Every Wednesday my mentor and I have supervision at my field placement. This time is – and I hesitate to use this word, but it’s the best one I have – a sacred time, and I truly treasure it.

The notion of supervision in Social Work can be confusing to those outside of our profession: it doesn’t mean that my supervisor is in my session watching me interact with client (that’s observation). Rather, supervision is where (at least in my current setting, because it varies by practice, agency, setting, and individuals involved) my mentor and I sit down for an uninterrupted hour, and get to share in each other’s presence, where we close out my case notes for the past week (since I am functioning under my supervisors clinical license, he must sign off on all of my work). It’s where we discuss case conceptualization, where we talk about struggles that I am having free from judgement. It is where new ideas and concepts are bounced around, and where I can ask for help that I wouldn’t necessarily interrupt his day for during the regular week. It’s for bi-directional feedback.

Generally my feedback is incredibly positive; two weeks ago I was given feedback by my mentor (after the staff meeting) on something I needed to improve on. However, I wasn’t left ‘high and dry’: my mentor reminded me that he was my greatest advocate, and that he was there to work with me on what it was that I needed to improve. He checked in with me all of this week, and during our weekly session he made sure to find out if this week was a better week than last (which it was). On top of that, we’ve been doing satisfaction surveys of our clients, which – while anonymous, are linked to clinician – and my clients are in the “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” categories, so I felt much more confident walking out of supervision this week, than I did last week…not only because I did better as a colleague and Social Worker, but because I knew my clients were doing better as well.

The important part, though, through all of this, was that when presented with negative criticism, I was willing to listen, and willing to change: because at the end of the day, the goal is being a better clinician, a better colleague, a better co-worker…and even if I didn’t agree with that negative criticism; I didn’t want others to have that perception of me (whatever it was) so I worked to change my behavior, so I could – in turn – change the behavior of others.

Supervision is important, it is ongoing, and it is important we pay attention to what we like in our supervisors, because at some point (very soon) we ourselves will be providing (and yet still receiving) supervision…and we want to be the supervisors that we have enjoyed and learned from most.

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