Social Work Supervision of Clinical Research Paper

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By improving their self knowledge, leaders can change and develop as leaders of people. Clinical supervision for leaders is sometimes called administrative clinical supervision. This is managerial clinical supervision with a focus on problems related to leadership and organization of work, particularly human relations issues. Administrative clinical supervision makes use of experiential learning focused on oneself and one's work (Sirola-Karvinen and Hyrkas, 2008).

Administrative clinical supervision means clinical supervision for leaders that address leadership issues in order to achieve set goals. Supervision promotes cohesion within the organization and is directed at change. Administrative clinical supervision is the examination of leadership in which leaders have the chance to reflect upon the quality of their decisions and share their feelings. In terms of action, administrative clinical supervision involves process-like support and mentoring, which boost the leader's confidence in coping with leadership duties and changes associated with it. Administrative clinical supervision addresses issues such as the development of the leaders work, the leaders ability to express feelings constructively, give and receive feedback, and create a work atmosphere that encourages expression of opinions and feelings (Sirola-Karvinen and Hyrkas, 2008).

It has just been recently that within the field of counseling and psychotherapy, clinical supervision has become accepted as its own specialty. It is no longer viewed as merely an expansion of the therapeutic process. Some licensing boards like those in Alabama and Louisiana have begun requiring clinicians to receive specialized training in clinical supervision before they can become supervisors. Even with extensive training and the best possible conditions, supervision is a challenging and sometimes daunting undertaking. One way to lessen the impact of the varying quality of supervision is through education of the supervisee (Pearson, 2004).

Formal supervision is essentially a mandated requirement since supervised counseling experience is required in order to obtain a degree and license. Many practicum students often find themselves asking to what degree they consider supervision to be an opportunity for learning, an inconvenience, a restriction, or an imposition. Reflecting on a number of attributes that supervisors expect from and find desirable in supervisees can facilitate this assessment of students' willingness to participate in and receive supervision (Pearson, 2004).

Although beginning students often have the misconception that supervisors just tell counselors what to do, supervisors are expected to function in a variety of roles depending on the needs of the supervisee. The roles that they often have to perform include teacher, counselor, and consultant. When taking on the role of teacher, the supervisor acts as the expert who provides answers and teaches the student in such areas as learning techniques, applying interventions, and conceptualizing. From the role of counselor, the supervisor facilitates the self-growth and explores the personal reactions of the trainee. The main focus of supervision interventions needs to be limited in order to help the function more effectively. In the consultant role, the supervisor provides options and alternatives rather than answers, and the interaction is friendlier. Instead of instructing and directing the student, the supervisor collaborates with the trainee in such areas as case conceptualization and treatment planning (Pearson, 2004).

Supervisor qualities of availability and approachability are critical components of effective supervision because the more comfortable students feel about approaching supervisors for help, the more likely they are to seek this help and get their needs met. Supervisors often have responsibilities like monitoring a student's work with clients, providing regular feedback to the student, offering suggestions for improvement, and limiting the relationship to supervision. Further expectations of effective supervisors include offering suggestions for dealing with specific therapeutic situations, providing practical support through modeling and coaching, giving emotional support through reassurance and encouragement, delivering feedback in a constructive way, and being proficient as a therapist (Pearson, 2004).

A sensible application of supervision theories can offer supervisors a useful guide for incorporating their own theoretical approaches and clinical knowledge into the supervision process. There are three levels of counselor development. Each of these levels finds counselor's exhibiting varying degrees of motivation, autonomy, and awareness. Knowing the developmental level of the counselor helps supervisors make decisions about the optimal supervision environment across several factors: (a) the balance of supportive vs. challenging interventions needed; (b) the degree of structure provided; (c) the amount of teaching, skill development, and direct suggestions needed; and (d) the degree to which counselors' personal reactions are explored (Pearson, 2001).

Figuring out the counselor's developmental level is the first step in choosing supervision strategies and shapes the foundation from which the other steps follow. While counseling experience is certainly a critical factor, assessing whether counselors fit in level one, two, or three depends on the degree to which they exhibit a stable motivation for being a counselor, an awareness of self and clients, and dependence on the supervisor vs. autonomous functioning (Pearson, 2001).

Level-one counselors, who are very uncertain about their counseling effectiveness, tend to be the following:

Highly anxious and highly motivated to learn

More focused on their own feelings and thoughts about what to do next in sessions and, subsequently, less aware of clients' needs and process dynamics

Highly dependent on the supervisor for direction, instruction, and support

Because of the intense anxiety, heightened motivation, and lessened awareness, level-one counselors need an environment with large amounts of support, direct instruction, and structure, and minimal amounts of challenge and personal exploration (Pearson, 2001).

Level-two counselors vacillate in their levels of confidence, anxiety, and motivation; struggle with feeling dependent and wanting autonomy; and improve in their awareness of clients' issues and relationship dynamics. Given the fluctuation in level-two counselors' confidence and wanting help vs. resisting help, the supervisor should generally reduce the amount of direct instruction and allow the counselor to influence the degree of structure needed (Pearson, 2001).

Supervision comes alive at the third level, with a challenging atmosphere, primarily in the form of self-challenge, and a deeper exploration of personal reactions and relationship processes because the counselors are much more consistent in their motivation, confidence, and skill level. At this level, the supervisor basically follows the counselor's lead in figuring out the content of supervision. Even though developmental levels change gradually over time, they are relatively consistent from session to session (Pearson, 2001).

Because of the similarities between counseling and supervision, supervisors often have to use their skills as counselors. But because of the important distinctions there is an added layers of complexity created for the supervisor to manage. The most obvious difference involves the focus and overall goals. In the counseling role, the principal focus is on the welfare of the client. In the supervisory function, the major goal is the professional growth and welfare of the counselor. But this goal still has to be balanced with the welfare and protection of the client. Having these dual objectives is often complementary to the degree that the counselor's improvement translates into better service for everyone including the clients. A conflict comes about when counselors' blind spots or ethical transgressions require supervisors to act in the best interest of the client, often at the expense of the counselors' independence and growth (Quinn, 2000).

Evaluation of the counselor by the supervisor is another thing that differentiates supervising from counseling. Supervisors have to regularly provide performance evaluations that have professional consequences for the counselor. There are a number of common issues related to evaluation including anxiety, power, discrepant evaluation, games, and conflict with other supervisory roles. In fact, in a study on the nature of nondisclosure by supervisees, impression management was one of the typical reasons cited for nondisclosures. Questions that surround the dynamics of the supervisory relationship must contain the potential impact of the evaluation (Quinn, 2000).

While an evaluation is often a source of threat to counselors, supervision often poses a threat to supervisors. That threat is the risk created by vicarious liability, a reality that can be unnerving when supervisors are held accountable for the counselor's behavior, especially when the supervisor has no way of knowing that the counselor behaved inappropriately. Supervisors have to be careful, not to let the need to reduce their anxiety turn the monitoring role into a policing one. This protective approach can often threatens the counselor and increases the danger by ensuring that counselors won't discuss their most challenging cases in which supervision is most needed (Quinn, 2000).

Managing the complex goals of client and counselor development within a supervisory relationship requires a level of trust that is often unmatched in the counseling relationship. Not only do counselors need to trust their supervisors, but supervisors need to trust the counselors being supervised. When trying to establish that trust, supervisors are faced with the delicate task of balancing supportive and challenging interventions. As such, supervisors need to provide a level of support and safety so that counselors feel comfortable enough to challenge themselves and to accept challenges from the supervisor. Such a trusting relationship helps to increase the protection of the client, the professional growth of the counselor, and the assurance to the supervisor that…[continue]

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