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How to Make The Most of Clinical Supervision

If you aren’t busy enough, your boss is requiring you to meet with them once per week.  I think it’s safe to say that meeting for clinical supervision isn’t always our highest priority.  We often feel begrudged walking into the boss’s office scratching our head on what to say.

Worse yet, we sometimes know exactly what we don’t want to say.

Certainly we should steer clear of the client who we know isn’t taking their medication; definitely, do not talk about your late assessment that you’ve been too busy to complete.  That leaves us with talking about cases that are useless to both you and your boss.

And why do we feel like supervision is a waste of time again?

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Let me help you!  Coming from someone who used to feel these very same sentiments, I have learned to enjoy supervision.  Sure, it can be intimidating- especially if you know your ducks aren’t in a row.

However, if you have any aspirations to move up in your organization, you could not have a better opportunity to show yourself off; and by the way, if that’s your end goal, check out my blog on getting a promotion.  If you don’t want to move up, that’s OK too.

Supervision can provide you the framework to improve your skill set and become an informal leader on your team.

So how do you strike the fear from meeting with your boss and actually enjoy the encounter?  My suggestion is to first evaluate yourself in your current role.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Take an honest look at what you believe your assets are.  If you have something that makes you unique compared to others in your role, it is important to show that off.  A seemingly arbitrary personal trait can make a huge difference.

As an example, I am not very outgoing and tend to not react to clients’ stories.  When I meet someone, they tend to overshare, because I’m allowing them ample opportunity to speak.  And when they provide sometimes surprising details, I don’t show them any reaction, which reinforces their continued sharing.

Everyone has something unique about them; you just need to critically evaluate your traits and understand their subtle utility.

“our boss will be very astounded to learn that a difficult client is making progress BECAUSE of your intervention.”

I definitely do not go in for supervision ready to tell my boss how quiet of a person I am.  However, I can tell my boss that in the last session with John Doe, real progress was made.

He finally opened up about his trauma.  You can further say that this was a result of a specific method that you were using.

Your boss will be very astounded to learn that a difficult client is making progress BECAUSE of your intervention.  This is essentially using a solution-focused mindset in supervision.

If you can shift the conversation, you can be in the driver seat on how sensitive topics are discussed.  If you go into your boss’s office and discuss how John Doe isn’t making progress, this opens the door to an interrogation- have you tried this or that, etc.?

And the cascade of questions makes you feel more and more futile in your role.

Show your boss that you have already evaluated the situation.  You’ve used a thoughtful intervention.

Even if your effort doesn’t make much progress, the conversation will be more collaborative on supporting John rather than what you did and didn’t do.

“You will find that your supervision will be much more fruitful when you can share ideas.”

Through the collaboration with your boss, show off your clinical knowledge.  And also genuinely listen to ideas that your boss has.  You will find that your supervision will be much more fruitful when you can share ideas.

A previously unthought-of method may arise, because you both are generating a healthy dialogue void of self-conscientiousness.

Supervision does not have to be top-down information giving.

Getting the most out of supervision will require you to be proactive.  If you are busy and know it is unlikely you can prepare ahead of time, jot down notes you’d like to discuss throughout your week.

You can then provide an outline of what you want to share, which puts you in charge of how information is delivered.  I don’t mean this to sound like you should hide or misrepresent any information to your boss.  In fact, that could be a career killer.

Integrity is key to fostering a relationship with anyone.

“You can then provide an outline of what you want to share, which puts you in charge of how information is delivered.”

Taking an offensive role to your supervision will impress your boss.   You are prepared to discuss specific issues that occurred throughout the week.

You have already identified solutions for the issues.  And your use of personal traits will identify a superior skill set.  These are all characteristics of a leader!

Whether you are looking to move up the promotional ladder or improve yourself professionally, you must critically evaluate any problem in your path.  Supervision is no different.

What are your experiences with supervision?  Comment below so we can learn from each other.

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Ben Barrett

First, thank you for reading The How to Social Worker- my alter ego.  My name is Ben Barrett and am a clinical social worker and addictions counselor. My personal experiences with mental health have shaped my professional perspective. Through my struggles both personally and professionally, I hope you can improve your own quality of life.

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