Clinical Practice, CPD

Supervision #OTalk 30th September 2014


Date:  30/09/2014  Host: @ForensicDetail

Blog Post  –  Transcript

Guest hosted by @ForensicDetail and supported by @GillyGorry



Supervision is demanded by COT and the HCPC; a professional and ethical requirement to ensure standards are being met. The supportive aspect is less commonly cited in official documents, but emerges in the literature as the most vital from the perspective of clinicians. It provides reassurance when feeling underappreciated in physical settings (Robertson and Finlay 2009), and provides much needed emotional space to reflect in mental health settings (Edwards and Burnard 2003).

Following the experience of feeling dissatisfied by the supervision, I undertook my own learning about types and models of supervision. This knowledge shapes supervision I request, and also the supervision I deliver. Aiming to provide supervision of good quality and which meets the needs and expectations of the supervisee is a dynamic challenge but awareness of different models and approaches to supervision gives flexibility to adapt to the supervisee without feeling bound by one particular model.

Defining supervision

There are several different, contradictory and confusing definitions for supervision of health care professionals, further complicated by the lack of clarity about whether managerial and professional supervision should be separate entities, and whether clinical and professional supervision are the same.

In addition, different professions tend to develop their own way of conducting supervision based on their therapeutic approach, and different specialties within Occupational Therapy, in my experience, have equally divergent approaches.


On reviewing available literature, there is a range of models devised to guide the supervisory focus. These also stem from different professional spheres but provide a useful means of conceptualising and guiding supervision. These include developmental models, functional models, systemic models, process models and ‘key issues’ models.

Using a model has advantages, though each specific approach has its own pros and cons

Challenges in supervision

Within the literature, staff report supervision is a poor use of time, it does not meet their needs, or they expect something other than what is provided (e.g. Sweeney et al 2001, Morley 2008). I frequently come across the dichotomy of receiving both managerial supervision and clinical/professional supervision from the same person. This can be problematic when it limits the supervisee’s capacity for being open for fear of managerial consequences, being viewed as incompetent or other related fears. However, the small pool of supervisors available in a workplace or nearby can make this an inevitable position.

Similarly, supervisors report feeling ill-equipped to provide supervision, having only personal experience to guide their practice – that may not have been a positive of beneficial experience. My knowledge stems from being a supervisee and what I find helpful. My clinical experience has made me practiced in formulating the difficulties a supervisee may encounter and informs the approach I take supporting development. That said, not every supervisee values and responds to the same approach, requiring a great degree of adaptation when faced with supervisees with very different supervisory needs.

Reflection points

So for #otalk have a think about your own experiences as both supervisee and supervisor… the following may be a good place to start…

What is the point of supervision?
What do you consider ‘good’ and ‘bad’ supervision and why?
What approach to supervision do you take and why?
How can you get the most out of supervision?

References / Biblography


DREYFUS, H.,L. and DREYFUS, S.,E., 1986. Mind over Machine: the power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the era of the computer. Free Press
EDWARDS, D., and BURNARD, P., 2003. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Stress and Coping Strategies used by Occupational Therapists Working in Mental Health Settings. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(8), pp. 345-355.
GOLDHAMMER et al, 1993.

HOLLOWAY, E., 1997. Structures for the analysis of teaching and supervision. In: Watkins C.,E., 1997. Handbook of Psychotherapy Supervision. John Wiley and sons Ltd.


MORLEY, M., RUGG, S. and DREW, J., 2007. Before Preceptorship: New Occupational Therapists’ Expectations of Practice and Experience of Supervision. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70(6), pp. 243-253.

PROCTOR, B. 1994. Supervision – competence, confidence, accountability. British Journal of guidance and counselling, 22(3)

ROBERTSON, C. and FINLAY, L., 2007. Making a Difference, Teamwork and Coping: the Meaning of Practice in Acute Physical Settings. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70(2), pp. 73-80.

STOLTENBERG, C.,D. and MCNEILL, B.,W. 1997. Supervision from a developmental perspective: Research and Practice. In Watkins C.,E. 1997. Handbook of Psychotherapy Supervision. John Wiley and sons Ltd.

STOLTENBERG, C.,D. and DELWORTH, M. 1987. Supervising Counsellors and Therapists, San Fransisco: Jossy -Bass

SWEENEY, G., WEBLEY, P. and TREACHER, A., 2001. Supervision in Occupational Therapy. Part 3: Accommodating the Supervisor and the Supervisee. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(9), pp. 426-431.

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