The function of supervision in services for adolescents

The function of supervision in services for adolescents

26 November 2014
The function of supervision in services for adolescents

What is the function of supervision in services for adolescents? We asked two senior practitioners - please share your views in the comments below.

This article is part of a series of resources being released during our “Focus on… supervision in work with adolescents

Supervision provides a platform for youth workers to better understand the rationale for their interventions and their reactions to adolescent clients. Supervision is a reflective practice that explores a worker’s decisions, emotions and directions for future training. Supervision provides the platform to monitor, clarify and understand workers’ reactions to their clients' behaviour and life experiences.

Read more about the function of supervision in services for adolescents in our Practice Guide, Working with adolescents: Supervision.

We spoke to Karen Hart, General Manager of The Youth Junction Inc., and Manager of the Visy Cares Hub, and Felicity Quirk, Director of Clinical Services at the Australian Childhood Trauma Group (ACT Group), about how supervision functions in their work.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments field below.

Karen Hart:

The core function of structured supervision provides the opportunity for case managers to take time to go through their caseloads and reflect on their professional practice with each individual client.

It provides a case manager with the opportunity to talk about how they have planned their interventions with clients, both from a practical assistance perspective, as well as how they have gone about building trust, eliciting information and role modeling within their work. They can also discuss how they have balanced this with being able to disapprove of unacceptable attitudes and behaviours without offending or upsetting the young person, as a necessary prerequisite to promote change.

Practitioners are able to use supervision to reflect on how they interpret and manage crises. They can look at how they assist the young person to deal with high levels of distress, frustration and anger, but also discuss how they employ strategies to cope with and manage their own vicarious trauma and work-related stress.

Our case managers work on a daily basis with young people who have multiple and complex needs. These include mental health, alcohol and other drugs (AOD), legal, housing, unemployment, relationship and visa issues – and many of our clients face prison as a result of their involvement in offences.

The nature of their problems often results in daily crises for many of our clients, particularly those who are homeless and have untreated mental ill health and substance and alcohol issues.

Our workers, while highly qualified, may not have training or direct experience in social work case management processes. They deal with past and daily traumas, and regular supervision is therefore crucial.

Felicity Quirk:

When working with young people in particular, clinical supervision often includes components of: Confidentiality versus Duty of Care (particularly when ethical issues arise - e.g. recreational alcohol use); discussion regarding Gillick Competence (e.g. is the young person deemed to have the capacity to consent to intervention without their parental guardian’s knowledge?); and whether to include parents/ schools/ other systems in the therapy, versus fostering the young person’s growing autonomy.

Clinical supervision is helpful, particularly when working with young people, for the continuous monitoring of high-risk behaviours and threats it enables. I see clinical supervision as a safe space where clinicians are able to consider, process and integrate any conflicting components and determine an appropriate course of action in light of their legal, ethical and practice considerations.

As a supervisor, I think it is imperative to ensure clinical supervision is meeting the needs of the supervisee. It may also be helpful to offer clinicians the opportunity to experience models of reflective practice. For example, at the Australian Childhood Trauma Group, we are currently arranging a Balint Group supervision session for the team to provide clinicians with different experiences and lessons in undertaking reflective practice.

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