Why should healthcare workers and teachers consider group supervision?

a smiling black woman facilitates a discussion between two white men and two white women sit around a table in a group setting | group supervision Hobart | Tempo Therapy and Consulting

22 June 2022

For workers in a helping role, professional supervision is an essential component of the work: it supports positive outcomes for clients, maintenance of ethical standards, the development of skills and, importantly, the wellbeing of workers. Whilst most workplaces strive to offer regular supervision, the reality is often far from ideal. This blog explores how supervision groups outside of your workplace can offer a much needed space for reflection, connection and mutual support for teachers and healthcare workers.

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The purpose of supervision is to set up reflective dialogues through which we learn from the very work we do; it is the process that turns information and knowledge into wisdom.

Michael Carroll

What is supervision?

Supervision is a formal process of support that can be either be clinical, professional or operational; and there are significant differences between the three.

Clinical supervision involves a supportive, collaborative process that incorporates the educational, supportive and administrative needs of a worker's role and professional development.

Professional supervision and operational supervision (or line management) are based on hierarchical power dynamics:

  • in professional supervision, a professional board or authority sets the standards and decisions that a student or worker must adhere to and achieve
  • in line management, a worker reports to a supervising manager who provides support and case oversight, whilst holding performance management goals and requirements in view.

Both professional supervision and line management are essential components of work life, but the power dynamic, however friendly, remains: in these situations the supervisor has the authority to withdraw professional privileges or make decisions that may impact on the supervisee's job security.

Why is supervision important?

You know those moments in your work that stand out with crystal clarity?

Moments frozen in time, with the full weight of what you witnessed and felt still in your body and the sounds ringing in your ears?

  • The teacher who broke down in tears at the care team meeting because her heart was breaking for the boy she taught every day (a boy who was out of control with grief and rage, because he had no one to love and care for him).
  • The colleague who often blanked out, until one day she collapsed on the floor, unable to get up, right in front of my eyes after years of a toxic and impossible workload.
  • My brilliant, gentle, young colleague who so beautifully supported her clients, quietly announcing that she was leaving the profession.
  • The doctor with the tissue box, inviting the frightened young parents into a private room to deliver bad news.

This work of helping others makes its impacts felt.

And whilst some of us are lucky enough to be truly supported and held by our workplace, many of us are not.

The thing is, these moments take their toll.

And you, your interests, your time with family and friends, your life, are too important for you to miss out on because your mental, physical and emotional worlds are distressed and overwhelmed.​ ​ ​

These moments are why I have a fire in my belly about supporting teachers and health care workers.

And they are where access to good quality supervision can make or break your career.​

After all, we know that it is not a matter of if, but when and how, our work in helping roles will make its' impacts felt.

Let's delve a little deeper into clinical supervision...

Clinical supervision is a formal professional relationship between two or more people in designated roles, which facilitates reflective practice, explores ethical issues, and develops skills.

With the ultimate goal of ensuring competency and support for the worker to secure best outcomes for the client/patient, for health professionals, clinical supervision is an essential part of

  • maintaining registration
  • upholding ethical standards
  • managing interpersonal relationships between worker and client / patient
  • understanding intrapersonal responses
  • developing and maintaining reflective practice

Within teaching, supervision has more likely been linked to teacher training, or early career teachers, and generally has more of a mentor-type-of-focus. With teachers carrying a significant emotional load and higher than usual levels of stress​, it is evident that creating a safe space where teacher and educators can reflect and understand the impacts of their work on their wellbeing is crucial.

When a teacher develops insight into their own reactions to students and situations, they can adapt and modify what they do and how they behave and consciously respond rather than simply react to the situation they are presented with.

Fiona Griffith

Clinical supervision is offered:

  • individually (1:1)
  • peer supervision (either 1:1 or in a group where there is a rotating approach to leading the session)
  • in groups (where there is a designated group leader facilitating the process)

What are the benefits of group supervision?

Group supervision offers the benefits of

  • a chance to practice different ways of interacting, relating and negotiating
  • a safe space to share
  • a sounding board and support network
  • exploring issues from a number of different perspectives
  • gaining feedback and insights from other participants
  • opportunities to learn from other participants
  • a shared sense of purpose and working towards shared goals
  • being able to offer your support and insights to others (positive psychology research shows us that helping others is one of the pathways to happiness)
  • knowing that you are not alone (this can make a huge difference to your wellbeing and is one of the three components of self compassion).
  • peer support and a reduced sense of isolation

Why should you give group supervision a go?

We are facing a major staffing shortage in the helping professions. With reports of a shortage of teachers, early childhood educators, psychologists, doctors and 80,000 + disability care workers and up to 110, 000 aged care workers, we need you more than ever.

So, let me ask you a question:

Why did you start doing the work you do?

I'm guessing that's it's because you wanted to help others and make a difference in the world; and that doing a good job is important to you.

I imagine that you also want to be there for your family and friends, and to enjoy the good things in life.

The problem is, if you are overwhelmed with your workload, exhausted and struggling to make it through each day, you can't be there for yourself, let alone everyone else.

Participating in group supervision can help you to make room for, and build a practice of support and connection in a safe and confidential space. There really is nothing quite like being held by, and connecting with a group of peers who really get what doing this work is like: the joy, the pain, the frustration and the satisfaction.

When we are stressed and in survival mode, we disconnect from our experience; we disconnect from our bodies, our minds, our environments and our relationships. It is hard to think clearly. In many ways we abandon ourselves without even realising it.

Participating in a supervision group will support you to reconnect with yourself and your experience, so that you can pay attention to

  • how you are really going and
  • the impact that your work is having on you (the good, the bad and the ugly).

Once you have a sense of how and where you are in your experience, it is so much easier to discover what you need in order to support yourself, feel clear, energised and rested.

Not only is this good for you and your connections with family and friends, but this also helps you to be more present with your students, clients or patients, leading to better outcomes in your work.

What makes group supervision different with Tempo?

Tempo Therapy & Consulting offers a safe, relational and trauma-informed approach. This means the group is embedded within the following principles:

  • safe, predictable space
  • nervous system aware
  • joy-pain spectrum framework
  • embodied connection
  • connection with creativity
  • ethical presence principles
  • beyond words, beyond thoughts
  • connection, nourishment, reflection, clarity

Your felt sense of safety is at the core of each session.

Participants are invited to connect with and reflect upon their experiences through processes that may include:

  • quiet reflection (journaling, drawing)
  • discussion
  • music listening
  • supportive music and imagery experiences
  • creative soundscapes
  • mandala drawing
  • psychoeducation about the impacts of trauma, interpersonal neurobiology, the stress response cycle

At Tempo group participants have enjoyed many of the experiences, but overwhelmingly it has been the connection with others in a safe space, those who GET IT, that has been most appreciated.

Using a framework that embraces the principles of trauma stewardship, trauma-informed practice and the understandings from the 'Joy - pain spectrum'

If you are interested in supervision for yourself, contact Minky here

Sign up for Embodied creativity: group supervision for education and health professionals

This is a monthly closed supervision group usually held over a 6 month period - online and face to face in nipaluna/ Hobart. You can join the waitlist here.

The pursuit of making something good as a group is the most elevated of experiences.

Julia Louis Dreyfuss

Header image: Andrea Piacquadio