Counselling, Supervision, Training, Research, Teaching, Writing. Providing therapeutic services to the people of East Lancashire and beyond.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Book Review: First Steps in Clinical Supervision

Cassedy, P. (2010) First Steps in Clinical Supervision: a Guide for Healthcare Professionals, Open University Press.

Cassedy has written a useful introduction to clinical supervision for those new to the profession; and I say profession because I'm a strong believer in the notion, put forward, I think, by Hawkins and Shohet, that supervision is a discrete set of skills which properly applied can benefit anybody working in the helping professions. Hence I work with counsellors, but I've also worked with teachers, group facilitators and domestic violence workers.

I'm sure Cassedy would agree with the view that supervision has the ability to build the capacity of skilled helpers in all their many forms. His book is specifically aimed at health care professionals who have been given responsibility for clinical supervision or for health care professionals embarking on supervision training.

The book begins with an introductory chapter, which, like all its friends, begins with a list of learning outcomes, describing what the reader will be able do after reading the chapter. The introductory chapter gives an overview of clinical supervision as a discipline and provides a place to address diverse topics such as the benefits of supervision and the reasons for becoming a supervisor.

Chapter two addresses the first supervision session and chapter three describes the qualities of a healthy supervision relationship. These chapters, like others in the book - on the three functions of supervision and active listening skills - are basic fayre and pretty descriptive, appropriate for practitioners completely new to supervision.

The book has a couple of interesting chapters, even for experienced supervisors. Chapter six applies Heron's Six-Category Intervention Analysis to supervision work. This provides a model for examining the interventions used by a supervisor and a framework for identifying 'degenerative' interventions. Heron's model works so well when applied to supervision that Cassedy's chapter had me returning to Heron's original work.

Cassedy also has a chapter demonstrating how Gerard Egan's Skilled Helper model can be used in supervision. Again, this fits well with the aims of supervision, but turns supervision into a problem solving and cognitive process at the expense, perhaps, of emotional and unconscious material. We can see here differences between clinical supervision and counselling and psychotherapy supervision. From conversations with NHS therapists, clinical supervision in the health service seems to have a strong normative function. The final three chapters of the book are about reflective practice, evaluating supervision and avoiding stress and burnout. So the book covers a lot of ground, breadth rather than depth, and for someone new to supervision it is a good enough starting point.

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