Reflective supervision for social work field instructors: Lessons learned from infant mental health

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Publication Date



Social Work

Publication Title

Clinical Social Work Journal


Reflective supervision is a specialized approach to supervision essential to infant mental health (IMH) practice, a relationship-based approach to working with infant and toddlers and their families. This unique approach to supervision is rooted in reflective practice, which has been cited as an important component of social work field and practice education (CSWE in Educational policy and accreditation standards, https://www.cswe.org/getattachment/Accreditation/Standards-and-Policies/2015-EPAS/2015EPASandGlossary.pdf.aspx, 2015; Bogo in Clin Soc Work J 43:317–324, 2015; Franklin in Clin Superv 30(2):204–214, 2011; Hendricks et al. in Learning to teach: teaching to learn, Council on Social Work Education Press, Alexandria, 2013). Borne out of the findings from a reflective practice training series for social work field instructors, a 9-month reflective supervision group was piloted for field instructors with a goal of enhancing the field instructors’ capacities for engaging their student interns in reflective practice. This reflective supervision group provided field instructors opportunities to engage in process-oriented group supervision, facilitated by a field director with a background in IMH, and focused on the field instructors’ supervision of social work interns. This paper describes how this unique field instructor supervision group supports field instructors’ use of the reflective practice capacities of curiosity, self-awareness, and use of parallel process. Specifically, an example of a field instructor’s use of the reflective supervision group to address a challenging field supervision experience illustrates the powerful role of reflective practice in enhancing and expanding a field instructor’s capacity to more fully support a social work intern’s professional development.

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