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An introduction to social work
An introduction to social work

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Supervision as a tool for self-awareness

While trying to maintain critical awareness is one way of developing your reflective skills and practice, supervision is another very important way of doing so. Social workers normally have supervision built into their professional practice and would consider it central to their development as skilled and reflective practitioners.

Lishman (2002) lists six points that should form the basis of all supervision for students and staff:

  1. It should focus on learning.

  2. It should be provided on a regular and reliable basis.

  3. It should involve mutual trust and an awareness of issues of authority and responsibility.

  4. It should provide support and opportunities to express feelings and to go ‘below the surface’ in the analysis of problems and situations.

  5. It should address those particular issues which you identify as problematic, including dealing with pain, anxiety, confusion, violence and stress.

  6. It should be anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory in its content and its process.

She concludes that ‘supervision is time for exploration, reflection, learning and problem-solving’ (p. 107).

Supervision was given prominence and recognition in the Munro review of children’s social care services in England in 2011:

Analytic skills can be enhanced by formal teaching and reading. Intuitive skills are essentially derived from experience. Experience on its own, however, is not enough. It needs to be allied to reflection – time and attention given to mulling over the experience and learning from it. This is often best achieved in conversation with others, in supervision, for example, or in discussions with colleagues.

(Munro, 2011, p. 87)

Her words serve as a reminder that reflection helps you to deal better with complicated situations that cannot be resolved simply by following rules or guidelines.