In Mindcast

Jo Williams – The Practice Supervisor Task

Jo Williams is a Practice Supervisor Development Programme, Delivery Lead and Senior Lecturer, Social Care Leadership and Management Portfolio at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. She discusses the impact for supervisors in social work during the COVID-19 pandemic. To accompany this podcast we share Jo’s blog on the Chief Social Workers for Adults, Guidance for the Support and Wellbeing of the Adult Social Care Workforce by the Tavistock, and a blog by Jo, Jerri Damman and Gillian Ruch entitled ‘Feeling, thinking, being: A call to mindfulness in times of crisis.

View transcript

My name is Jo Williams and I am the Delivery Lead for the Practice Supervisor Development Programme and a Senior Lecturer at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

This podcast draws on some recent reflections from conversations with co-facilitators on the Practice Supervisor Development Programme, about the impact for supervisors in social work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the emotional landscape of social work practice wasn’t hard enough… the coronavirus onset has certainly increased the probability of fear, anxiety, tears, frustration and emotional meltdowns for practitioners in recent weeks…

What we have noticed, is that thinking is much harder to do, perhaps because the realities of our situation are sometimes too unbearable to think about…it is difficult for many of us to compute what is happening…this is a new experience for which there is no internal working model – yet…

We have found that our regular conversations on Zoom…in spite of the paradoxical feelings of ‘disconnected connection’…have provided valuable ‘thinking space’ where perhaps the familiarity of our relationship has provided containment… sufficiently enough to ignite new thought.

We are hearing from practice supervisors across the country, that during the recent onset of lock-down in the UK, many are adopting the practice of ‘checking in’ with their teams at the beginning of the day and ‘checking out’ at the end of the day

…this emerging practice will no doubt be serving as an essential ‘thinking space’ for them too…where stories can be shared…feelings can be expressed…made sense of and attended to…perhaps modelling a process for social workers to emulate with the people they support…

…the notion of uncertainty can seduce us into feeling that we must ‘do’ something…a theme of our conversations was to notice in ourselves and others sense of urgency to do something…a sense of ‘panic working’…and maintaining the status quo…

…we wonder if these reactive and instinctive ‘doing’ responses are perhaps a desire to mitigate our unprecedented experiences …and navigate adapted professional working practices…

…what is required first though…is for us to attend to our feelings…or our ‘being,’…there is a need to ‘pause’…to take a moment…to stand still and notice what arises for us within the intensity of the unfamiliar circumstances being encountered by everyone

…by doing this,  we can start to think more effectively about the sort of actions that might be most useful… …‘Being’ before ‘doing’ enables social workers and supervisors to more holistically understand the lived experiences of the people we support…

At the moment, the uncertainty and disruption that everyone is living with is extreme and ongoing and most people find high levels of anxiety hard to manage….we are all faced with the challenge of navigating how to look after ourselves and others in the face of something which is far too big for us to make sense of…

… for all of us in the sector, if there was ever a time to put our relational skills, experience and knowledge into practice, it is now…

…when the world becomes unfamiliar, it is all the more important to remember what is familiar…this situation requires us to hold on to the ordinary, everyday practices and ways of relating that we can rely on…this is the consistency that the people we support need…and what we can provide…

It is important to remember…that…when we are perhaps experiencing hopelessness ourselves…small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness…which are all within our agency…offer some comfort amidst the vast unchartered territory we find ourselves in.

So whilst we seek ways to process our feelings…and ways to think…we can a find new ways of being and doing…we all have the beginnings of a story within us, yet to evolve…and these unlived stories can take form through learning new ways of becoming and creating new ways to live…and new ways to practice

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