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. This task is to be undertaken with formality, in person and in accordance with state boards and their requisite social work requirements and the ethics of the social work profession. Casual exchange of day-to-day information over lunch, via the Internet or by phone does not meet the standard necessary for the profession.
In the clinical or educational role, the supervisor is to establish a learning environment in which the supervisee can gain the therapeutic skills and necessary self-awareness required to maximize learning. The focus should be on knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes paramount to a social workers interactions with a client, group or specific population. The teaching should be centered on specific interventions and services to specific clients, families or groups being served.
The supervisor should be current on social work and literature relevant to the population served or treatment modality practiced. Additionally, they must have a systematic means of tracking literature to stay up on practice protocols and guidelines, and be knowledgeable about how to guide and refer supervisees to appropriate literature as indicated. Staying current on the literature is crucial and necessary to being relevant in the field with new social workers.
Some state regulatory boards and credentialing organizations may delineate specific requirements and definitions of supervision. Supervisors who take on the responsibility and accountability for clinical social workers should be familiar with the most current rules, regulations and definitions of supervision in their practice jurisdiction.
Effective supervision enhances the competencies of supervisees in executing quality client care through the provision of knowledge, skills and attitudes, as well as by guiding specific professional growth and development to maximize clinical outcomes. A supervision program aids in addressing unethical practices by exposing and exploring practice methods, thereby reducing the potential of abuse in the client-provider relationship.
Sarah is a clinical social worker with 15 years experience. Her practice is struggling in the current economy, so she has sought credentialing to become a clinical supervisor as a means of subsidizing her practice. She has taken on a dozen supervisees, and to maintain her necessary contact hours with each supervisee, she often meets with them via e-mail or on casual phone calls as both she and the supervisees are available. She believes this casual contact allows her to be closer to her supervisees, allowing them to feel comfortable bringing up difficult issues with cases and in personal reactions to cases.
In this example:
Sarah may or may not have appropriate motivation for electing to seek a supervisory credential through her state board. However, she is being highly inappropriate by taking short-cuts in utilizing e-mail and the telephone as a substitute for structured, face-to-face supervision. Her behavior is not ethical or professional, and if she documents the hours of "casual" contacts in the formal documentation toward licensing hours, she and the student may be in violation of the law.
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