Group supervision involves a scheduled meeting led by a supervisor where conversation is facilitated with the staff who are part of that team. The conversation can involve case reviews, thematic discussions about practice, or problem solving of on-the-spot issues that are raised. This process helps to prompt critical thinking as diverse perspectives come together through the problem solving process. Group supervision also allows mutual support to emerge across the team as people come around one another to debrief challenging cases or issues that arise in child welfare practice.
I was first introduced to group supervision as an intern working in an outpatient counseling agency that served youth and families, many of whom were involved with the child welfare system. Our team included our clinical coordinator, two supervisors, and five counselors. In general, holding group supervision seems to work best with 5 to 8 participants. Much larger, and there is not enough room for all voices to be included, much smaller, and the capacity for diverse vantage points to inform decision making is diminished. With that said, I did once lead group supervision with a group of three interns which worked well in that particular situation, a reminder that these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
This agency had established a culture consistent with that of a learning organization. They placed a high value on regularly scheduled individual and group supervision meetings, and they offered regular trainings to advance the knowledge and skill level of their workforce. This commitment was communicated in the culture overtly through the scheduling of these meetings and events, but it was covertly communicated as well through the ways people asked questions spontaneously in the hallways; it was very common to see people informally debriefing with their coworkers, which included questions about the case and the position of the practitioner.
This culture was so strong that as someone who was new, I never questioned it. It was just how we functioned, and it was quite easy to join these activities. Because there was a sense that growth and learning were simply a normal part of the process, I felt comfortable with questions and feedback. The questions being asked were not because I was a student nor because I was new, they were a part of the standard development for everyone.
Group supervision is an essential way of building a culture of learning and it also serves a secondary benefit of building a sense of teamwork. Debriefing tough cases and generating innovative thinking is a powerful thing to share as a group. As people come around one another to help a peer, the mutual aid that emerges also extends into the milieu of the work environment. Implementing group supervision is an important way of building your team and advancing as a learning organization.
Think about the meetings you currently hold with your staff. Are any of these consistent with the practice of group supervision?
If you are currently conducting group supervision, take some time to reflect with your staff regarding your current process. What about the process do they like? Do they have suggestions about how to enhance the process? Infusing their input into your plan is an important part of your success.
If you are not currently conducting group supervision, talk to your director/supervisor to discuss ways in which this process could be implemented at your workplace. Think about, what will you call it? How will you introduce the concept to your staff? How will you kick this new process off? And how can you build trust early on to ensure the process sets up a tone for open sharing and feedback?