We are excited to announce that The Connect Group’s very own Supervision Group, The Social Service Professionals Connect has been approved by the HPCSA for Continual Professional Development Points. Psychologists, registered counsellors and other HPCSA registered mental health practitioners will now receive a portion of the points they require to remain legal and relevant in their practice!

To honour this milestone for the group and the practice, we thought it a good idea to reflect on the development of the supervision services at The Connect Group through an interview with our in-house supervisor and Social Service Professionals Connect Founder, Kayla-Tess Pattenden.

QUESTION 1: For those of us who are new to the mental health industry, what is supervision and why is it so important?

Supervision is a mentorship between two or more practitioners, one being more experienced than the other. Within this relationship, more junior practitioners are guided in ethical, competent, and effective practice and grow into the best practitioners they can be until one day, they become the senior practitioner mentoring the next round of junior practitioners! There are so many amazing and necessary processes that a supervisee experiences within supervision including accountability, transference, boundaries, self-care, self-awareness, inspiration, burnout prevention, ethics, continual professional development, and learning. For me these are holistically experienced through 3 key questions that I ask in my supervision relationships: 1) How is your personal life affecting your practice? 2) How is your practice affecting your personal life? 3) What is there to learn about your clients and caseload?

When done well, these questions lead to the most authentic, challenging, and growing conversations and when revisited regularly, lead to the most beneficial professional relationships one could have for both supervisor and the supervisee. Indirectly your family and other loved ones, colleagues, and clients benefit too as you are a more ‘whole’ and humble person because of this consistent and intentional self-reflection.

If my subjective narrative of the benefits of supervision are not enough, allow the South African contextualized findings of Dr. Lambert Engelbrecht in his book, Management and Supervision of Social Workers: Issues and Challenges Within a Social Development Paradigm to emphasize its importance and lack thereof in our mental health climate.

When I talk about supervision, the cliché, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ comes to mind. This used and abused saying simply captures the essential need that helping professionals have to momentarily pause the outflow of support, advice, and service from their cup and to prioritize an in-flow of support, advice, and guidance enough to ensure their cup never empties.

QUESTION 2: As a client of The Connect Group (or any other mental health practice for that matter), why should I be grateful that my practitioner attends regular supervision?

Within our practice terms & conditions, we explain our commitment to regular supervision. This is something you should expect to see in the documents of other mental health practitioners too because it is a key assurance that the services rendered are legal, ethical, accountable, and peer-reviewed too. In practice this will look like a practitioner who has evidently processed and thought about your case outside of your sessions, bringing fresh perspective and direction in the room. It will also look like a humble practitioner who acknowledges their humanity and addresses their own ‘stuff’ in session because they have been made aware of it elsewhere. And finally, it looks like a practitioner who can manage the demands of your mental health needs long term because they are boundaries with you and are taking care of themselves to avoid burnout.

QUESTION 3: Individual or Group Supervision? Explain these two concepts to us and help the mental health graduates among us determine which one is for us?

Can I say both? So in an ideal world, I would attend group supervision for the multidisciplinary feedback, social and networking opportunities, and attend individual supervision for accountability and microscopic growth! But seeing as we are not in an ideal world though, I would suggest that graduate practitioners prioritize individual supervision for the first 2-3 years of their career first before entering into a more mutual group supervision where they still receive but are affirmed in their contributions to the field too!

Individual supervision is a one on one engagement between the more experienced and the junior practitioner. A practitioner can expect a more focused, in-depth, and comprehensive discussion of his/her person & practice. Accountability is higher in individual supervision and therefore it is recommended for recent graduates who have lots of questions and need reassurance of their first bold moves into the field. Generally speaking, individual supervision is understood as the older practitioner exclusively building into the younger practitioner. With only one voice building into the junior practitioner, supervisees should be wise in choosing a supervisor who reflects their scope of practice, personality, and even spirituality otherwise the relationship may prove counterproductive.

Group supervision is a multi-practitioner exchange with a diverse make-up of practitioners representing different levels of experience, practice scopes, places of work, and even disciplines within the mental health arena. Practitioners should expect a more mutual exchange of contributions to a supervision session. Practitioners learn to share the supervision space with each other by asking questions, listening to other’s feedback, and offering answers, research and resources in response to others’ questions too. Direct learning takes place through one’s specific questions and cases being discussed and happens indirectly through listening to the questions and cases of others too. Group supervision fosters self-accountability by asking attendees what they think they should do in response to the problem? Practitioners thrash out a rough plan of action together at the session and the individual practitioner in question goes home to further develop and implement their plan before feeding back on its application to the client/case at the next session. Group supervision offers social and networking opportunities that individual supervision doesn’t. Practitioners not only socialize and debrief with like-minded persons but also develop a name for themselves within the profession, share referrals, and receive insight from practitioners representing disciplines different from their own.

QUESTION 4: The Social Service Professionals Connect is what we are celebrating and launching this month, I know though that the journey was a bit rocky up until this point. So, tell us about the journey so far… what trials, tribulations, and little successes have led the group to this point?

 

The Social Service Professionals Connect was ‘informally’ founded in 2018 in response to a post on Facebook Group, ‘Cape Town Psychologists’ asking for links to any existing group supervisions in the Cape Town region. I observed the radar silence of this post for some time before offering up a small multidisciplinary supervision group I was hosting for a local non-profit organisation in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. I thought that if nothing else comes of it, at the very least our internal counsellors would appreciate the networking opportunities from the open invitation. Our NPO mailing list and Facebook Networks spread the first basic round of marketing. But it didn’t yield anything as the first 2 meetings came and went with no external attendance. The third meeting however yielded an additional attendance of 3 practitioners- 2 of which still remain faithful attendees of this group to this day!

The remainder of 2018 was spent hosting the group in this informal manner with our internal attendance and limited NPO budget keeping the group trotting along. The start of 2019 saw us establishing ourselves more formally with a brand, a Facebook group for informal case discussion outside of meetings, and a schedule for the years meetings at our Southern Suburbs branch. Attendance became more predictable with a steady 10 multidisciplinary practitioners present at any given meeting.

It was during this year of regular and committed attendance that I became an advocate for the multidisciplinary model of group supervision. I had witnessed various practitioners grasp their scope comparative to others and appreciate the offerings and alternative perspectives of the other disciplines too. It was collaborative practice at its best!

The start of 2020 saw a dip in attendance as group members started to ask when they would be able to secure their CPD points for attendance and question why the group was not franchising beyond the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. Plans to train and franchise only made it into the ‘survey’ stage before Covid-19 Lockdown hit us. Meanwhile, our application for CPD points with the HPCSA and SACSSP was rejected as the group’s multidisciplinary status was critiqued.

Despite the setback, we continued with virtual meetings addressing the impact of Covid-19 on mental health practice in the hospital, school, and private practice arenas. These cutting-edge discussions & debates broadened our audience nationally with attendees from the Karoo, Johannesburg, and KZN!

The success of these meetings is owed to an incredible panel of guest speakers including Marion Thomas, lead social worker at False Bay Hospital, Dr. Thembelihle Dube, clinical psychologist, paving the way for racially inclusive private practice and Amy Glover, clinical psychologist helping junior practitioners grow relevant practices in light of Covid-19. These partnerships proved that with others supporting the vision and implementation of the group, Social Service Professionals Connect has a greater impact and reach.

And so the start of 2021 saw us partnering with potential franchisees who will be trained in the Social Service Professionals Connect model of Supervision in June-July 2021! It also saw us reapplying for our CPD points with HPCSA and SACSSP and receiving approval from HPCSA, and a pending approval from SACSSP.

With our recently granted CPD approved status, we find ourselves quickly adjusting our timelines, remarketing, and preparing our registers to launch our first LIVE and online Meetings in March 2021!

QUESTION 5: We have heard you say that The Social Service Professionals Connect was birthed out of a desire to make quality supervision more accessible and affordable. How is this group doing this?

Supervision is unfortunately inaccessible to many mental health practitioners in part because of unrealistically high caseloads hindering supervision attendance and also because of the high fees attached to supervision consults.

The profession is legally obliged to attend supervision, yet our governing boards have not made the service affordable nor held employers accountable for prioritizing it amongst their staff.

Social Service Professionals Connect slowly reframes this narrative by making its existing groups low cost between R150-R200 a session, and franchising groups online and into other suburbs across the Western Cape and eventually nationally all across South Africa too!

QUESTION 6: If I am looking for a supervisor or a supervision group to join, what would you advise I look out for?

There are both definitive and subjective factors worth considering when seeking out your supervision solution. For ease of reference, these have been tabulated below for you in a check box system:

× DEFINITIVE FACTORS × SUBJECTIVE FACTORS
X Is the supervisor or group:  X Does the supervisor or group reflect or compliment your:
 X Legitimately licenced to practice X Scope of Practice
 X Received good feedback and reviews from other supervisees X The Context within which you work
 X Does the supervisor or group… X Personality & Temperament
 X Provide you with minutes or summary notes from your sessions X Communication & Leadership Style
 X Contract with you upon starting your supervision process X Spirituality
 X Discuss ethical, theoretical and practical elements of practice X Desired ratio of professional versus personal input
 X Hold you accountable to regular attendance X Desired ratio of homework tasks
 X Hold you accountable to healthy self-care routines and rhythms X Expected frequency of sessions
 X Foster evident growth and confidence in your practice X CPD Point Fulfilment

QUESTION 7: If I come to supervision with The Connect Group, either individually or through the Social Service Professionals Connect, what can I expect? And what is going to keep bringing me back for more?

I would like to think that by this stage of the interview my vision and passion for quality supervision is super evident and is a drawcard for fulfilling your supervision attendance requirements with The Connect Group. But if that’s not enough, I think our Supervision Group’s mission statement summarizes its benefits quite nicely:

To make consistent, affordable and professional group supervision accessible to a diversity of social service professionals who use the space to debrief, critically discuss practice, network with on another and support one another as we collectively work toward ethical and contextually relevant social services in South Africa.

If that’s a mission you want to be a part of then I invite you to become a supervisee by joining https://www.facebook.com/groups/2342685695959312/ to receive regular invitations and other updates regarding our supervision groups or to email kaylatesspattenden@theconnectgroup.co.za to discuss your individual supervision needs and budget!

Yours in Ethical, Effective and Accountable Practice,

Kayla-Tess Pattenden.

 

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