In other words, so called ‘non-managerial’ supervisors have an administrative responsibility. Where workers consistently fail to live up to these standards or present a danger to clients they have a responsibility to act. This could take the form of them discouraging the supervisee from practice, or of reporting matters to the appropriate professional body. Managerial supervisors also look to professional concerns and to the interests of clients and the wider community, but they do so through the framework of agency policies and procedures.
The primary problem in administrative supervision is concerned with the quality of the supervisee’s practice in respect of professional standard and ethics. The primary goal is to ensure adherence to these standards.
I suppose the key idea underlying this is that we should not act to undermine supervisees’ ability and commitment to take responsibility for exploring their practice. All this is not to say that the supervisor, outside the supervision session, should not also have an instructional role. However, where they do so there is always the danger that expectations in one setting (the instructional) may be carried across into another (supervision). Here supervisors will have to make clear the difference between the two forms – and mark the boundary in some way e.g. by sitting in a different way, or waiting for the supervisee to begin the session.
2. The supervisor should only switch into a more instructional mode where they are reasonably certain that the supervision process will be enhanced by their doing so.
Talk of training brings me round to some variations or additions to the supervisors’ role. In some settings, the supervisor is asked to become more of a practice teacher or mentor. Their task is not just to enable the supervisee to reflect on practice and to develop new understandings and ways of working, but also to teach in a more formal sense. Mentors and practice teachers may well need to instruct a student-worker on how to proceed in a particular situation; or to provide theoretical insights. This comes closer to the apprentice-master/mistress relationship with which we began this discussion. Mentors are skilled performers – they can be observed, consulted and their actions copied.
I want to suggest here that while managerial supervisors, as members of the profession or community of practice, have a duty to consider the appropriate standards and codes, the main way that they do this is via the policies and practices of the agency. On the other hand, while non-managerial or consultant supervisors may be contracted by the supervisee (or the College in the case of student workers), their authority comes from their membership of the community of practice . Their concern for the service offered to clients is fed through a set of shared understandings concerning what constitutes ‘good practice’. In other words, at certain points in the supervision process they may be required to represent that constitutes acceptable behaviour or good practice.
Clients at the centre. It is easy to fall into the trap of viewing changes in the individual supervisee as the central goal of the process. It is not difficult to understand how this happens. As we have seen, in supervision we draw on understandings and ways of working that we have developed in other settings. The most obvious of these are ‘counselling’ and other one-to-one relationships. Yet, as Kadushin (1992: 23) puts it in relation to managerial supervision, ‘The supervisor’s ultimate objective is to deliver to agency clients the best possible service, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in accordance with agency policies and procedures’. The same applies to consultant or non-managerial supervision:
As supervisors we may have to remind supervisees of the requirement to consider the extent to which a course of action they are pursuing leads to human flourishing, promotes equality or whether they are ‘distributing public resources (whether they be counselling, care or money) according to certain criteria based variously on rights, dessert and need’ (Banks 1995: 44)? In a similar fashion we have to reflect on our actions as supervisors.
A psycho-dynamic supervisor would interpret the material being presented and use an awareness of the relationship dynamics between himself and the counsellor in supervision as a means of supervising. A client-centred supervisor would be concerned to communicate the core conditions of acceptance, respect and genuiness to her supervisee. (Page and Wosket 1994: 4)
Student or trainee supervision can be contrasted with practitioner supervision. The latter is addressed to established workers. Some writers, such as Page and Wosket (1994: 2), claim that there are many differences between the focus in supervision of students or trainees, and that of established practitioners. The former are more likely to be concerned with issues of technique, boundary, understanding the material clients’ bring, and dealing with personal feelings of anxiety. ‘The experienced practitioner is more likely to be concerned with teasing out relationship dynamics, choosing intervention options and perhaps dealing with feelings of frustration and boredom towards clients’ (op cit.). This is something that you may like to think about. My own experience of supervision is that the degree of difference in these respects can easily be overstated. Experienced practitioners may have a greater repertoire of experiences and models to draw upon, and may have grown jaded. But the supervisor who fails to attend to the extent to which experienced practitioners face new situations and different clients, can overlook the chance of practitioners feeling like novices again. Similarly, those labelled as student workers may well be experiencing frustration and boredom toward their clients!
In I have tried to bring out the position with regard to professional and managerial supervision. Professional supervisors act on behalf of the community of practice of which they are members. They should have a concern with the quality of service offered and the needs of the wider community. This links back to the way that Proctor (1987) redefined Kadushin’s administrative category as ‘normative’. If we were to adjust Kadushin’s (1992: 20) definition it would read something like the following:
Some of the confusion around supposed differences arises from the roots of consultant, non-managerial or professional supervision. Its development has, arguably, owed much to the emergence of psychoanalysis and counselling. In the case of the former, practice, supervision, teaching and personal analysis have formed the central elements of training since the 1920s. If we consider current approaches to training social workers, teachers or informal and community educators, then we can see similar elements. For example, with regard to this programme there are various ‘teaching’ moments (perhaps most obviously seen in the form of lectures, study materials, seminars and study groups); self-assessment (as against self-analysis), practice (whether in the form of our day-to-day work, any placements we undertake, and our engagement with other students) and supervision.