As an employer or manager you have responsibilities to support your professionals with their development, learning and reflection. Ensuring they have regular access to meaningful supervision will help to achieve this, and bring wider benefits for the team, your organisation and service users.
Dr Noreen Tehrani is a registered Occupational, Health and Counselling psychologist and a member of the British Psychological Society’s Supervision Task and Finish Group. Noreen has led a team of therapists and registered psychologists in private practice for over three decades. Drawing on her wealth of experience with supervision in the workplace, here she explores three different forms of supervision and some of the benefits these can bring.
What is supervision?
At its core, supervision is a process of professional learning and development that enables professionals to reflect on and develop their knowledge, skills, and competence, through agreed and regular support with another professional.
Supervision takes different forms and there are a variety of terms used to describe the different types of supervision. In this article, I explore some benefits from three approaches:
- Normative (practice) supervision, which supports the supervisee to reflect on and review their practice and enables them to better understand their practice, including the rules and regulations around it and how they should be applied
- Formative (professional) supervision, which is about learning and development, and related to the supervisee’s continuing professional development
- Restorative (personal) supervision, which helps the supervisee to deal with the stresses and traumatic impacts that may arise in their practice and helps to build resilience, prevent burnout and create positive a working environment.
In practice, ethical or professional issues can arise and it can be hard to identify a clear route forward. Discussing these with a supervisor can help to clarify the problem and identify appropriate courses of action. Learning how to make complex decisions provides a clear benefit to the supervisee's development, but this also provides organisational benefits by lowering the risk of mistakes and learning from those that do occur.
In normative (or ‘practice’) supervision, the supervisor will support and provide opportunities for the supervisee to reflect on and review their work. By sharing their experience and knowledge, the supervisor will support the supervisee’s development and decision-making. Receiving this support will enable the supervisee to develop and overcome challenges, allowing them to feel valued and supported. This can improve the quality and speed of the care they provide, benefitting their team and their service users.
Undertaking regular formative (or ‘professional’) supervision can have a very positive impact on a supervisee's skills and career progression. It can help them to identify professional development opportunities, to improve their confidence and critical thinking, to know when and how to seek support and feedback from colleagues and to monitor their own development.
Encouraging a supervisee to set and reflect on their development goals allows them to identify gaps in their knowledge or training and create effective strategies to fill these gaps. It supports a culture of continuous development and learning, and an improved awareness of the supervisee’s own scope of practice and knowledge gaps. This leads to safe and effective practice.
By providing a safe space, restorative (‘personal’) supervision allows a supervisee to reflect and express feelings of failure or concerns about their decision-making. This enables them to access support and guidance and develop strategies to manage those feelings, building resilience and integrating learning from their experiences.
Regular reflection on achievements and affirming areas of positive practice can help improve confidence and job satisfaction. Undertaken regularly, this supervision can improve trust between teams and alleviate workplace pressures such as stress, anxiety and burnout. It can build a positive and supportive working environment, which is crucial for providing safe and effective care, and driving service improvements within teams.
Tips for ensuring successful supervision
To ensure supervision is successful, it should be:
- carried out regularly (by a trained or experienced supervisor);
- focused on the supervisee (with support and facilitation by the supervisor);
- confidential (within limits, including if the supervisee is a danger to themselves or to others, or laws have been broken);
- recorded (by the supervisee, to provide evidence of their continuing professional development (CPD) and track discussions of complex issues or difficult decision-making processes); and
- separate from management supervision.
You can learn more about supervision via the materials on the HCPC website or the resources on the BPS website. You can also read the HCPC's research report on effective supervision.
Join our free #myhcpcstandards webinar for registrants on 8 November, where we’ll explore supervision and its important role supporting the professional and personal development of registrants and improving patient care.
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