Reflective practice in supervision for youth workers

Reflective practice in supervision for youth workers

2 December 2014
Reflective practice in supervision for youth workers

What is reflective practice in supervision for youth workers? We asked two senior practitioners - please share your views below.

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

Reflective practice explores personal issues and perceptions, identifies judgments, and develops workers’ awareness of self. In supervision, the supervisor prompts the worker to reflect on the decisions they have made and analyse their context, and consequences. Workers are provided with a safe, trusting environment to disclose any stresses or concerns that they may be experiencing, and are encouraged to think critically about their practice.

The reflective process is central to effective supervision in youth work, as it allows for deliberation on interventions and enables learning from experience. For youth workers, reflective practice helps to identify and respond to the emotional impact of clients’ behaviour, circumstances or disclosures of traumatic events.

Read more about reflective practice in supervision for youth workers in our Practice Guide, Working with adolescents: Supervision <>

We spoke to Felicity Quirk, Director of Clinical Services at the Australian Childhood Trauma Group (ACT Group), and Corinne Henderson, Senior Policy Advisor at the Mental Health Coordinating Council, about their views on reflective practice. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments field below.

Felicity Quirk:

Regular reflection in clinical supervision has allowed me to maintain longevity in my chosen field.

The majority of my work over the last 15 years has been with children, young people and families who have experienced significant abuse and neglect. Early in my career, when working as a sexual abuse counsellor for young people, reflection in clinical supervision provided me with a space to consolidate my thinking, develop helpful frameworks for intervention, learn how I could best assist the young people I was working with, take time to reflect on the impact of this work on me personally and prioritise self care.

In this role, I remember a specific instance when I was exposed to some information that began to impact on me personally. As I was new to the field, I thought that if I told my supervisor she might not think that I was able to manage the work. I eventually discussed this in supervision. My supervisor was understanding, normalised the impact given the material, provided a framework for understanding why this had impacted and assisted me to develop a plan to address this.

When working specifically with young people recovering from trauma, I have found the Sanctuary Programs S.E.L.F Model of Recovery to be a helpful framework in some supervision sessions. This provides an approach for facilitating movement through the four critical aspects of recovery: Safety, Emotional management, Loss and Future.

Corinne Henderson:

It is really important as a practitioner to be able to distinguish between ‘your trauma’ and a client’s trauma. It’s so easy for a client to share material that can trigger or vicariously traumatise a practitioner.

Reflective practice before and after session work is vital to staying present in the reality of a client's experience. Reflective practice prior to a session enables one to ground oneself in the present and recognise what is going on for you before you engage with a client.

Too little time between supervision sessions can be very unhelpful in terms of ensuring best practice. You must be able to cameo your own material ‘for later reflection’ and have time before engaging with another client. It is likely that communications will not benefit the client in those circumstances and that a practitioner might be unable to be totally present for the client.

Reflective practice enables me to honestly appraise where I am and acknowledge when I need to step back from practice to deal with issues affecting client work. Grief and loss are particular areas that can make one vulnerable and susceptible to triggering and should always be honestly reflected upon.

Image: #009 Tino @ Ramos Mejía, 30 de julio (cropped) by Nicolás Zabo Zamorano, CC BY 2.0.


Very good information about the the Clinical Supervision and its importance as a Youth Officer

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