The Future of Clinical Supervision: From Field Placement to Full Time Employment

Clinical Supervision is an art as well as a skill. It takes practice, patience and persistence not only to provide sound clinical supervision, but to be on the receiving end as well. As a clinical supervisor myself I am always on the search for sound advice and practice in this art of supervision.

I have now extended my search beyond the classroom, beyond the office and into the airwaves and the unbound accessibility of the PODCAST  

In the series, Living Proof brought to us by the University of Buffalo, School of Social Work,  Episode 5 – Dr. Lawrence Shulman: Models of Supervision: Parallel Processes and Honest Relationships gives us insight into the depth of the practice of clinical supervision.  This episode begins with a harmonious instrumental sample which is then followed by an introduction of the guest speaker, Dr. Lawrence Shulman, his expertise followed by the introduction of the interviewer, Peter Sobata of the University of Buffalo.  We are then swept up into an intelligent and meaningful conversation of the supervision work that Dr. Shulman has been doing for over 20 years in the field of social work practice.The banter between the interviewer and the guest speaker flows back in forth with the easy beat of an intelligent discussion peppered by examples of personal experience and real world-scenarios of what supervision is envisioned as.

This episode was 38 minutes of engaging conversation in clinical supervision.. The flow is natural and easy to follow as the listener learns about Dr. Shulman’s definition of supervision. He breaks down the latter into four components:

  • Direct practice
  • Job Management
  • Professionalism
  • Continued Learning

Dr. Shulman continues the conversation on the importance of modeling and parallel process in supervision.  He states that often supervisors fall back on the administrative piece of supervision and forget the clinical/direct practice portion due to the stressors of compliance and management standards that they are held to by the agency as a whole.

Dr. Shulman also emphasizes the importance of the working relationship with clients mirroring that of the relationship in supervision. He notes that the components of this working relationship are rapport, trust and caring. 

This was a truly enlightening discussion and very relevant and helpful to those who are currently being supervised or who are providing clinical supervision themselves.

As I moved forward in the world of airwaves and podcasting I came across another episode within the same podcast series.  This particular pod cast goes a little deeper and speaks to not only sound clinical supervision, but the importance of receiving and providing supervision through a Trauma Informed Care (TIC) lens. In Episode 137 – Eda Kauffman: Clinical Supervision: Integrating a Trauma-Informed Lens  listeners are introduced to Eda Kauffman, who has worked as a social worker in the field for more than 20 years and is currently the Associate Director of Field Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is interviewed by Marjory Quartley, Field Education Coordinator at University of Buffalo.

This episode starts out much the same away as the one with Dr. Shulman. Listeners are welcomed to the episode with music and then a brief synopsis of the guest speaker and her background before the interviewee opens up the conversation to discussing the topic at hand, which is trauma informed supervision. The episode is 41 minutes of pure intelligent, helpful information on the need and usefulness of trauma-informed supervision with MSW students as well as fulltime staff. Eda states so eloquently in her discussion with Marjory what all veteran social workers know yet sometimes fail to practice: reflective supervision that includes a foundation based on the elements that follow.

  • Safety at all levels (emotional, physical, psychological, etc.)
  • Emotional literacy
  • Collaboration
  • Respect
  • Working Relationship
  • Discussion of trauma

Eda could not be more clear in her proclamation of what many direct practice staff experience when working with traumatized populations — a “loss of positive illusion.” 

This loss of illusion occurs when staff begin to process the trauma they hear about and start to think, “This could happen to me.”  Yet they continue to work without properly processing these feelings in supervision. Eventually they get to a point in their work when the process changes to, “It did happen to me.” Eda emphasizes that when this occurs there needs to be a discussion of trauma-informed care in the supervision session which can help the student or employee inoculate themselves against vicarious trauma by developing an appropriate life/work quality balance.

It is near the end of the episode that Eda brings to light an important movement toward the future of social work education. She notes that it is the field education departments’ responsibility to train and educate field instructors in trauma-informed care supervision in order to support and assist all practitioners and students from micro to macro practice. Marjory Quartley even cited the change of the CSWE 2011 standards on Trauma Informed Care and how this addition has permeated and continues to shape the future of social work practice as a whole. Eda concludes the podcast episode stating that it is her hope that there will be more research and publishing done on the importance of this form of supervision in academia.

Overall these two podcasts are among many that are being aired by the University of Buffalo as well as many other institutions on the importance of clinical supervision in social work practice. It is my hope that I can only add to the enhancement and education of the importance of supervision in field placement and how this practice is but a brick in the foundation of a student’s overall social work experience.

Please stay tuned as I begin to record the narratives of current MSW students, field instructors, and other clinicians as they tell their stories and experiences of the good, the bad, and everything in between …

Tales From The Field: Personal Accounts of Clinical Supervision in Social Work Practice


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