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Book Review: Handbook of Positive Supervision for Supervisors, Facilitators, and Peer Groups

This book introduces us and gives the reader a taste of a unique form of supervision, based on positive psychology and solution-focused brief therapy, which have their philosophical roots in social constructivist tradition. Many theories that underpin the practice approach of positive supervision and its reasons for its success are described. The author links the practical aspects of the role of the supervisee and the role of the supervisor in their connectedness within the supervisory process, which makes the text easy to absorb.

The author, Fredrike Bannink, is an experienced clinical psychologist, supervisor, coach, trainer and keynote speaker. She is also a Master of Dispute Resolution, an International Full Certified ADR Mediator and a well-known international author of 25+ books.

This book is essential reading for all supervisors in clinical, educational, corporate, and health environments as well as government departments and non-government agencies.

The text is richly illustrated with case studies, supervisory examples, lists of questions, exercises and testimonials of supervisees, which makes reading this book thoroughly meaningful and visually attractive.

Dispute Resolution Supervision: The positive approach to supervision is particularly suitable for practitioner reflection on many forms of dispute resolution, which are facilitated by an independent third party such as mediators, conciliators, and family dispute resolution practitioners.

Positive supervision, in contrast to some other types of supervision is consistently positive and hopeful as it builds on the supervisees’ abilities, wisdom, strengths and resources.

In positive supervision the focus is on what works instead of the perceived problems, it concentrates on creating solutions to work out what supervisees and their clients want instead of what they don’t want. It avoids seeking or creating pathology and does not use extensive diagnosis of problems.

Supervisees and supervisors or in a peer group can formulate an agreement that consists of guidelines about the goals for supervision, homework or assignments to progress that can assist towards their goals. Such an agreement for working towards their own goals and coming up with ideas on how to achieve these foster motivation; timelines and milestones in an agreement can be signed, dated and reviewed. Techniques used in positive supervision are directly applicable in their use with parties; hence a productive and positive parallel process occurs.

One of the roles of supervisors in positive supervision is to find competencies by asking supervisees questions about their competence, for example:

  • How did you do that?
  • How did you decide to do that?
  • How did you manage to do that? p60.

Since Bannink suggests that goal-formulation is important for individual sessions as well as for the entire supervisory process, she suggests a range of questions that facilitate this such as:

  • What do you want to have achieved at the end of this supervision (or session) to be satisfied?
  • How will you know that you have got what you want out of this supervision?
  • How will I, as your supervisor, know that the supervision is useful for you? p48.

One of the many theories explored in the book is Hope theory, which is used to formulate goals, which are the first components of establishing our best hopes. The components of the journey of creating hope begin with: a destination (goal), the road map (pathway of thinking), and a means of transport (agency thinking, the inner determination to implement a plan) involving a person’s beliefs that s/he can set goals and devise multiple ways to reach them.

Supporting the journey towards the supervisees’ best hopes Bannink illustrates this by the typical questions, for example: “what works (already)?” [which] invites supervisees to investigate how far they are on the way to their goal, rather than only looking at how far they still have to go. p 61.

There are many scenarios, lists of questions, quotes and inspirational examples of how to conduct positive supervision for individuals and peer groups in the text for the reader to dip into and use as a handbook.

Finally, an important aspect of positive supervision is that both supervisee and supervisor are encouraged to reflect on their relationship and achievements by way of feedback so that issues, disagreements and potential conflicts can be prevented. See pp 144-146 Tips for supervisors and tips for supervisees.

As a result of positive supervision or peer group supervision practitioners come away with hope, optimism, positive feelings, having gained a sense of satisfaction and confidence in their accomplishments.

What supervisees say about positive supervision: “By participating in positive supervision, we achieved our goal for the session; discovered that we can rely on our own competencies; we get an insight into having more competencies than we previously were aware of; it assists us in finding opportunities and possibilities in our work with clients; because we are validated we grow, and our self-efficacy increases; when leaving the supervision session we feel: more relaxed, more enthusiasm and confidence, and more competent in trying new things in our work.” “In traditional supervision I learned from the ‘sharp minds’ of my supervisors; in positive supervision I learned to use my own ‘sharp mind.’ This helps me to become more independent and more effective in creating and supporting change.”

The References and Appendices at the end of the book provide rich resources for academics and practitioners for further research and practical information such as the stages of the positive supervision process, a range of protocols, a session rating scale and information about how supervisors can be rated.

*I highly recommend this book for every supervisor who wants to add value to their own and the professional work of their supervisees and see them grow and look after themselves so they are more tuned and rewarded in helping others. All supervisors should know that a well-functioning relationship between supervisors and their supervisees is as important as the alliance between practitioners and their clients. p146


Mieke Brandon

Mieke Brandon, BA, MSc(App) is a registered FDRP and accredited under the NMAS. She practices as a mediator, trainer, and supervisor since 1993. She has published extensively and has presented papers and workshops at conferences in Australia and overseas. She is the co-author of Mediating with Families (3rd ed. Thomson… MORE >

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