David Earl Johnson, LICSW

3 minute read

I’ve been reviewing articles on the web about trauma informed care (TIC) and how these concepts might be applied to management and supervision. There is not a lot to be found. What I have found I will report on in an upcoming newsletter article.

In the literature search I’ve made, there are occasional hints about how TIC principles might be applied to supervision and management, and about the conflicting roles supervisors are called on to play. The Office of Head Start in a technical paper on Reflective Supervision made some interesting observations. (Early Head Start National Resource Center in collaboration with the Office of Head Start. (2010). Reflective Supervision: A Tool for Relationship¬Based EHS Services (TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PAPER No. 13). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Head Start.)

“Supervisors also worry about crossing similar boundaries between themselves and their staff in reflective supervision. Some supervisors are concerned that strong feelings of anger or sadness about the staff member’s own life may emerge because of a situation with a family. Whereas others worry that conflicts will arise when staff members are released from the traditional top down relationship between supervisors and employees and that it will be difficult to complete more ordinary administrative tasks….

Supervisors also worry about doing the mutual work of reflective supervision and then being in a position of possibly having to assert authority over the same staff member. However, several EHS programs using reflective supervision report that there is greater staff member satisfaction and less turnover because people feel supported in solving problems while they are small.”

It would appear they are asserting that the very nature of traditional administrative supervision may create barriers to solving problems early and interfere with staff satisfaction. From my own experience as a manager/supervisor that indeed appears true. Good clinical supervision requires a foundation of honesty and trust. The conflicting philosophy of administrative supervision makes that level of honesty and trust difficult to achieve and rarely accomplished.

TIC Tip of the Week:

Is there an inherent conflict of interest in the roles of clinical and administrative supervision? I don’t think so. The effectiveness of supervision and management is based on what works with people. Those methods are very similar to what works with clients. Its all about the relationship and the foundation of honesty and trust.

Think about those difficult experiences you’ve had with the supervisory relationship. How many difficult experiences could have been avoided? We often hear that supervision is not therapy. There are some important differences. However, how might they be made more similar as a way to decrease negative experiences?

There are some tried and true models of management/supervision that seek that balance. I will explore them in a future article.

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