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What is supervision?

Supervision is a common practice among professions that involve working with individuals and families. Herman (2012) defines supervision as a working practice and relationship whereby practitioners are supported by a supervisor to explore and address issues or concerns that may arise in their course of practice. In the context of social work, supervision has also been conceptualised to consist of three main functions (Kadushin, 1992):

  • Educational: Focused on enhancing the confidence and competence of practitioners
  • Supportive: Seeks to assist practitioners in working through the emotions and reactions that may arise in their work which can potentially affect their work performance and professional efficacy
  • Administrative: Aims to ensure ethical practice and organisational accountability among practitioners

Why is supervision essential in youth work?

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Despite being a common practice in youth work, have you ever wondered why supervision is so crucial in our work with young people? Here are some reasons why!

Nature of Youth Work

Youth work by nature is a stressful, complex and multifaceted profession. Professionals working with youths often find themselves working with young people facing difficult situations and may have to provide on-the-spot crisis responses. Additionally, in youth work, the professionals’ primary tool is themselves as they engage, empower, and care for the young people they work with. Thus, it is important for youth workers to be well-resourced and supported in their work to provide effective services to their youth clients and ensure their personal well-being in the long term.

Furthermore, professionals working with youths may be especially susceptible to witnessing helplessness and self-blame as they work with young people who may be victims of neglect or harm. This places workers at a risk of experiencing vicarious trauma and burnout, which if not addressed, can significantly affect the worker’s ability to work effectively with their youth clients. Besides providing a safe space for workers to express challenges that may arise in their work, supervision also allows workers to gain insights into their reactions to their youth clients and their families and prevent burnout by addressing any signs of vicarious anxiety or hopelessness.

Enhance Competence and Reflective Practice

Working with young people requires highly complex and timely interventions that involve various academic and practical skills and knowledge. Supervision enables workers to receive focused and uninterrupted time with more experienced practitioners who can support them in reflecting and enhancing their expertise in working with young people. This helps to strengthen one’s theory-based practice and promote one’s professional development, allowing youth workers to remain astute in their work.

 Complement Professional Trainings and Courses

Although one’s professional competence can also be enhanced through professional training or courses, researchers have noted that practitioners may sometimes struggle to apply relevant theoretical knowledge in practice independently, resulting in professional training remaining disconnected and having minimal effects on one’s practice (Muurinen & Kääriäinen, 2020). Therefore, effective supervision helps complement professional training and courses by providing a space for practitioners to receive guidance and gain insights into how relevant ethics, values, and knowledge can be applied in their practice, consequently enhancing one’s practice skills and knowledge.

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Supporting practitioners to enhance their practice

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In view of the importance of supervision in youth work, I hope to provide a platform, through group supervision (Youth Work 3.0), to help professionals grow in their practice and professional selves in working with young people. I believe in the overall and holistic development of practitioners, starting from the who to the why and the how. I feel that providing practitioners with such an environment to grow and develop will be very beneficial to both themselves and their practice. Therefore, Youth Work 3.0 will cover three main topics that are highly relevant to youth work: personal development, professional development and youth engagement, and Solution-Focused (SF) practice in youth work.

Furthermore, the relevant materials utilised in the group supervision will not be limited to local resources and will include overseas resources such as the Positive Youth Development model, Ikigai framework, and Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Workers’ Association (CAYWA) resources, to support practitioners in remaining up-to-date with the trends and development in youth work practice.

On a larger picture, I hope to empower a generation of youth work practitioners to join me in building the next generation of youth work practitioners for the future. Click here to register your interest! Limited slots only!