Poststructuralist Supervision: A Supervisor’s Guide
by Adrian Holmes /3 min read
‘Supervision’ can be a pretty loaded term in the human services sector. On a surface level it can bring to mind notions of policing and over-regulated practice. This can cause strain not only on the supervisees, but on supervisors who only intend to support their fellow practitioners.
If these ideas are the only ones we have of what supervision can be, it’s easy to see how both practitioners and supervisors might be invited to be fearful of being judged or, alternatively, to feel the need to carry the burden of having all the answers.
What we’ve found, from both our own experience and from our ongoing conversations with workers in the sector, is that there are other stories – vitally important stories – of what else supervision can be. We’re interested in researching these ideas with both supervisees and supervisors alike. Starting points for conversation might include questions such as:
What are the processes we can hold on to that ensure the ethical accountability of practitioners?
How do we have conversations with workers that ask them to reflect on their practice in ways that invite self-agency?
It’s important to us at SKATTLE that we “do supervision” in the same way that we “do counselling” – it’s all about parallel practice for us. Just as we hold on to the belief that our clients have special skills and knowledge that assists them in navigating the challenges life throws at them, we believe that workers have the skills and knowledge needed to face the professional obstacles that may come their way.
While there are supervision frameworks that prefer to work in a more hierarchical, ‘expert’ position, we believe that this can put a lot of strain on supervisors to solve the issues of their supervisees and to have all the answers to their qualms. As such, we encourage supervisors to become more collaborative in their work with supervisees. But how?
One way we can reposition ourselves as supervisors is to change the intention behind our supervision sessions. The common adage that ‘knowledge is power’ can have us thinking that we need a wealth of wisdom in order to help our supervisees in their professional development.
However, using our own knowledge is not the only way that we can influence others. By shifting our focus from having all of the ‘answers’, supervisors can begin to utilise their supervisees’ knowledge by asking questions and reflecting on experiences. This form of collaboration not only empowers supervisees in their work, but removes the pressure placed on supervisors to be all-knowing.
When we step away from advice-giving, we also create a space that encourages supervisees to consider their hopes and values as workers, and how this might influence the way that they plan for the future. If we focus solely on our own knowledge as supervisors, we can begin to apply band-aid solutions to experiences that may not apply.
By supporting supervisees in reflecting on these hopes and values, we can help them to really consider the actions they wish to take that will align them closely with their goals; no imposing needed!
Are you interested in learning more about how to supervise others with these principles? We are about to host our ‘Supervision – Conversations that Inspire’ Training here at the SKATTLE house, and we would love to work with you! Click here for further information about the training.
Image by Alexandre Dulaunoy