Working with people can be challenging, particularly when the people we work with are unwell, to varying degrees. We all work in this field because we want to support and advocate for people to be happier and healthier and to promote overall wellbeing throughout the community. Whatever your role, working in the field of mental health exposes us to risks; risks relating to others and to ourselves.
It’s for these and many other reasons that Clinical Supervision should be an important part of your working life. Most employers actively promote supervision, though sometimes you will need to request it depending on your specific circumstances.
We are all more than aware of the extreme pressures of workloads throughout the sector (we’re impressed that you have the time to read this right now…). Mental health services continue to receive less than adequate funding to run effectively and to meet the growing needs of our community. So why would we spend time on something other than clinical work, especially when we have overflowing waitlists?
Here’s why we should engage in Clinical Supervision!
- It enhances our skills, confidence and competence: We practice in a field that usually requires tertiary learning and/or substantial lived experience. However, when we start work we don’t often spend a great deal of time continuing our learning. While some workplaces help to ensure your continuing professional development, others might not be quite so helpful... Regular, scheduled supervision provides mental health workers with a space to raise concerns and discuss issues with an experienced practitioner. You can discuss clinical matters and casework in retrospect, helping to enhance your skills for future practice.
- In order to ensure that clients are safe and work practices remain ethical, it is important to maintain a space utilised solely for the means of having ongoing and continual discussions about clinical work. Otherwise we can busily go about our work without noticing risk factors. By having a space to openly discuss case or clinical work, we provide the case with another set of eyes to review what’s happening and determine if we’ve possibly missed something. Afterall, two heads are better than one!
- We might get emotional support: Having a reflective space is so important in our work to discuss everything that’s happening at work, including clinical practice but also workplace relationships, organisational issues and how great Susan’s apple flan is – (shout out to all the bakers out there!). Whilst you might not always be able to discuss things openly, sometimes supervision can be a great space to receive emotional support with work-related matters. Sometimes though, we don’t have the greatest relationships with our supervisors; in this case you can contact your EAP (employee assistance program) for further support.
- It can help to remind us of organisational and practice standards: Whilst we all work in the same sector, every organisation has different policies and each discipline practices under a different set of standards. In order to remind ourselves of these procedures and guidelines, we can utilise supervision to ensure that we’re being compliant in all areas.
What about what supervision shouldn’t be? It shouldn’t be a space for discipline or where you feel uncomfortable. For this reason, we suggest that you and your supervisor develop a ‘supervision contract’ to ensure that you know how to deal with any disagreements that may arise. If you start to feel uncomfortable or feel like things that are being discussed are not quite right, we suggest you talk to your HACSU Delegate or a HACSU Official.