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An introduction to Operational Models of Clinical Supervision

a group supervision setting

We know that clinical supervision plays a vital part in what we do as professionals - providing a space for reflection, for support and a focus for professional growth.

Various operational models of clinical supervision have been developed over the years, each offering an approach and framework to facilitate effective supervision. In this post, we have put together an overview of three of the operational models of clinical supervision. We intend that they show briefly how the models may help support supervisees in their work as mental health professionals. We hope it will give you an idea of each and give some ideas of which area of model resonates with you.

Cyclical Model

Cyclical type models, such as The Cyclical Model, Page and Wosket (2014)* tend to focus on the stages within the supervision process - and as its name suggests - highlighting the cyclical nature of the process through regular review. The Page and Wostket model (since we've mentioned it already) sets out 5 stages starting with the Contract as stage 1, the Focus of the client work at stage 2 through to Review at stage 5. Each stage has a range of areas to consider to contribute to the broader view. For example, the Review stage might include issues of assessment, feedback, evaluation and re-contracting.

Where do I find out more?

Steve Page has generously made a range of resources available around the cyclical model via his website

Seven-Eyed Model - an operational model

The Seven-Eyed Model was developed by Hawkins and Shohet (1989)**. This model offers a comprehensive framework for clinical supervision. It takes into account multiple perspectives involved in the supervision process, including the client, the supervisee, the supervisor, and the wider system. The seven "eyes" or Modes represent different dimensions to consider during supervision. For example, Mode 1 is focusing on the client's issues, Mode 3 looks at the client-therapist relationship and Mode 5 explores the supervisory relationship. The model also encourages supervisors to explore the dynamics within and relationship between these dimensions, fostering an interconnected and broad understanding and, therefore, facilitating well-informed decision-making.

Where do I find out more?

As with the cyclical models, a search online will bring up a wide range of resources to explore from videos through to books and research articles.

Systems Approach

Systems approaches, by definition, adopt a systems-oriented focus to clinical supervision. There are a number of models e.g. SAS developed by Holloway (1995)*** based on the systems approach which have in common the recognition that individual clinical work takes place within a larger system with the supervisiory relationship at its heart. SAS in particular focuses on understanding the factors making up the system and the dynamics through the systems as a whole. Supervisors and supervisees are encouraged to explore the impact of the system on their clinical practice, identify patterns of interaction, and consider alternative interventions that address systemic factors.

Where can I find out more?

A good place to start is with Elizabeth Holloway's book Clinical Supervision: A Systems Approach.

In summary, operational models of clinical supervision give frameworks to working with the supervisee at their stages of development. Each type of model have their own strengths and weaknesses - there are a number of critique texts looking at these. Many supervisors prefer an integrated approach using the most appropriate tools for individual supervisees but it is useful to know what tools are available and what each offers. We hope this introduction gives you a flavour and has whetted your appetite to find out more.

*Page, S. & Wosket V, .(2001) Supervising the Counsellor: A Cyclical Model.

**Hawkins, P. & Shohet, R. (1989) Supervision in the Helping Professions

***Holloway, E. (1995) Clinical Supervision: A systems approach.


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