Your journey to being a practice supervisor

'It’s hard to exaggerate the influence of the supervisor' (Parsloe & Stevenson, 1978)

In order to work effectively as a practice supervisor you need to be emotionally resilient, analytical, pragmatic and reflective. You need to know yourself and how to get the best out of the people you supervise. Because the role is so busy it can be difficult to find time to reflect on your role and plan how you might do some things differently.

As a practice supervisor you play a key role in ensuring that children and families receive an excellent service.

Your work is fast-paced and challenging. You need to respond flexibly to changing demands on your time. For example, you might move straight from leading urgent discussions with other agencies to ensure a child is safe, to facilitating reflective discussion in one to one supervision – without much chance to shift gears in between. Whilst the role can be very rewarding, it can also be daunting at times.

You have to get used to being responsible for children and families but not being able to do the direct social work (practice supervisor)

This section provides you with an opportunity to pause and reflect on what it is like to be a practice supervisor. The learning tools are designed to help you reflect on your own journey from social worker to supervisor. You will be asked to review your strengths and abilities and, guided by research and practice evidence, explore aspects of the role you would like to work on further.

The learning resources in this section will prompt you to:

  • Review your own learning and development needs against the Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) for child and family practice supervisors.
  • Reflect on feedback from your own manager and someone you currently supervise to consider your learning from this.
  • Reflect on your own history, life story and professional experiences and the impact of these on your values and social work practice.
  • Review your own experiences of being supervised as a social worker and how these have influenced your ideas about supervising staff.
  • Consider your transition from social worker to supervisor and what kind of supervisor you want to be.

Briefing for Senior Managers

This short briefing is written specifically for senior managers and strategic leads. It contains a summary of key messages and challenge questions for senior managers to consider from an organisational perspective.

It presents a summary of key recommendations about how organisations can support practice supervisors to make the transition from social worker to first line manager and continue to develop skills and knowledge in this role.

Knowledge Briefing – Being a practice supervisor in child and family social work

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

  • An overview of the skills and knowledge which practice supervisors need to carry out the role effectively.
  • The important role which practice supervisors play as a bridge between the wider organisation and its partners, social workers and the children and families who receive a service.
  • Why it is essential to support practice supervisors make the transition from practitioner to first line manager and continue to help them develop in the role.

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

Podcast icon Being a practice supervisor

Jo Williams, Delivery Lead for PSDP talks about her experience of making the transition from a practitioner to a practice supervisor in an adoption team. Jo reflects on the importance of providing emotional containment and building supportive relationships with the staff you supervise.

What object represents your transition to practice supervisor?

This tool helps you reflect on the experience of becoming a practice supervisor using visual metaphors. It allows you to think about what it felt like to move from working directly with children and families to being responsible for managing others in that role.

Your supervision history

It is important to spend time reflecting on and setting the context for the kind of supervision relationship you want to build with your team. This tool asks you to reflect on your own experiences of supervision, how these shape the way you work with your team and how you want to set out your supervision offer.

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Lifeline exercise

Our response to others is often informed by our own life stories, values, culture and ethics. This may not always be immediately obvious to us. This tool prompts you to explore personal and professional experiences which influence the kind of practice supervisor you want to be and how this may help or hinder you in your role.

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The holistic containment wheel

Social workers can experience powerful personal responses when working with children and families because of the complex and challenging situations they deal with. You have a key role in helping your team contain and manage these emotional responses. This visual tool prompts you to think about the concept of containment and how different aspects of this can be applied in your work as practice supervisor.

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Evaluating your learning needs using the KSS for practice supervisors

This tool asks you to consider your achievements and learning needs using the Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) for child and family practice supervisors. It will support you to engage in a reflective discussion with your line manager exploring your future development and support needs.

Manager’s evaluation of your learning Needs Using the KSS for practice supervisors

Practice supervisors need to have opportunities to explore challenges, dilemmas and achievements in their own reflective supervision discussions with line managers. A key element of these discussions is having the opportunity to receive regular feedback from your line manager about what you are doing well and areas where further development is needed.

You can use this tool to ask your line manager to review your work against the KSS for child and family practice supervisors. It is useful to compare your own evaluation (using the previous tool) with feedback from your line manager in a reflective supervision discussion.

Reviewing your supervisory relationship with a supervisee

Seeking feedback from others about their experiences of supervision with you is important. It is also an opportunity for guiding your own learning. This self- assessment tool helps you to have a conversation with your supervisees about your practice supervision benchmarked against the Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) for child and family practice supervisors.

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Exploring expectations in the supervisory relationship

It is essential to spend time discussing how you and your supervisee work together in supervision and how you will regularly review your supervision relationship in order to ensure that the supervision is useful and productive for both of you. This tool is designed to help you and your supervisee prepare to have a discussion exploring how you will work together in supervision and your expectations of each other. The tool is taken from the Reflective Supervision: Resource Pack published by Research in Practice in 2017.

Using supervision agreements

This tool provides you with a template and an outline guide which will help you agree expectations about how you and your supervisee will work together, what you hope to achieve in your supervision discussions and how you will review this.

Having courageous conversations as a practice supervisor

Practice supervisors are often required to have courageous conversations with supervisees. It is not uncommon for such conversations to focus on professional performance. Similarly, practice supervisors may be called upon to share issues or give constructive feedback to others in the wider organisation. Such conversations can be challenging. This tool explores ways in which practice supervisors can prepare to raise issues with others and offers guidance about how to structure discussion and feedback when having a courageous conversation.