Tip #5
Clinical Supervision - It Really Matters

Clinical supervision involves conducting in-depth case reviews with your staff. Whether you supervise clinicians, case managers, or youth workers, clinical supervision provides a process for enhancing analytical thinking of staff who work within child welfare practice.

Stories from the Field

Clinical supervision is a required part of supervising clinicians for licensure. However, this process is not just relevant for therapists. Use of clinical supervision can help child welfare staff in many varied roles to consider how best to develop a professional relationship with children, youth, and families for the purpose of being a change agent.

When I first started in child welfare, I was supervised at an agency that infused clinical supervision into individual and group supervision on a weekly basis. It was very natural for us to ask tough questions, to debate clinical decisions, and to openly discuss bias and “buttons” we might have related to a certain case. When I moved to another agency and was promoted to be a supervisor, clinical supervision was not a big part of the supervisory program. Most of my staff had not experienced clinical supervision previously and I initially observed some discomfort with the process.

When I started as a supervisor at this agency, some of my staff were thrown off by my clinical questions. I particularly remember one day when a staff was telling me about a new client. He was describing the client, the client’s history, and the client’s family system. That was all great information, but I wanted to know about his clinical assessment that went beyond the facts of the case. Specifically, I asked him, “Can you talk a bit about your approach with this case and what makes this the best approach?” He looked at me and said smiling, “I hate when you ask questions like that,” and I responded also with a smile, “I know.”

Although these questions were uncomfortable for him initially, over time he became very skilled at coming to supervision prepared not just to answer the “what” of the case, but also the “how.” The “what” or “content” includes the facts of a particular case. The “how” or the “process” references our conceptual map for how we plan to address the issues we are identifying. In supervision we can get lost in the content and forget to address the process. Spending time talking about things like clinical judgment, the approach someone plans to take, and a bit about their process for creating opportunities for change are all important things to discuss in clinical supervision. You might create a bit of discomfort when initially asking these questions, but over time your supervisees will appreciate your willingness to help them articulate their approach to each case and enhance their practice.

Take Action

Talk to your supervisees about their desire for in-depth case reviews. Have them consider whether they think clinical supervision is happening and if so, whether it is happening enough. What would they like to see happen in your supervision that would meet their needs for clinical supervision?

Review information provided by Child Welfare Information Gateway regarding clinical supervision in child welfare.

Conduct an assessment of your current practice and create a plan for infusing clinical supervision content into your regular supervisory conferences. Talk about this plan with your supervisor for feedback.