‘Strengths-based supervision … is primarily a way of being with practitioners, where attention is given to power with rather than power over, and the environment is such that both supervisor and practitioner contribute their expertise to the relationship.’
Supervision … is a forum for reflection and learning. It is, we believe, an interactive dialogue between at least two people, one (or more) of whom is a supervisor. This dialogue shapes a process of review, reflection, critique and replenishment for professional practitioners (Davys & Beddoe 2010, p.21).
This definition places interactive dialogue at the heart of the supervision experience and is congruent with our approach. However, the supervisor’s practice framework will influence the nature of the emerging dialogue which, in turn, shapes the process of review, reflection, critique and replenishment.
In contrasting strengths-based supervision with other approaches, Davys and Beddoe (p.38) suggest that it 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’. It is not a rejection or abrogation of the supervisor’s professional knowledge, but a way of being with others that is not distracted by it. Furthermore, it: ‘facilitates supervisees to find solutions within themselves based on their existing strengths and prior positive experiences’ (p. 46).
Davys and Beddoe (p. 42) suggest that in developing a strengths-based perspective, it is important for supervisors to reflect on the following:
- How do I notice and celebrate success with my supervisees?
- How do I talk about service users in supervision? What am I modelling about expectations of success and change?
- Does our supervision model match the way we approach our professional practice?
- How often do we highlight what is working well and the times of exceptions to problems?
- What different kinds of power do I utilise in this relationship and what is the impact of this? How important is it for me to be an expert? How do I invite feedback from supervisees and respond to it?
- How do we talk about challenging issues?
- How do I reflect on my own supervision process? What goals do I set for myself?
Compared with other frameworks, the above questions—and those featured on the A Vision for Supervision cards—place emphasis on the enabling aspects of supervision (its contribution to professional growth and development) as opposed to the managerial aspects (the monitoring and evaluation of performance). There is also a relative emphasis on the practitioner’s work and experience, rather than on the practitioner’s clients and their specific issues.
A broadly-defined strengths-based approach might include contributions from a number of different fields, including solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy, resilience, and positive psychology (Edwards & Chen 2013). However, strengths-based work is not owned by any profession or set of ideas, and different supervisors may draw upon quite different traditions. For example, our selection of cards draws significantly upon the solution-focused tradition but extends this to include an emphasis on developmental and contextual themes.
Extract from the booklet that accompanies ‘A Vision for Supervision’ card set, authored by Russell Deal and Roger Lowe
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