What is team supervision?

people sitting at a table holding pens at a table whilst turning toward each other | Team supervision |Tempo therapy and Consulting

17 Jan 2024

Anyone in healthcare will tell you that teams make the world go round. For better or for worse, the people in our teams have a huge impact on us. They can make or break our capacity to practice well, communicate well, be well and, importantly achieve great outcomes for our clients / patients. How can we ensure that we are healthy and thriving, individually and collectively in our work teams? Team supervision is an important cog in the wheel of compassion satisfaction and flourishing in helping work. What is team supervision and what is involved?

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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.

We've all had the dream team and the team that nightmares are made of. They can make or break our capacity to stay in the work, to learn, to grow, and to deliver effective services that offer health, healing and connection to society.

It is in my work with teams of health professionals, offering team supervision, professional learning and retreat-style supports, that I find hope in healthcare. It really is a joy to witness the love, care, support, camaraderie, learning and fun (black humour anyone?) that healthcare workers show each other.

Equally, taking steps to mitigate risk, optimise team dynamics and functioning, and offer space and opportunities for shared reflective practice through team supervision is critical.

What is team supervision?

Team supervision is a type of group supervision that is offered to members of a team. Its focus varies according to the needs of each team, but in general will offer elements of support for team dynamics, as well as individual and the collective needs of the team, in order to facilitate best outcomes for the work and services delivered.

Hawkins, MacMahon, Shohet, Ryde & Wilmot (2020) acknowledge key differences between team supervision, team development and team coaching as having different areas of focus:

  • team supervision: "how its members are individually and collectively carrying out their work with clients"
  • team development: "improving the performance and functioning of the team"
  • team coaching: "a particular form of working with team development over time" (p. 201).

Whilst team supervision may involve aspects of team development and team coaching, at its core team supervision is about supporting team members to engage in reflective practice to improve:

  • quality of work and clinical practice
  • professional relationships, team dynamics and functioning
  • outcomes for clients / patients
  • impacts of the work on team members
  • practitioner wellbeing
  • successful delivery of services
  • engagement with the wider workplace;

all whilst continuing to engage in professional practice development for individual workers and the team itself.

Who participates in team supervision?

If the team is the client, who in the team participates in team supervision? The whole team? Management? Team leaders? Clinicians? Administrative staff? Only those holding similar roles?

The answer is, it depends on the needs of the team, and the agreed upon focus of the work.

Participants of team supervision may hold similar or differing roles and / or qualifications, and may or may not work with the same clients / patients.

It can be helpful to have separate supervision for management teams, teams of practitioners and administration staff.

Clear contracting and assessment is important in determining these factors.

What is involved in team supervision?

There are many ways that team supervision may unfold and evolve. The following steps (based on Hawkins et al's 'CIDCLEAR' approach) offer a useful framework for a clear and transparent process:

  1. Initial meeting with stakeholder / manager: meet with team manager or coordinator of supervision to discuss team needs and focus of supervision.
  2. Assess needs: meet with team members individually, as a group or through an assessment tool to clarify and inquire into areas of focus for supervision.
  3. Contract with the team: designing an approach to supervision based on inputs from team members
  4. Supervisory process: immersive process to reflect / explore / listen / share / act upon supervisory needs of the team
  5. Review: check in to assess benefits and progress

What happens in a team supervision session with Tempo?

Again this varies depending on the needs of the team. However, below we unpack a little of what a team may expect in a typical session.

The nuts and bolts:

  • Sessions running for 90 minutes offer a deeper opportunity to reflect and connect. Feedback from participants validates this, with comments such as "we never would have achieved this in a 60 minute session".
  • Beginning and ending with individual sharing. Whilst nothing is compulsory in these sessions, the more members participate, the richer the exploration, discussion and outcomes.
  • A shared approach to the session's focus. Following the check-in, it becomes apparent if there are shared themes or particular needs that require attention.
  • Depending on the content of the session and agreement between participants, resources may be shared with the whole team following the session.

Tempo's approach:

  • There is a focus on process rather than content. More often than not, it is our core beliefs or the meaning that we attribute to a situation, a comment or dynamic that are the source of contention. Engaging with the process facilitates connection to what is going on beneath the surface of thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves and each other.
  • Connection - to ourselves, to each other and to the environments in which we work are an integral part of the process. Connection is facilitated is through therapeutic and ethical presence, somatic (relating to the body) awareness and expression, music and creative arts processes as well as through traditional talk-focused approaches.

To find out what outcomes are possible in of team supervision, see here.

If you would like to know more about how Tempo can support your team, please contact Minky here.

Supervision is all about removing the blocks to presence.

Robin Shohet

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Header image: Dylan Gillis