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Post-structuralist Supervision: A Short Overview

‘Supervision’ can be a pretty loaded term in the human services sector. On a surface level it can bring to mind notions of line management and policing of practice. This can cause strain not only on the supervisees, but on supervisors who only want 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 supervision conversations might include questions such as:

  • What would have you feeling stronger in your practice? What would you like to be working on?

  • What are the processes we can hold on to that ensure the ethical accountability of ourselves as 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 T4HC 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 problems. 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 the supervisees’ knowledge by asking questions and reflecting on their unique 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 to reflect on their hopes and values, we can help them to really consider the actions they wish to take that will align them most closely with their goals; no advice needed!

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