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Clinical Supervision: Building a healthy, resilient and dynamic workforce.

As we approach the end of OT Week, it is important to remember the health and well being of our wonderful Occupational Therapists. OTs as well as our valued fellow health care providers offer services where the central focus is on giving to others. The clients’ health and well being is at the core of what we do. So it is essential that we also remember the health and well being of OTs and our health colleagues, to assist them in their roles supporting people, families and communities. Achieving better health outcomes requires a healthy, resilient and dynamic workforce.

My experience is working as an Occupational Therapist in the Mental Health sector. Working in this area of healthcare has its privileges. As workers we are invited into someone’s life and often their homes to accompany them on their personal journey for a period of time. Sometimes this is just for weeks or a few months but often we can be asked to be present in the person’s life for 12 months or more. Relationships are formed. Support and guidance are offered. Education, skills building, counselling, help with navigating the health system and one’s community are all aspects of care that an OT aims to provide.

To be effective in our jobs we need to form a connection with our clients/participants/patients/service users/consumers. They need to feel heard. They want their goals, desires, aspirations to be acknowledged and nurtured. Without finding a sense of connection, its pretty hard to authentically help someone. This work is a privilege.

In this privileged work role however there are numerous challenges. Systems to understand, yet being able to sit with the ambiguity and rolling with constant new learning is a necessity. Flexibility to adapt one’s approach to every single person you work with and endeavouring to work as collaboratively as possible to reach the best possible outcomes for our clients can be taxing. Learning and developing new skills, advocacy, assessing and managing risk, accessing community resources or services and being confident in presenting your perspective can be draining emotionally and physically. It might be the beginning of your career or you might be an experienced practitioner….no matter what level of experience you have, it is not wise to think you can do this without the support of supervision.
Some of you may dislike the term “supervision” and choose to use other terms such as “clinical support” or “professional support”- the term is probably best to be agreed upon by the parties involved in the supervisory relationship but for the purposes of this discussion, I’m sticking with the term referred to within the evidence-based literature.

So…

What is Clinical Supervision?
Clinical Supervision is regular protected time for facilitated in depth reflection on clinical practice. It aims to enable the supervisee to achieve, sustain and creatively develop a high quality of practice through means of focused support and development. The supervisee reflects on the part s/he plays as an individual in the complexities of the events and quality of his/her practice. This reflection is facilitated by a more experienced colleague who is skilled in facilitation, and the frequent ongoing sessions are led by the supervisee’s agenda. The process of clinical supervision should continue throughout the person’s career, whether they remain in practice or move into management, research or education. (Bond, M., & Holland, S. 2006)

What does Clinical Supervision look like?
There are numerous models and processes which can guide supervision. The important part is to come to an agreement with your supervisor as to how you are going to work together. You and your supervisor are equal partners in working and negotiating this agreement together. Time needs to be spent getting to know each other and creating a respectful, safe and trusting partnership. Supervision often takes form as a monthly one hour session in a private space however it may be appropriate to meet more regularly depending on your needs.

Why? What are the benefits?

  • Provides a confidential, safe and supportive environment to critically reflect on one’s work
  • Feel empowered to manage the complex situations you deal with every day
  • Enhances self awareness and responsibility for your own practice
  • Encourages stress relief and reduces occupational stress and burnout
  • Increases job satisfaction
  • Assists with alleviating a sense of isolation
  • Encourages professional development
  • Assists with managing conflicting work demands
  • An opportunity to recognise your strengths and achievements and to work on improving existing skills and address any weaknesses.

Good supervision is not….
Counselling or therapy, Performance management, debriefing or a chat, however in certain circumstances it may contain elements of these.

How do I know if I am receiving effective supervision?
Thinking about how you feel before, during and after a supervision session is a good indicator of whether the supervisory relationship is meeting your needs. Good supervision is something you are wanting to attend and looking forward to. Good supervision is somewhere you feel safe, respected and “heard” during the session. Effective supervision ends with you feeling like you have had a meaningful “work out” – you come prepared with important material to discuss and explore, you may even have felt vulnerable, but you have been given space and time to reflect on your practice and this has felt safe. Afterwards you feel energised and nurtured. An effective supervisor will know how much encouragement you need and when to stretch you further.

Methods of Supervision:
Individual Supervision is the one to one supervision meeting
Group Supervision is where more than two supervisees attend a supervision meeting. Types of groups include:

  • peer supervision (people take turns in facilitating),
  • triad (one supervisor, two supervisees),
  • participation (one group leader),
  • co-supervision (practitioners are equal in experience and skills and supervise each other in turn),
  • cooperative (no specific leader and the boundaries are set by everyone)

Cross Discipline Supervision is a one to one supervision or group supervision with more than one professional discipline involved.

Your supervision might be provided externally to the organisation you work within or it might be offered within the organisation. Both have their benefits and strengths.

Tamsin is passionate about supervision. She has received inspiring, nurturing and rewarding supervision during her career working in mental health. Tamsin has experienced and provided a variety of different supervision methods and models. She has had experience in providing clinical supervision across a range of professional disciplines including peer support workers with lived experience. Tamsin would love to offer a beneficial supervision experience for her fellow mental health practitioners. We are all in this important journey together and it is imperative that we nurture those who nurture others.

Tamsin is a registered Occupational Therapist with a BSc (Occupational Therapy) from Curtin University WA. With over 20 years of experience, she has worked extensively in community and inpatient mental health settings across Perth, Melbourne, and England. Tamsin is passionate about working with people with mental health issues and supporting other practitioners in this field. She has extensive skills in functional assessment, individual and group therapies, case management, psychosocial rehabilitation, and recovery. Tamsin believes in working collaboratively to achieve better outcomes for clients, their families, and significant others. Her special interests include mental health, complex trauma, family work, perinatal mental health, and clinical supervision.

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