Clinical Supervision and the Serious Youth Violence Sector

Working in the serious youth violence sector is hard fucking work. Most of my week I spend looking into space thinking why do we even put ourselves through this. We do more than the authorities will EVER realize or admit, are constantly in the middle of violence, conflict and trauma, are underpaid, overwork and extremely underappreciated. For example, how many of us who have spent years in the grit, under the radar doing the real work out in the community, not working for a large organisation, have pensions or even get annual leave? Most of the truly amazing workers I see barely even get paid for their work, which is heartbreaking.

Yet we go on…

Now, I have been extremely lucky. I know this. Yes I do work very hard but I am also very aware of how lucky and/or blessed I am, which is why I choose to speak on this subject because it is a subject that I believe has benefited me most in the last 5/6 years and believe everyone in the sector should be able to experience the same.

Clinical supervision.

Reasons why clinical supervision is needed:

  1. We deal with violence; the young people we serve fight each other (and sometimes us), stab each other, kill each other, kill themselves, go to prison, have been through physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the list goes on and on and on… now if you can deal with that and be okay, well firstly you scare me and secondly, the majority of us can’t and are affected by that in some way, therefore support is needed.
  2. So many of us have been through our own personal violence and/or live in communities where violence is prevalent. Let us not forget, poverty is the greatest form of violence. Very few of us received the type of support we needed when we were going through our own shit and it doesn’t just go away.
  3. This work can feel and be extremely isolating.
  4. You, yes you, as a front line worker or practitioner in the serious youth violence sector deserve to be looked after and supported in your role. You also deserve the space to reflect on and develop your professional (and personal) identity.

Clinical supervision should be:

  1. Delivered by someone who is clinically trained; I know this sounds patronizing and, well, obvious but you’d be surprised by how many front line workers are currently receiving ‘clinical’ supervision from unqualified individuals. For an example (and no I’m not showing off, I am just incredible lucky) both my clinical supervisors are child and adolescent psychotherapist from the Portman Clinic, which means they are constantly pushing me to improve and in a position to call me out on my bs.
  2. Ideally, clinical supervision should be bi-weekly and if delivered in a group, the group should contain no more than 4 workers.
  3. Delivered by an external individual; I’ve heard many a time in small teams, workers providing clinical supervision to each other. If there are two of you, you should not be clinically supervising each other. This might work differently in bigger organisations but still worries me a little.
  4. A confidential space. Front line workers and practitioners should not be worried that their conversations in clinical supervision is going to be fed back to their managerial staff.

Clinical supervision is not:

  1. Managerial supervision.
  2. Therapy. Although, it will explore how the external work affects your internal world.

I believe all front line staff in the serious youth violence sector (and a few other sectors) should have access to structured, contained, regular clinical supervision.

Yes, clinical supervision is expensive. Trust me, I know. I have clinical supervision twice as week, also I do not charge it through Project 507 – I know I could but have personally chosen not too. I also do my best to make sure all Project 507 employees have access to bi-weekly clinical supervision and clinical training. We’ll leave the subject of clinical training for another date.

It is also not impossible to add clinical supervision costs into funding bids or tenders, if you are worried on how you will pay for such as service, long term it is worth the investment.

My rather long winded point to this article is; If you run a business, social enterprise or charity that is working in the serious youth violence sector or with young people who are violent, then please, please, please invest in your staff. If you are in a smaller organisation or working alone, again please think about making this investment I’ve done it as bone a lone worker and as a owner of a small business. If you want to but don’t know where to start, speak up and ask for help. Despite the rumors, this sector is very good at working together.

Clinical supervision and reflective practice is a key component in reducing the current level of violence we are experiencing in our communities and the prison system – it is part of the solution. At the very least, lets start talking more about it.

This is just my opinion, based on my experience, we are all different and of course, I could be wrong.

Let me know your thoughts….

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