4.2 Barriers to supervision
Phillipson (2009 in Adams et al., 2009) identifies some of the barriers to reflective supervision: it can be side-lined due to high workloads, or unacknowledged power relations or conflicting perspectives may prevent the creation of a safe environment in which emotional reactions can be explored and contained. Supervisees may not be receptive to feedback, or feel unable or unwilling to disclose emotional feelings for fear of criticism.
To help workers and employers be clear about the supervision responsibilities of the agency, the worker and the supervisor, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has produced a supervision policy. BASW’s policy (2011) reinforces social workers’ professional right to supervision, and sets out key principles that all social workers should:
- Receive regular, planned, one-to-one, professional supervision from registered and appropriately experienced social workers.
- Have routine opportunities for peer learning and discussion in the workplace and through professional networks.
- Develop and maintain the relevant skills, knowledge and understanding to do their job through continuing professional development.
A key message emphasised in most supervision guidance is that the practitioner has the right to request satisfactory supervision arrangements; equally, professionals must be proactive and take responsibility within the supervisory relationship. If your access to professional supervision (rather than case management supervision) is limited, you may need to seek out additional or alternative sources of support such as peer or group supervision with others in your team, or other forms of shared learning and reflection. Co-working cases can also provide fruitful opportunities for reflection on differing perspectives and knowledge.