being completely honest about your mistakes, personal history and reflections which is vital in supervision. Organisations are increasingly focussed on compliance and avoiding risk which can make it challenging for practitioners to be vulnerable and to learn from mistakes. With a Professional Supervisor you can talk freely about challenges within your workplace or with your Manager or colleagues.
- Provides cross pollination and helps to avoid groupthink
Sometimes teams of people that work closely together can get caught up in groupthink or lack new ideas. Where teams start thinking in the same ways, this can begin to result in tunnel vision and poor decision-making. It is important to gain ideas and professional support from different people and where possible external from your organisation and sometimes even profession to ensure that we continue to cross pollinate, to develop new and different ideas and to think outside the square. Seeking Professional Supervision will help you do this.
- Preventing symptoms of Vicarious Trauma
Working with clients who have high needs and many of whom have experienced trauma is emotionally challenging and can cause a number of reactions including compassion fatigue, burnout, moral distress, secondary stress disorder and cognitive changes. Reactions to what we see through our work is inevitable but the degree to which we experience a reaction is not. Through quality supervision and support, the level to which we experience vicarious trauma can be significantly reduced and/ or prevented entirely. Sometimes you may want to talk to someone about the symptoms of Vicarious Trauma or that you need something to revive the spark that you might have lost for your job and a Professional Supervisor would be a good place to help you with this.
What is a reason that you believe a Social Worker or Child Protection professional should consider external supervision? Comment below and share this article!
AASW, 2014, Supervision Standards, accessed 17 December 2019. <https://www.aasw.asn.au/document/item/6027>
Hawkins, P and Shohet, R 2012, Supervision in the helping professions, 4th Edn, Open University Press, Great Britain.
Munro, Professor E 2011, The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report A child-centred system, Department of Education, United Kingdom.