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Solution-Focused Clinical Supervision
Hypothetical Examples of Solution-Focused Supervision
Inevitably, the supervisee will focus on problems he or she is experiencing with the client. Rather than listening to the counselor's concern in detail and requesting even more problem-saturated talk, the supervisor acknowledges the problem and asks, "As you begin to get better at dealing with this situation, how will you know that you have become good enough at it so you can take it on your own?" The supervisor then encourages the supervisee to explore these solutions in greater detail and to envision them more vividly by asking, "What will you be doing differently?" or "When you get to the point at which you won't need to deal with this issue in supervision anymore, how will you know?"
If the counselor-in-training persists in framing his or her own behavior as a problem, the use of a scale can set expectations of success. The supervisor may say, "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being that the problem is at its absolute worst, and 10 being that the problem is completely solved, where would you say you are today?" After the counselor offers an estimate, the supervisor replies, "When you are on your way to a (the next highest number to the one named), how will you know?" The supervisor may follow this invitation by explicitly asking, "What, in particular, will be different about the way you handle that situation?" or "How will you have changed as a counselor?" By answering these questions, instead of exploring more minutia and facets of the problem, the supervisee is beginning to envision more clearly the strategies that may succeed in achieving a solution.
Sometimes, the counselor-in-training will be able to imagine a change but expresses discouragement that he or she would ever be able to achieve it. The supervisor has a number of possible responses to the counselor's doubts about accomplishing such a seemingly overwhelming goal. These responses are all based on the assumption that nothing is perfect--including failures! Even experiences that seem to be complete failures have small victories that have been overlooked. Therefore, there are always exceptions to these problems, circumstances that hold promise of alleviating these problems, or times, however brief and transient, when a person has a greater sense of confidence in achieving success. For example, the supervisor might invite the supervisee to focus on one of these exceptions by requesting, "Tell me about a time when a small piece of the change was already happening." Another possibility is to suggest focusing on a particular time of greater personal confidence, "When was there a time when you felt you were going to be able to solve this problem?"
Any time during supervision that the counselor-in-training describes successes, identifies improvements in effectiveness, or discovers an exception to a problem, the supervisor leans in, looks curious, and excitedly asks the supervisee to say more. The idea of solution-focused supervision is to facilitate concrete images of success and then ask, "How did you get yourself to do that?"
Clinical Supervision and Professional Development
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 52. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 144435. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009.
Reflection Exercise #2
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