Exploring the Experiences of Families in Supervision

'Please remember that you are the invisible guiding hand directing your team. What happens during supervision sessions often reflects what occurs in the interactions between workers and families- in living rooms, in meetings, in conferences and, where necessary, in the family court and so this guiding hand truly is an important role.'

‘Annie’ – Parent

This section provides information and ideas about how practice supervisors can ensure that the views and experiences of families are a central element of reflective discussion and decision making in supervision.

Knowledge Briefing – Using a systemic lens in supervision

This knowledge briefing is written specifically for practice supervisors. It includes key messages from research and practice evidence about:

  • The key principles of systemic practice and how systemic models and approaches can ensure that the voices, views and lived experience of children and families inform practice discussions in one to one and group supervision.
  • How systemic approaches can be used to explore perceptions of risk, and the social worker’s response to this, in one to one and group supervision.
  • How systemic approaches can inform a strengths-based and curious approach in supervision which promotes reflective discussions about practice with children and families.

Challenge questions and reflective prompts are included to help you consider how you might use these ideas in your role as practice supervisor.

Drawing a genogram

Genograms are routinely used in systemic practice as a way of understanding and visually representing relationships and generational patterns in families.

This learning tool explains what genograms are and show you how to construct these in supervision. It includes a list of different symbols you might need when populating the genogram with information


Movie icon Using genograms in supervision

In this film clip you can see an example of a genogram being used in supervision.

Movie icon Using the GGRRAAACCEEESSS and the LUUUTT models in supervision

GGRRAAACCEEESSS is an acronym which is used to reflect on the way in which gender, geography, race, religion, age, ability, appearance, class, culture, education, ethnicity, employment, spirituality and sexuality shape our identity. The LUUUTT model helps us explore how these factors inform the stories we tell about ourselves and the way in which others construct stories about who we are.  Both are commonly used in systemic practice.  This presentation explains what these models are.


This tool provides a range of suggestions about how you can use these models to stimulate reflective discussions in supervision.

Movie icon Using systemic questions in supervision

Systemic questions are very helpful in stimulating discussion about factors which may be influencing how family members respond to each other and patterns of behaviour arising from this. They can also help to understand the influence of the wider social and structural environment on family life and relationships. This presentation explains what systemic questions are and how these can be used to aid analysis and reflective discussion in supervision.


Using systemic questions in supervision

This tool outlines a range of different types of systemic questions and explains how these can be used in supervision.

Using appreciative questions in supervision

Appreciative questions seek to explore aspects of family life, relationships or circumstances which are working well. It is important that practice supervisors focus discussion in supervision on strengths and resources in families as well as considering risks. This tool explains what appreciative questions are and how they are useful in supervision.

Flow of stress through a family

The flow of stress through family life is a visual tool which allows you to focus on how families experience adversity. The tool can be used to explore a family's experience in more depth, considering the potential impact of stressful life events (e.g. bereavement) alongside the impact of wider cultural, social and structural issues which influence family life.

Compass of shame

Many families can experience powerful feelings of shame and stigma as a result of needing social work support. The compass of shame is a visual tool which can be used to explore the influence of shame on families' interactions with social workers. Feelings of shame can, if unacknowledged, impact negatively on a family's ability to engage in a positive working relationship with a social worker.