Supervision interrupts practice. It wakes us up to what we are doing. It acts as an irritant interrupting the comfort stories of our practice and facilitating the creation of new stories.
The need for supervision
Supervision's mission is to assist professionals in delivering high-quality services and in becoming the best practitioner they can be. We can't underestimate the importance of supervision. We are witnessing very rapid changes in social systems, which bring both benefits and drawbacks, for example, biotech and info-tech. The speed of "instantaneous" modern life creates new forms of social problems and multiplies existing ones; instant feedback through social media increases the exposure to the critique of services, the professionals associated with it and the efficiency of both. The complexity of the world and the complexity of people related fields requires professional expertise and expeditious response. But professional excellence and integrity do not happen automatically. To be effective, practitioners must constantly be learning and growing. There should be an ongoing process of investigation, self-reflection, challenge and competence focused support. Supervision is a vital part of this process, aiming to undergird the professionals in an atmosphere of sustenance, validation, and motivation.
The definition of supervision
Supervision is a unique systemic process of reflection, interaction and learning that produces and maintains the practitioner’s competence and well-being and, as a result, improved services to their clients. Supervision is:
• focused on specific and well-defined functions and tasks.
• governed by clear organizational expectations and standards.
• framed in a professional contract.
Supervision is a lifelong process that starts at the beginning of the professional career and ends at retirement (Bond & Holland, 2012). This process should be systemic, involving regularity and formal context. Only a systemic approach can cultivate the practitioner’s sustainable well-being and perpetual development in times that can be very unstable (Nancarrow & Wade, 2014).
Supervision is a unique process because it implies specific and unrepeatable combinations of factors that influence the process, like the professional context, supervision model, professional development goals, contract agreements (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014).
The keyword for supervision
Reflection is a keyword in supervision’s definition. Carroll (2016) states that reflection-on-practice and reflection-for-practice happen in this cooperative domain. Both Newson and Carroll (2016) present an exciting approach to developing reflective practice. They promote collaborative reflection in supervision that can convert our professional reality into reflective learning. As they say, the best teachers live inside of us, not outside. In considering the idea of the Reflective Space in supervision, they talk about three stages of reflection that happens in such a space: Mindful Stance (paying attention to what happens in the reality of practice), Consideration Stance (challenging the assumptions), and Consolidation Stance (applying what was learned as a result). Supervision creates possibilities to reflect on the professional context and welcome personal reflections, including the impact of personal expectations, attitudes, and beliefs.
Interaction in supervision is about the two people involved in the process. According to Morrison (2001), supervision is the worker’s most important relationship. First of all, it consists of the supervisee, a practitioner of a certain age, work experience, having a role within the agency, representing organisational culture, personality traits, a set of learning skills, the capacity to sustain himself and the practice, belonging to a culture, a language, having existential fundamentals like values, beliefs, and moral compass. Second, it involves a supervisor who delivers supportive interventions using their personality and capacities. Both make a significant investment in this relationship that can be built on trust and respect (Jones, 2011). The comfort level in this relational space is essential in creating resonance and can be of enormous help when dissonance occurs. The successful supervisor has good discernment and sharpened skills to foster appropriate, healthy, and strong relationships and makes interactions efficient. In every supervision stage - orientation, working or termination (Jones, 2011), the supervisor can maintain the focus on current issues, on practitioner’s needs, and support a constructive and ethical relationship.
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Learning in supervision
Learning in supervision is paramount. The word "supervision" comes from two Latin words: "super" and "videre", where "super" is "above, over, across, on", and "videre" stands for "to see, to look". The word "over" creates a picture of a hierarchy that belongs to the past (Hawkins & Shohet, 2012 ). However, one of the popular models of supervision in New Zealand - The Reflective Learning Model (Davys, 2010, Hewson, 2016), implies almost the opposite. The supervisor isn't the one who stands over but who creates the supervisee's organic learning conditions. The supervisor isn't just a seasoned practitioner, teacher, mentor, expert, but a transformation facilitator. It is regarded as almost an artwork with the prefix "co" to the words that describe the modern expression of supervision, like co-operation, co-exploration, co-creation, co-facilitation. Supervision framed in this model opens excellent possibilities for professionals to acclimate practice realities to industry's premises and respond well to the world's challenges. Supervision becomes more "a way of thinking rather than a blueprint for doing" (Davys & Beddoe, 2010).
An essential aspect of providing high-quality supervision in New Zealand is making cultural supervision a mandatory element. There is rich Maori philosophy for supervision, culture, and traditions that must be taken onboard instead of imposing Western models and approaches. Diversity enriches respect for each other culture creates a better space for reflection and understanding (Eurera, 2007). The exploration, learning and application of the Tangata Whenua path in supervision, especially when working with Maori people, is imperative.
Cultural supervision has to be safe, and a protected supervisory environment clarifies what cultural supervision is. As Davys and Beddoe (2010) states, such supervision is rooted in spiritual, traditional, and coherent theoretical understandings, compatible with a particular perspective of the world. In this context, the supervisee’s culture develops into the underlying foundation of supervision.
In the counselling and psychotherapy domain, professionals are encouraged to have cultural supervision. But again, in small towns with a small Maori population, finding a person qualified to offer such service can be difficult. However, other possible options exist, such as phone or tele-supervision. The difficulty to access permanent cultural supervision encourages individual studies and exploration of Maori culture and the Maori model of health, Tihei-wa Mauri Ora being one of the most relevant for reflection on counselling practice and supervision outcomes (Piripi & Body, 2010).
In talking about culturally competent practices, there is another aspect to consider: New Zealand is a multicultural country, and we need to utilize multicultural supervision. The definition of multicultural supervision involves two aspects: firstly, it is a relationship where both participants of supervisory alliance represent different cultures, and secondly, the topic of supervision is about multicultural issues. Multicultural supervision is usually focused on cultural similarities and differences, inclusiveness, respect for diversity and uniqueness, genuine interest, multicultural worldviews, and competencies. The key to success in this supervision model is the supervisor’s cultural sensitivity, and it can be seen in the way the complexity of this domain is orchestrated (Malone & Fisher, 2017).
Efficient supervision is rewarding. If normative tasks are worked through, we generate a problem-solving culture and practice based on critical thinking, and as a result, clarity, professional confidence and competence (Nancarrow & Boxall, 2014). Suppose formative tasks were part of the supervision focus. In that case, the result is improved performance, including better communication skills, mindful consideration of reality, an updated professional knowledge, and efficient logistics of practice (Blishen, 2016). Well achieved restorative tasks bring to the plate of supervision success relief and satisfaction, reduced stress, and more excellent skills to maintain the most desired well-being – for the clients, the practice, and the practitioner (Wallbank & Hatton, 2011).
For professionals in any discipline, supervision is essential for the best practice. And the success of good supervision is held on a clear understanding of what supervision is and its role, functions, and tasks. Supervision is an ongoing practice, it is a systemic process, and it is a unique contractual relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee. Suppose it is organized with a safe and transparent framework. In that case, supervision promotes the sustainability of the professionals' work, enables the delivery of high-quality services, builds up a learning culture, and helps the professional. Ultimately the clients face the changes and challenges of modern life.