Current ideas in supervision theory and practice
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The Supervision Quarterly

Summer 2014


Welcome to the summer edition of The Supervision Quarterly. It was intended the newsletter come nice and early before the Christmas rush set in but unfortunately I ran out of time as I busily worked to wrap up the year running a few training sessions. Better late than never…

This newsletter is intended to provide an overview of the first year of operation for Clinical Supervision Services and a reflection on the workshops that have been running and some plans for 2015.  I have been grateful for the feedback that I have received about the workshops and the newsletter. Anytime, please feel free to contact me, ask for some resources or suggest some ideas.  My thanks are extended to my supervisees, both individual and group members who through their presentations, discussions and reflections challenge me to be the best possible supervisor to nurture professional growth, resilience and creativity.



The year that was…..

This year has been a big year for Clinical Supervision Services.  Overall 11 workshops were run for the PsyBA, including 7 Full training workshops and 4 Master Classes.  Each one of the workshops brought fresh ideas from discussion with group participants which were incorporated in the sessions.  In particular, it was noted that both the Neuropsychologists and Organisational Psychologists needs were somewhat different in terms of specifics when it came to their supervision contexts.  As a result, all programs were updated and further specific handouts and worksheets were developed and provided.  A number of both Neuropsychologists and Organisational psychologists have shared specialist resources and these have been incorporated in the overall resources provided.

From my perspective it is a great learning experience for Clinical, Neuropsychologists and Organisational psychologists all attending the same workshop and learning from each other.  What I observed in training on a number of occasions is the value of reflective practice where participants practicing reflective questioning open up a collaborative dialogue without necessarily having expertise in similar work contexts or specifics of the clinical or client-based presentation.  For many supervisors-in-training this has been a real eye opener that just by staying with the supervisee and applying reflective questioning both the practice story and possible solutions are revealed. The parallel to counselling is apparent in that open ended questioning and reflective discussion is helpful to the supervisee ‘unpacking their story’, creating a new ‘lens to view the issue/s’ and exploring options for change. 

"I've been getting annoying pangs of conscience when faced with ethical dilemmas... Got anything for that?"

The two PsyBA Master Class workshops ‘Managing Difficulties and Ethical Issues in Supervision’ and ‘The use of Self and Systemic Issues in Supervision’ have really challenged participants think about their clinical and supervisory roles.  There were a number of issues that stood out in the Ethics workshop highlighting the constant, varied and challenging situations both clinicians and supervisors experience in both public and private contexts.  Awareness of professional Codes of Conduct is vital and it is recommended that frequent reviews of the guidelines are undertaken and discussed in supervision.  

With many psychologists and other clinicians using social media it was also timely to discuss how to effectively and safely use the various modes of social media including Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Blogs and Twitter.

Whilst the advantages of social media are obvious including support for building a practice, marketing and conveying information to clients, it is important to always be vigilant regarding boundaries and the content of online material.    It is recommended that any online forum be kept to a minimum and always be mindful of what is posted…if in doubt then don’t!

Here are some helpful resources:

Guidelines for advertising regulated health services:

FAQs on advertising:
( Standards-and-Guidelines/FAQ.aspx)

Other challenges discussed in training included rural contexts where often it is ‘ME OR NO ONE!’  bringing with it privacy challenges and expectations of community and self to step up and do the work.  There are similar issues when working within one’s own cultural group and for many recognising and dealing with countertransference is at the forefront of their reflective work in supervision. 

Another issue hotly debated in training was managing difficult students on placements. Some of the behaviours supervisors reportedly found challenging included:

  • Hesitant, anxious, defensive

  • Uneasy rapport

  • Over confident

  • Poor history taking and missing cues

  • Poor assessment skills 

  • Unable to clearly articulate processes

  • Poor prioritising of issues

  • Unsure of what to do next

  • Misses supervision or comes late 

  • Resistant to feedback and change

"I'm disappointed. If anyone should have seen the red flags, it's you".

It is important to consider the contextual parameters and work collaboratively to identify and manage possible constraints in supervision, including structural, relational and personal factors. Here are some ideas to think about:

Relational Personal  Structural 
Customer of supervision
Congruence of world views
Management of difference
Clarity of expectations
Suitably challenging, rewarding, safe and structured.
Past history of sueprvision
Readiness and competence to supervise
Power is explicitly identified 
Feedback is accepted (both by supervisee and supervisor).
Culture of the organisation
Transparency of goals
Sufficient time for supervision and reflection
Choice of clients
Clarity of lines of communication.

I think this quote sums up beautifully what supervisors must remember about the importance of the supervisory alliance: 

It (is) not so much supervisory techniques or strategies but a therapeutic supervisory stance that seemed to be most important in working with difficult supervisees. This ability to differentiate, according to Bowen and Friedman, allows for clarity of thought and reduction of anxiety…… The ability to maintain one’s sense of self, to think clearly in the middle of difficult and sometimes emotional circumstances, and to remain non-anxious are all qualities that enable supervisors to respond to difficult supervisees in a way that is balanced and that respects the supervisee and the relationship.

Nelson et al, (2010)

Systemic Supervision

Another focus of supervision training this year has been on the value of systemic supervision and awareness of self-issues in practice.  Systemic supervision has at the core an emphasis on the multiple levels involved in supervision including:

Client relationships with family and the wider system:

  • The relationship between the client and the practitioner

  • The practitioner’s personal and professional contexts

  • Ther relationships between the practitioner and supervisor 

  • The supervisor’s personal and professional contexts

  • The supervisee’s personal and professional contexts

  • And, the overall context of practice.

Systemic supervision is relationship focused, and draws on personal experience and reflection on process, emotional reactions in supervision and awareness of the ‘self’ in context.  Within the workshops there was a focus on helping supervisors develop both a theoretical understanding of the principles underpinning systems theory and the practical application of being self-reflective and reflexive and monitoring emotional and interpersonal processes associated with supervisor-supervisee interactions.  A shift for some was a move to help supervisees make connections between systemic theory and their personal and professional lives, and in first applying the process to themselves.

We presented the idea in training of helping the supervisee recognize the role of their own family history (family-of-origin) and current circumstances as a resource and possible constraints in relation to issues presented in the supervision session.  In doing so, ‘self-issues’ are linked to help understand process and improve clinical and professional practice guiding future growth and development.  

One great resource that is helpful in exploring self-issues in systemic supervision is:

Using the Person-of-the Therapist Supervision Instrument Aponte, H.J. & Carlsen, C. (2009)

Within this article is a template that can be used to unpack core themes in supervision which is helpful to explore how the supervisee works with the clinical material presented in supervisory sessions. 

Here are two further resources that are helpful for supervisees understanding both the role of their spiritual and cultural heritage and seeing how their experiences impact on therapeutic work:
The Spiritual genogram in training and supervision Wiggins Frame, M. (2001)
The Cultural Genogram: Key to Training cultural competent family therapists Hardy, K., & Laszloffy, T., (1995)

Looking forward…

The calendar for PsyBA training is already available on the website and next year participants who book early make significant savings and secure a spot in their preferred workshop time.

In addition, there will be other workshops offered outside the PsyBA context, including a 2 day ‘Self as Therapist’ workshop limited to 8 participants only. 

The workshop will help clinicians utilize themselves in their professional and therapeutic work in addition to grow personal insight and emotional maturity within their professional contexts. There will be opportunity to explore professional dilemmas, explore themes through the historical and personal stories of the therapist and present clinical cases and/or workplace issues in supervision. The workshop will include small group discussion and experiential exercises.

If you are interested in updates on ‘Self as Therapist’ workshops available early next year, please register your interest by return email here.

In closing, I again would like to thank all those who participated in training and supervision this year. The collaborative process has been challenging, stimulating and rewarding.  Have a safe and happy holiday period and I hope to see you all again in the new year....

The Supervision Quarterly is brought to you by
Christine Senediak of Clinical Supervision Services (CSS).

All articles by Christine Senediak. Copyright Clinical Supervision Services 2014
Copyright © 2014 Clinical Supervision Services, All rights reserved.

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