Regular supervision!

Conversation2One of the central mechanisms for sustaining trauma-informed care is supervision. Every person working with clients should have regular supervision. This includes child care workers, supervisors, therapists, teachers, everyone. In supervision, workers grow. They learn self awareness and expand their ability to remain therapeutic. The aquire skills. They share the frustration pain of the work and monitor their VT. Any performance issues are addressed in a collaborative way. They feel heard, cared about and noticed. Their sense of mission and belonging increases leading to more longevity.

Supervision is hard to maintain in our busy, crisis-ridden worlds. It is not supervision to ask someone who is working on the floor how they are doing and to have them respond “fine”. It is not supervision to talk with someone only when they have done something wrong or there is a new administrative requirement. Regular supervision is only possible when there is a commitment from the administration that scheduling costs include paying people to attend supervision and not be expected to be working on the floor during that period. This is probably one of the most powerful investments an agency can make.

Supervision provides:

  • A primary method to embed trauma thinking into every day life
  • The opportunity to step back and think
  • A chance to vent
  • A time to each clinical thinking and looking beneath
  • An opportunity to create culture of self awareness
  • A place to fight erosion of TIC thinking
  • A central place for awareness of and attention to VT
  • The vehicle for handling staff performance issues
  • The opportunity to help staff to grow and transform the pain
  • The opportunity to notice trends in milieu

Part of offering powerful supervision to our staff is training our supervisors, both in human resources policies and also in helping people to learn and grow. These supervisors need support too, and attention paid to how their supervision is going.

So if we establish supervision, how do we do it? How do we make our supervision trauma -informed?

What trauma principles are important in supervision?

  • Relationships matter
  • We are all doing the best we can at the moment
  • Symptoms are adaptations- yes, even for adults
  • Current relationships are influenced by the past
  • Self awareness is essential
  • Relationships are the vehicle of growth
  • Parallel process
  • Collaboration, empowerment, caring, respect- it matters

In other words, ALL of them.

Trauma-Informed Supervision

Frame and Beginning

  • Make time, consider scheduled time inviolate
  • Be on time and pay attention (no checking email)
  • Connect
  • Set frame and boundaries for this meeting
  • Remember details about the supervisee

Clinical Discussions

  • Validate the staff’s feeling
  • Establish a safe relationship to explore personal reactions
  • Use symptoms as adaptation lens for looking at clients and families
  • Developing Self Awareness
  • Self awareness is essential
  • Acknowledge validity of concerns and reactions
  • Explore connections between reactions and staff member’s past
  • Encouraging and deepening self awareness

Handling Performance Issues

  • Incorporate validation and a push for change
  • Need to handle difficult issues kindly
  • Establish clear expectations
  • Be collaborative and empowering
  • Mutual problem solving not blaming
  • Can’t have relationship with the kids if you are feeling blamed, scapegoated and angry

Challenging Issues in Trauma Informed Supervision

  • Support vs. accountability
  • Multiple roles – clinical supervisor, boss, evaluator of job performance
  • When to listen, when to problem-solve
  • Working with resistance and defensiveness
  • Supervising former peers, people older than you, etc
  • Boundary between supervision and therapy

If you would like a copy of Best Practices Guidelines for Reflective Supervision click here.
Improve Your Supervision


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