Sunday, 26 November 2017

A small thing that could make a big difference if you supervise anyone

Do you supervise anyone as part of your clinical work?

Even if you do not think of yourself as a supervisor, you may find that as part of your work you do in effect take on  a supervisory role.

For example you may
* Do case management of a number of colleagues in an IAPT service
* Shadow trainees and provide feedback
* Be part of a supervision group, in which you are at times required to provide feedback
* Engage in peer supervision

Are you supervised yourself? Would you agree that being supervised can be quite stressful? Have you ever felt criticised in supervision? Have you ever felt really stressed, angry or upset during supervision? Have you ever  chosen not to share a case for fear of how the supervisor or your colleagues would respond?

If you have answered "yes" to any of these questions then join the club. I can answer "yes" to every one of these questions. Although it isn't often talked about, supervision can be a scarey place, where you lay open your soul and hope for the best.

It needn't be like this, though. Supervision can be a positive,  interesting, exciting, compassionatesetting for learning about what you do well as well what can be improved in your clinical work. As a supervisor, I find it very helpful to remember this especially when I notice a critical voice about to enter my head.

Whilst  positive supervision is of course  best expressed in the whole spirit in which you conduct supervision, there is one small thing I've introduced into my clinical practice  as a supervisor which I believe makes a big difference. It's this.

At the start of each session, I ask each supervisee a simple question

"Share with us one thing that has gone well in your work since we last met"

Often the supervisee has to think for a while, and then they come up with something. Maybe a difficult case that's gone surprisingly well, perhaps a difficult situation with colleagues that was resolved, sometimes an initiative they have introduced in the service or their private practive or a course they have delivered well.

As we discuss this the supervisee's  body language lifts and the atmosphere in the room becomes more relaxed and positive.

But that's not all. I then ask

"What did you do, what quality did you show, that helped make this thing go so well?"

Sometimes the supervisee will struggle to identify what it was exactly, in which case you can help them figure it out. More often than not though, they will be able to say "I was empathic", "I prepared well" or "I was assertive" or whatever it was that helped. Again, they will be pleased and the atmospher will lift.

Even more importantly you and they are learning about their strengths as a therapist. You can  feed their strengths  back to them in moments when they appear to be  doubting themelves. You can ask them if they can use the qualities they have identied as helping in the "What's gone well" exercise when they come to present cases they are struggling with. You can help them build a profile of their strengths as a therapist.

Why not give "What's gone well" a go the next time you supervise someone? Let us know whether you find it helpful, in the comments section below.