Group supervision

We know that the AASW and QUT require you to undertake individual supervision with your student but what about Group Supervision? What could be the benefits for your student? Are there any pitfalls you should know about in advance? Read on for some answers.

Pro’s and Con’s

Group supervision can provide a powerful platform for workers to come together. You can use a combination of individual and group supervision quite effectively. Some of the benefits include:

  • It allows a space for workers to discuss a variety of issues related to practice, organisational policies as well as ethical considerations
  • Insight and collective wisdom can be shared
  • It facilitates mutual support, role responsibility and promotes a sense of collective ‘best practice’
  • It encourages a culture of learning, by providing students with the opportunity to integrate and demonstrate their ‘different’ knowledge, sharing the most recent theories and academic research.
  • Consistent group supervision plays an important role in terms of ‘normalising’ student reactions and feelings, as well as providing a safe space to process what worked well, what didn’t work so well and what they might do differently next time.

Some Con’s

While the benefits are clear, if not facilitated well, Group Supervision can turn out to not only be a waste of time but a very unpleasant experience. Some of the pitfalls can be:

  • It can easily turn into a talk fest, with the old soap box getting a real work out.
  • People can dominate or alternatively completely withdraw from the conversation.
  • Rather than be ‘process oriented’ it turns into a ‘case review’ and is more ‘task orientated’.
  • A group ‘expert’ emerges and so others stop sharing their ideas or wisdom.
  • People are disrespectful towards one another, not listening, texting or taking calls, eating their lunch or making their ‘to do’ lists.
  • People use it as an opportunity to have a non constructive whinge or a gripe at the organisation.

How to Respond

  • Although the group is acting as peer supervision, it still requires a strong facilitator if it’s going to be a safe, productive and successful space.
  • Like all group work, spend some time at the beginning of the group clarifying rules and responsibilities. Brainstorm these together and then have them visible in the room to refer to if people start to forget them. Or refer to them as if they are on the wall, to remind people of the rules. They need to be very specific and map out how you will use your time together – a bit like the individual supervision contract you make with your student at the beginning of your placement.
  • Don’t be afraid to put in boundaries and contain people who are acting outside of the rules. Remind the group of its purpose and parameters and feedback your observations. For example, “I have noticed that there seems to be a bit of a pattern where only one or two people are contributing and as this a space for collective wisdom to be shared I would really like to be hearing more from others in the group”.
  • Create opportunities for those who have not had much of a chance to contribute. Is there a ‘safe’ question that you can ask that would help them to get started? For example “Kelly, I am interested to hear your thoughts on what Margaret has just shared”.
  • Liven the group up at the beginning by starting with a fun activity. Grab a pack of Strengths Cards and ask the students to pick a strength that they have noticed in the person sitting next to them and to explain it to the group.