Ideas & Tips for Social Work Supervision

A key part of social work practice is ongoing supervision to ensure our practice is effective, to bounce ideas off a more experienced/knowledgeable individual, to vent about cases, and to feel supported in our practice. Many social workers *are supposed to* receive supervision on a weekly basis for about an hour.

Supervision also occurs for students in their field practicum experience. This allows a weekly time for students to practically apply their knowledge and skill in the field in real time. When I was a social work student in undergrad and graduate school, supervision provided an effective space for me to speak with my supervisor with no distractions, but there were times I had difficulty feeling an hour of discussion. Here, I’ve provided my best tips and ideas for supervision.

Tips for Supervision

  1. Ensure you write an agenda for the supervision meeting, and provide one copy for your supervisor. This is an effective way to ensure everything you need to cover is discussed, and provides space for you to write down feedback and other comments.
  2. Be honest and vulnerable with your supervisor. I struggled with honesty and complete vulnerability with my supervisors, because I didn’t want to come off as struggling or ‘a bad student.’ I wasn’t being dishonest about clients or my caseload, but if I was feeling frustrated, I felt I had to cover this. In reality, having questions and needing clarifications on practice is exactly WHY you’re in supervision. You are purposefully receiving feedback and talking with a professional that can support you. If you truly want to grow in your practice, it’s important to open yourself up for feedback, and to become comfortable with vulnerability.
  3. Be thorough and creative. What you put into supervision is what you get out of it. If you walk in with no plan, with the belief you’ll simply remember everything you need to discuss, the meeting could be all over the place and neglectful of important discussion points. Remember to think outside the box too. Allow yourself a birds eye view on your practice, the agency, and community, in order to create interesting and knowledgeable dialogue.

Ideas for Social Work Supervision

  1. Boundaries with clients.
  2. Burnout, agency turnover, case loads, and practical & effective self care.
  3. Case review with cases you need feedback on.
  4. Highlight cases that are going well!
  5. NASW Code of Ethics and ethical dilemmas that arise with clients and agency policy.
  6. Areas for agency’s growth in services or functioning.
  7. Documentation, treatment plan writing, and mental health treatment letters.
  8. Transference and Countertransference with clients.
  9. Impact of work on personal mental health and functioning.
  10. Use process recordings to review sessions with clients and receive feedback on therapy skills.
  11. New therapy modalities (CBT, TFCBT, Gestalt, Psychodynamic Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, EMDR, etc.)
  12. Diagnosing clients, dual diagnoses, and medical issues that could impact mental health symptomology.
  13. Building rapport and engagement with clients.
  14. Engaging parents in the treatment of children.
  15. Mandated reporting, involving law enforcement, giving court testimony, and other legal issues.
  16. Collaboration with other professionals and role in multidisciplinary practice.
  17. Talk about your feelings and self reflect on personal practice and areas for growth.
  18. Highlight your personal successes and areas you’re excelling!

Social work supervision is supposed to be safe and effective space for social workers to speak with, receive feedback from, and feel supported by a professional with greater experience/knowledge or a different perspective. With a good supervisory relationship, social workers can flourish and reduce levels of stress, decrease burnout/turnover, and increase effective social work practice and skills!

2 thoughts on “Ideas & Tips for Social Work Supervision

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  1. Laura, these are great ideas. I tend to use a less structured approach to supervision, considering it akin to psychotherapy but focused on work and career learning and growth. When I first saw a psychotherapist, a really good one, I started taking notes when he spoke. He asked me, why are you taking notes? You don’t have a memory problem. Just listen and be present, he said something to that effect. I approach supervision in light of that experience, and I find that having a written plan tends to inhibit the potential for allowing my preconscious and my vulnerabilities to come out spontaneously, and for my supervisor to give me feedback on that material.

    1. Thank you for sharing! I agree, there are certainly benefits to this less structured approach, that can aide in more organic conversation and exchanges and allow for deeper insights into practice. 🙂

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