As a Social Worker for over 20 years I have experienced many different organisations and versions of ‘effective supervision and support’.

As a certified Coach who is committed to being coached for my own development, as I coach others, I have also experienced the impact of ‘effective coaching’.

In a phone call with an old colleague last year she grappled with getting her head round the difference between coaching and supervision. To me it had become obvious, but when I was asked to justify why she should invest her hard earned, and let’s be honest, not the greatest wages on coaching as well as professional supervision I decided I needed to explore the merits of the two disciplines and how they benefitted the individual who practices as a Social Worker.

The more I re-immersed myself into the professional literature around Social Work supervision the more I was reminded of the limitations of its scope. Please know that I am an absolute advocate for professional supervision for Social Worker. I believe quality clinical supervision should be a requirement in all Social Worker roles. I also believe it should be an organisational provision and not at the individual expense of the professional. My expansion into coaching has not shaken this resolve.

But the purpose of Social Work supervision became increasingly clear. Regardless of the definition you prefer it’s focus is on reflection, and developing or enhancing knowledge, skills and capacity to deliver quality service provision  in the best interest of the clients. Supervision improves the quality of Social Work practice and in turn supports the outcomes for the service users. It encapsulates self-awareness, relational practice, organisational and professional obligations. Professional supervision is about supporting you to do the hard work of social work and to keep doing it well.

The individual practitioner matters, in that you are the vehicle to do the work. Whether your experience of supervision is more administrative, clinical or supportive it still a professional practice where the focus is on accountability for high quality client care. And again please do not misunderstand me, this is essential and needs to occur throughout the profession.

In 2015 when I experienced professional burnout and psychological breakdown as a result of the social work I was doing and had done over the previous 15+ years I was in an organisation that offered the most comprehensive professional support system of my career. But I still broke… In trying to understand and not blame the system or the profession, I spent many years trying to figure out what I was missing that may have prevented my burnout.

And so I found myself in the domain of Coaching. I wanted to find a way to support practitioners to be able to nourish themselves first so that they could continue to do the hard work that is social work. And what I learned through my own experience was that looking after your own emotional and psychological well-being was a different skill set to the professional knowledge, skills and capabilities of a qualified Social Worker. Coaching is about you, it has to be about you first and then the positive knock on into your life and chosen career.

I had been a Social Worker for so long that it was my primary identity, my focus in the later stages of my work were about how I could be better, do better, feel better as a Social Worker and then hoping that would impact the rest of me.

Coaching makes you focus on you. There is no other agenda from the Coach, and for the person being coached there is no professional accountability (apart from being a good human) and no organisational obligations or requirements. You are accountable to and for yourself, with support from your coach.

To be honest coaching was a whole new experience for me. No KPIs, no budget constraints, no professional standards, no ethical mandate towards others, no diagnosis’s, no directives. Just me and my coach, raw and honest and choosing to take action because I was worth it.

Coaching is not remedial but generative, you are the expert and have the answers but it is a partnership that works to support you at every level in becoming who you want to be.

Coaching allows for a depth of self exploration that goes beyond self awareness and into release and transformation. Through empowering you to build awareness and make choices that lead to changes it works in the domain of your present and future. Coaching peals away your conditioning like layers on an onion, it fosters mental growth and helps you learn the skills to clear the paths ahead of you now and time and time again when the challenges arise. 

Coaching is about you, it is a safe and held space not to search for reason or find fault but  to reimagine the meaning you give to experiences and to get clarity and capacity to move in the direction you choose to go.

Coaching is how you support you, understand your why, clarify your goals, remove your limiting beliefs, release trapped emotions and navigate conflicting values so you can strive purposefully towards your desired results.

Supervision is how you are supported to best apply your uniqueness, alongside your knowledge and skills to deliver the best quality service provision to clients and to uphold your ethical and professional mandate.

Coaching is where you find yourself, supervision is how you share that with clients through the remit of your Social Work profession.

I was a good Social Worker, I still am. But for a time there I lost connection to who I was, I got constrained by my internal expectations and conflicting values. I was trying to be there for others, as I lost my footing being myself.

Whether Coaching or Supervision is what you need right now is a personal decision. I advocate for supervision for each and every practicing Social Worker to enable you to be the best practitioner and most ethically and effectively apply your professional skills to your work in a sustainable way.

But I encourage you to invest in yourself too, to take the time to value you. Coaching is a great mechanism for both self care, through awareness, acceptance and action, and personal growth and fulfilment, through exploration, choice and change.

If you want to learn more please reach out to me for a no obligations conversation where we can chat about what I offer and explore together if it meets your needs at this time.