The Importance of Good Social Work Supervision

Good Social Work Supervision

Good Social Work Supervision is the cornerstone of the social work profession—

Social work is a profession of doing. It is fundamentally the application of knowledge and practice with others. This focus is spelled out right in our name, “Social Work.” We are not “Social Studies,” or “Social Readings,” we are practice based and we are social workers.

So, at the core, the function of good social work supervision should be the application of practice. Helping and teaching new social workers how to actually put into place what they know about helping people in the real world. This is our primary focus at and of the supervisors who are on our site.

What should you look for in a supervisor? Below is a list of superior qualities and roles that supervisors should take that we consider important. Supervisors should offer these services to you in good social work supervision.

1. The Supporter 

A supervisor should offer support and explore with the supervisee how the act of doing social work effects and influences the supervisee.

  • Help the supervisee to explore the meaning of the experience of doing social work
  • Touch on emotional hurdles faced by a supervisee that relate to issues emanating from his/her immediate work


2. The Supervisor

A supervisor should taylor supervision to you focusing on these areas:

  • Helping to make the supervisee the best clinician he or she can be, drawing on the talents and abilities unique to that person
  • Assist the supervisee to be comfortable in who he/she is and to include those personal strengths and qualities in the social worker-client/consumer relationship

3. The Case Consultant

A supervisor should offer clear advice on what perspective to take while leaving reasonable options in most situations

  • The supervisor offers advice on practice options, clearly articulating the practice expertise of the supervisor and allowing experimentation within reason, provided there is no immediate client/consumer crisis
  • Offer advice on the situation of the client/consumer and what the client may need rather than solely the nature of the therapist’s work with the client/consumer

4. The Teacher

A supervisor will offer ideas and information on what has worked in his or her practice, what makes sense clinically, and will share recourses

  • The supervisor instructs the supervisee about, and how to implement, intervention techniques
  • The supervsior shares not only his or her own expertise, but also the collective knowledge of the field of practice in which he or she works

5. The Colleague

Supervisors will respect and treat you as a colleague, assisting you to evolve professionally

  • Where appropriate will shares clinical ideas with the supervisee for an individual or family, and work together collaboratively to help the clients/consumers achieve their goals
  • Supervisee and supervisor become more peer-like in their interactions, taking turns sharing ideas and learning together

6. The Advocate

Occasionally clients/consumers or perhaps even the sueprvisee, will need advice on how to advocate for him or herself. In these cases the supervisor can offer advice and assistance in navigating the appropriate system

  • Encourages the supervisee to take action on behalf of the supervisee or the client/consumer
  • Assists in planning action to garner the resources necessary to ensure the wellbeing of either the supervisee or the client
  • Encouraging the supervisee him- or herself to become more active in helping clients to negotiate for resources and representation

In summary, these are all areas of good social work supervision. There are certainly more but these are the areas we have found that best assists supervisees in growing professionally by enhancing their practices and successfully entering the next level of the profession through licensure and certification. This list is based on the work of Michael Ungar, Phd.  For more information about his work and ideas please follow this social work resource link.

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