By: Cathleen M. Kelley, LICSW
Book review of
Supervision in Clinical Practice: A Practitioner’s Guide, second edition , by Joyce Scaife, with contributions from Francesca Inskipp, Brigid Proctor, Jon Scaife, & Sue Walsh. Published by Routledge, London and NY, 2009. 410 pages, $44.95.
In the second edition of Supervision in Clinical Practice: A Practitioner’s Guide (formerly titled Supervision in the Mental Health Professions), Joyce Scaife sets out to incorporate new ideas and developments in the theory and practice of supervision into her comprehensive overview of this essential component of the clinical process. Ms. Scaife and her co-authors cover a wide range of topics, from a comparison of supervisory frameworks and a discussion on contracting to more current topics, like supervision and diversity and incorporating new technologies into the supervisory process.
The authors stress the importance of good supervision to the development of new clinicians, describing supervision as “the central strategy for enhancing learning in the next generation of recruits,” and repeatedly distinguishing between pre- and post-registration supervisees. Although I find that distinction useful given that I provide supervision and consultation for social work interns, social workers preparing for licensure, and licensed social workers, I am also a bit confused by it. Not being British-born like the authors, I am left guessing as to the meaning of those terms, along with such unfamiliar concepts as “O level passes” and “National Service Frameworks.” Discussions about British policies relating to mental health practice and references to oversight organizations and the social welfare system in the U.K. were also less useful to me, and I found myself skipping over these sections. The authors might want to consider an American edition of this book, although the bulk of the text needs no modification because of its emphasis on core principles that are universally relevant.
As a practicing supervisor who has never received much formal training in supervisory techniques, I appreciated the broad view the authors take on this subject and the detailed focus on such relevant topics as frameworks for supervision, the impact of varied therapeutic interventions on supervisory practice, ethical dilemmas, and group supervision. I have already found myself approaching my supervisory sessions in a more thoughtful and self-aware manner, and I have directly asked some of my supervisees about their preferred approaches to supervision, a conversation we perhaps should have had long ago. After finishing the book, however, I did find myself wishing for more practical information and less emphasis on theory. The overly pedantic discussion of supervision and learning in the second chapter made this a difficult read for me initially, especially since I was hoping for a more nuts-and-bolts description of supervisory dilemmas, such as engaging resistant clinicians, working with individuals who don’t necessarily view their roles as clinical in nature, and offering support and assistance to staff who deal with trauma, loss, and acute grief on a daily basis.
This text would be an excellent resource for a supervisor working with clinicians whose primary responsibility is to provide psychotherapy, and perhaps for anyone who has recently assumed a supervisory role within the social services field and wishes to get a good overview of the nature of the supervisory relationship and the responsibilities inherent in that essential role. Even though I am not new to this role, Supervision in Clinical Practice: A Practitioner’s Guide reinforced for me the impact I can have on my supervisees, the critical importance of supervisor self-awareness and ongoing reflection, and the responsibility we hold toward the clients we indirectly serve.
Reviewed by Cathleen M. Kelley, LICSW, Senior Social Worker at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, VT.