Evolution of Social Work Supervision Model
Social work supervision was originally based upon the medical model, with physicians teaching in early social work training programs and serving on boards and in charitable organizations with input on how such organizations operated and were structured. The concept of supervision in the organizational setting dates back to early social work educational programs. In agency-based apprenticeships, a new worker shadowed an experienced worker who modeled skills, behaviors and attitudes required to be an agency social worker.
Primary education of social workers transitioned into the university and other educational settings at the turn of the 20th century. While theory and basic skills training and teaching shifted to educational institutions, primary field training continued in a variety of agency and organizational-based settings. Subsequently, different forms of supervision developed over time.
The Clinical Supervisor has the authority and is under assignment to assist and direct the practice of a social worker in the areas of teaching, supporting and administration. Models that may be observed are varied, each with different elements of focus. The Task-Centered Model contains the three basic elements of education, administration and support. The Discrimination Model centers on the elements of process, conceptualization and personalization. The Developmental Model centers on three levels (beginning, intermediate and advanced), each with varying degrees of awareness, autonomy and motivation, and eight identified growth areas for each supervisee. The Contemporary Field Instruction Model of supervision is characterized by the supervisee's case needs, focusing on case planning and problem solving as a primary area of work. The Articulated Approach to supervision focuses on systematic integration of information from the classroom and field placement. The Andragogical Approach to supervision is characterized by learner-directed goals and objectives, has a focus on addressing immediate challenges, as opposed to subject-centered learning and is built around an egalitarian supervisor-supervisee relationship.
Regardless of the format of supervision chosen, certain elements remain crucial for effective supervision to maximize results and minimize liability. The five most important characteristics or elements of effective supervision are that it is structured, regular, consistent, case oriented and evaluated. Using a "structured" approach to supervision, the supervisor has clarified the format in which supervision is conducted, such as group supervision or individual supervision, or a combination thereof. The term "regular" in this context means that supervision is formalized into a schedule and conducted on a standard basis, such as weekly, to avoid infringing on or skipping supervision altogether. The term "consistent" in this context is the approach and style of the supervisor is constant, with a logical connection between the pattern and style of the decision making process, thereby setting up a means to consider approaching a given situation while not being distracted by how the supervisor may or may not react. The term "case oriented" in this context refers to the need for extraneous matters to be limited and the focus maintained on the case material, and all discussion of administrative, personal and learning issues should related to the case, either a specific case or a general case discussion. As a characteristic of effective supervision, "evaluated" refers to formal or informal evaluation of the supervision provided and supervisory process itself.
In any given setting, any number of approaches may be effective in serving both the supervisee and the client. The style is less important than the need for consistency and professional protocols.
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