Simulating supervision: How do managers respond to a crisis?

David Wilkins, Rebecca Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Supervision is fundamental to child and family social work practice, in England as elsewhere, yet there is little research regarding what managers and social workers do when they meet to discuss the families they are working with. Recent years have seen a growing interest in the use of simulated clients and objective structured clinical exams to help develop and evaluate the abilities of social workers and students. This paper describes a study of 30 simulated supervision sessions between English social work managers and an actor playing the role of a student social worker in need of support. The simulation concerns a referral regarding an incident of domestic abuse. During the simulations, managers typically asked closed questions to obtain more information before providing solutions for the supervisee in the form of advice and direction. There was little evidence of emotional support for the social worker, nor empathy with the family. Managers typically acted as expert problem-solvers. The implications of this are discussed in relation to current theoretical models of supervision for child and family social work and in relation to how children’s services responds to domestic abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-466
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date28 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


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