Davys and Beddoe, authors of Best Practice in Professional Supervision: A Guide for the Helping Professions (2010: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London), suggest that strengths-based approaches to supervision are different to an hierarchical and managerial model of supervision where the supervisor is perceived as the ‘expert’, who imparts their wisdom and knowledge to the practitioner or supervisee. Strengths-based supervision is:
essentially a ‘way of being’ with supervisees where attention is given to power ‘with’ rather than power ‘over’, and the environment is such that both supervisor and supervisee contribute their expertise to the relationship’ (p.38).
This approach does not reject or deny the supervisor’s professional knowledge, but instead, acknowledges and prioritises the expertise of the supervisee or practitioner. Advocates of the strengths approach like Davys and Beddoe believe that highlighting the expertise of supervisees ‘facilitates supervisees to find solutions within themselves based on their existing strengths and prior positive experiences’ (p. 46).
Wayne McCashen, author of The Strengths Approach, offers the following definition of strengths-based supervision:
Strengths-based supervision can be defined as a process of shared responsibility for supporting the work of employees in ways that are respectful, inclusive, collaborative, empowering, socially-just and build potential. It is a process in which two or more people work with one another to assist learning, provide support and manage all that is necessary for good practice. It involves parallel practice in order to integrate the principles, processes and skills of the strengths approach (2017: p.216)
McCashen’s definition highlights some of the key underlying principles of strengths-based supervision.
Key principles of a strengths approach to supervision
The strengths approach to supervision has a focus on three key principles:
- shared responsibility
- shared learning
- shared leadership
In this supervisory model, all people involved in the supervisory relationship take responsibility for organising, structuring and determining the purpose of supervision. They also share responsibility for the outcomes that result from their decisions.
Strengths-based supervision is a model where all parties learn and grow. It is a process that recognises that both the supervisor and practitioner bring a range of skills and knowledge to the table, and they also have many things to learn. The process of reflecting on practice and exploring different ways to approach challenges builds the capacity and insight of both the supervisor and practitioner.
As the strengths approach encourages practitioners to find their own solutions to challenges, rather than just doing what they are advised by their supervisor, they are simultaneously developing skills they can share with others.
By Sue King-Smith from Stepping into Supervision: A Strengths Approach online course.
To explore how these three principles manifest in practice, and to ‘Step into Supervision’ enroll in our online strengths-based supervision course.
Take a look at our Vision for Supervision card set, designed for supervisors and supervisees to practice supervision in a strengths-based, solution-focussed way. Great for individual or group supervision, and team meetings.