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Group supervision is an approach used with groups of about 6-10 professionals to create a community of learners and to support their emotional well-being. It is intended to complement individual supervision approaches.

Group supervision is a method that can be used to support those who work in the helping professions such as Portage workers, Family Support Workers, teachers, teaching assistants and many others. This is intended to support the professionals who attend to (Hawkins and Shohet, 2006):

  • develop their skills and understanding (educative function),
  • manage the emotions and stress raised by their work and (supportive function)
  • ensure work is ethical and appropriate (managerial function).

The sessions last 1 1/2 to 2 hours and are run approximately once every 6 to 8 weeks at a location convenient for the group of professionals. A professional contract is drawn up with managers of the professional in the group to discuss possible content of the group, reporting back formats, frequency and other issues. Ground rules are drawn up with the group to agree what can be discussed, approaches used, venue and other aspects of the group.

It is important for all participants to be clear about the nature and purpose of the supervision and also to agree details about the relationship between the supervision group and other ‘stakeholders’. Furthermore, there is a need to clarify what is and is not going to be addressed in this supervision relationship and ensure that there is agreement about accountabilities and the boundaries of confidentiality. There should be consideration of how any differences and difficulties in the relationship will be addressed should they arise (e.g. who might be involved to help in addressing any difficulties, and at what point?)

Professional contract

With the supervision of a group of professionals, it is vital that key lines of accountability around decision-making are clearly agreed and recorded. This gives clarity around liability, legal and case responsibility which normally remains within line management structures. It is likely that the line manager is a different person to the group supervisor, so it is important to establish the relationship between the two types of supervision and the information exchange between the two processes. It is advised to use a written group contract.

Group working agreement

A contract, known as the group working agreement, should identify the following:

  • roles and responsibilities of the supervisor and supervisees,
  •  agree methods for setting agendas
  •  agree boundaries and how to agree the focus of sessions - establish the range of issues and areas of work to be brought to supervision, what will not be brought and the methods used to explore them
  • record-keeping i.e. what the records are for, who will see them, where will they be stored and for how long
  • confidentiality measure
  • timings
  • venue – a safe private space
  • how sessions will be reviewe

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 The group working agreement can come in the form of written group rules and be reviewed as frequently as needed. These should be displayed at each session and should be emailed to participants on a regular basis to ensure they are clearly understood and agreed.

This policy was written on 8th January 2011 and will be reviewed in 12 months time by Anita Soni.

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