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Are you getting enough? (4) From supervisee to supervisor

Sam Simpson and Cathy Sparkes conclude their supervision series by exploring how you develop the integral skills to successfully make the transition from supervisee to supervisor.
l-r: Cathy and Sam

Supervision are you getting enough? Let us know at the WINTER 08 forum, http://members. forum/.

n this article we first aim to explore how therapists gain the relevant experience and develop the requisite skills in order to make the transition from supervisee to supervisor. We then aim to reflect on current supervisory practices and consider some possible training options to achieve necessary skill development. Finally we conclude by sharing our ideas on ways of developing a more robust network of supervisors throughout the profession.

Developing requisite skills: current practice

Discussions in both focus groups held to inform this series of articles highlighted a typical developmental cycle for supervisors within the profession. This cycle consists of the following transition points: newly qualified therapist becomes a junior therapist who, with increasing experience, takes on the additional role of student supervision; as each therapist gains in seniority s/he is expected to start supervising more junior therapists; if s/he moves up to management level there is an inherent expectation that s/he will then supervise staff at all levels and possibly across a range of disciplines. In view of this progression, the question that we would like to pose is do we expect therapists to develop these increased supervisory skills implicitly or are there a series of training opportunities through which therapists can learn the skills more explicitly? It is true that as a profession speech and language therapists possess excellent communication skills including counselling skills (empathy, higher level listening skills, an awareness of different questioning styles) to varying degrees as well as higher level clinical knowledge. However, we are of the opinion that at each of the transition points described above there are inherent assumptions and expectations that the therapist simply steps up to the next level and by osmosis develops the requisite skill set to take on the role of supervisor. We would strongly argue that the transition from supervisee to supervisor parallels the tran18

sition from, for example, clinical specialist to manager. Both signify not just an extension of a role, but a change significant enough to incorporate new skills and roles in their own right. Using the example of clinical specialist to manager, it is generally acknowledged that, in order to make this step up, the individual requires additional training, support and on-going supervision into that role. Equally, it is generally anticipated that a new manager will experience self-doubt in the face of new challenges which could test their skills, competencies and work / life balance. We would suggest that the same could equally apply to a newly-appointed supervisor.

Developing requisite skills: key dimensions

We believe becoming a skilled supervisor involves a combination of factors. According to the members of the two focus groups and reflections on our own experiences, the primary factor is the personal experience of good quality supervision. The reasons for this are two fold the lived experience of a positive role model provides observational learning opportunities, which are further reinforced by being on the receiving end of the process and experiencing firsthand the impact supervision can have on both personal and professional development. Those of you wanting to make the transition or who are already supervising people may well be asking the question, how do I know if I have received good quality supervision? In many respects the answer to this is personally defined in that each individual has their own particular preferences - and what works well for one person might not work for another. However, to identify what works best for you as an individual, we believe it is important to experiment. We would advocate a trial and error approach in order to gain multiple experiences of different supervision styles and to then reflect on what worked best at a particular moment, in the knowledge that this may well change over time. The key dimensions raised in both focus groups and in the literature can be broadly

divided into the two categories of skills and qualities. a) Key skills Essentially the three key skills integral to the role of supervisor detailed in the literature are: listening facilitation feedback. However, discussions during the focus groups highlighted others including: a clear knowledge of the role of a supervisor and boundaries reflexivity [the process of applying to yourself the constructs or frameworks you apply to others] detachment and an ability to stand back from the issue the capacity to make sense of a persons reality confidentiality. b) Key qualities According to the two focus groups held for this series of articles, the key qualities of a supervisor change over time and vary at different stages of the supervisees development / career. They placed emphasis on the importance of the supervisors understanding of supervision as a process that evolves over time; flexibility in terms of their style and skills; confidence; trust; safety; a commitment to the time; integrity and honesty as well as natural talent. In the literature a number of additional qualities are also documented as follows: empathy and understanding; unconditional positive regard; sense of humour; warmth and self-disclosure; flexibility in styles, roles, structures and interventions; attention and concern; investment and commitment; openness and curiosity; an awareness of cross-cultural issues and the ability to enable each supervisee to find their own ways.

Training and development options

Rather than elaborating or defining each of the areas identified, we want to consider how these skills and qualities can be developed and finetuned in the context of supervision. There are a


SUPERVISION PRACTICE range of training courses available within Trusts and via Specific Interest Groups and certain educational establishment such as the City Lit that focus on the development of skills such as listening, facilitation and feedback. Additionally, integrated supervision courses are available, for example through the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists and the UCL short course programme. Furthermore, over the last year there has been a growth in such courses being offered in house, where Trusts are employing outside facilitators. As intandem, we are increasingly being involved in trust-wide training projects to look at supporting a cultural shift and establishing new supervision infrastructures within a given service. Supervision involves knowledge, skills and techniques. Above all it involves attitudes and feelings of a supervisor in a relationship with another person. It is thus important that supervision training includes not only the relevant knowledge, skills and training to equip a competent technical supervisor, but concentrates on exploring the attitudes and assumptions of the trainees (Marchant, cited in Marken & Payne, 1989) This citation highlights that the transition from supervisee to supervisor is not solely about knowledge and skill acquisition, but is also about achieving a way of being and a state of mind in that relationship. We believe this attitude evolves over time and is nurtured via on-going supervision providing opportunities to reflect on ones own practice as a supervisor coupled with ongoing experiences as a supervisee.

Box 1 Practical activities 1. Reflect on the training you have received / would like to receive whilst making the transition into the supervisor role. Consider your current training needs and wants. 2. Discuss this article within your team and consider who is supervising whom within the department / service. What particular skills, qualities and styles do each of these supervisors bring to the department, and what choices do people have in terms of accessing them or outside supervision?
2. A national database of supervisors (both independent and within the NHS) which would enable therapists to experiment more easily with different styles and have access to a greater choice of supervisor; 3. Creative ideas in terms of access to and payment for outside supervision. For example, there could be a supervisor swap across neighbouring trusts; a therapist could exchange 3 hours work within a department in return for 1 hour of supervision; a therapists Continuing Professional Development money or course allocation could be freed up for the purchase of supervision with someone external to the organisation. We look forward to hearing any comments you have in relation to this article and the practical activities in box 1. This is our final article but we have been invited to comment on any ideas and points raised by the readership in the next edition. We look forward to hearing from you. Sam Simpson and Cathy Sparkes are specialist speech and language therapists. Cathy is also a trained counsellor and Sam in currently in training. Together they are SLTP Marken, M. & Payne, M. (1989) Enabling and Ensuring, in Hawkins, P. & Shohet, R. (eds.) Supervision in the Helping Professions. Maidenhead: Open University Press, p.80. Editors note: I would like to thank Sam and Cathy for the supervision series, which I know from reader feedback has proved both thoughtprovoking and useful. I would also like to thank the members of the focus groups who helped Sam and Cathy plan the content. If you would like to offer other perspectives on supervision, explain the impact the series has had on you or ask Sam and Cathy any questions, please e-mail avrilnicoll@ as soon as possible so we can put together a follow-up feature.

ASLTIP provides information and a contact point for people searching for an Independent Speech and Language Therapist. For its members, it provides professional support and information about working independently in the UK. ASLTIP is led by an Executive Committee, which also advises RCSLT and HPC on issues relating to independent practice. The ASLTIP Executive Committee members also facilitate discussion around specific issues or cases involving ASLTIP members. ASLTIP members: Have set standards and guidelines for working in independent practice. Are listed on the only national online database of independent speech and language therapists. Receive regular copies of the newsletter, Independent Talking Points. Access a network of local groups, supervision groups and an online support network. Receive discounted places on training days and a national annual study day. Have access to professional, clinical and business support. To find out more, visit our website or attend the next

Supervision: looking to the future

It is interesting to compare recent developments in counselling supervision with the field of speech and language therapy. Increasing Continuing Professional Development requirements and membership of the Health Professions Council has brought about a growth in post-qualification supervision training courses for counsellors and psychotherapists with nationally recognised qualifications. We invite you to consider whether this would also be a welcome development within field of speech and language therapy? Imagine a level 1 supervision training course available for junior therapists which, similar to an obligatory dysphagia course, would be a prerequisite prior to embarking on the supervision of students and newly-qualified therapists. A level 2 supervision training course could be available to more experienced therapists and clinical specialists making the transition into the supervisor role with less experienced speech and language therapists; finally a level 3 course could be open to all managers or senior therapists required to supervise staff from multiple professional backgrounds and levels of experience. Other ideas that we have been entertaining recently include: 1. A supervision SIG, which could co-ordinate a range of study days to support on-going skill development and understanding of the supervision process;

References Setting up in Independent Practice Course

on 16th January 2009 More information about this course can be found on the website. 19


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