Transcript for
Supervision for children’s wellbeing – part one

Runtime 00:33:06
Released 24/7/23

Hanna Jewell (00:00): The idea of stepping into the shoes of the child might be a question about bringing that child into the supervisory session by asking questions like if the child was here or what do you think the child might notice? So just asking questions, I guess I’d be curious about some things about what’s happening with the child. How do you think the child understands what’s happening to their parent. If they were here in this session and it’s okay if they don’t know the answer because in some ways it’s like, “Well that’s interesting. We don’t really know and understand what’s happening for the child in this.” And so that curiosity hopefully opens up also a little bit of like, “Well maybe that might be something that might go away and explore further.” Be really curious about what might be happening to the child and how they might kind of find out some more information.


Narrator (00:52): Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.


Dan Moss (00:57): Hi everyone, my name is Dan Moss. Welcome to episode one of this two-part Emerging Minds podcast series on supervision for children’s wellbeing. Recently Emerging Minds worked closely with a group of supervisors and practitioners from The Bouverie Centre in Melbourne to develop an online practise course for supervisors and organisations who are interested in child aware and child focused supervision. This course can be found on the Emerging Minds website from the 31st of July on So, The Bouverie Centre, many of you will know them very well, they’re an integrated practise research organisation that has been bringing family therapy to Australia to promote healthy relationships in families, organisations, and communities since 1956. As part of their practise, Bouverie Centre professionals are interested in supervision processes that bring the voice of the child into the room during case discussions, even when that child may not be directly involved in the professional engagement.


(02:01): In episode one of this podcast, our guests from Bouverie Centre will discuss the role of the supervisor in making the child visible in discussions with practitioners. We now know the importance of making children’s experience visible even when they’re not present in conversations with adult clients. Our friends from Bouverie will describe their own experiences in supporting practise that creates opportunities for improved child experiences and wellbeing, ensuring crucial prevention and early intervention strategies for children’s mental health. Throughout this podcast, you’ll be hearing from Hanna Jewell, who is a social worker and family therapist and has led the Bouverie Centre’s partnership with Emerging Minds to create both the online course and the podcast that you’ll be listening to today. Banu Maloney has been a therapist and lecturer at the Bouverie Centre for over 16 years. Banu has a long history in supervision and has created processes and strategies which help all practitioners to keep the child in focus.


(03:03): Julia Oxley is a mental health occupational therapist and family therapist who has vast experience across both adult and family focus services. Angie Nyland is a social worker and trainer at the Bouverie Centre and currently coordinates the Supporting Practise Leaders, Ice Project. Nicholas Barrington is a psychiatric nurse and family therapist and he’s employed within the mental health programme at the Bouverie Centre. Given our guests from Bouverie has such broad and innovative experience in supervision processes for children’s wellbeing, I was interested in how they begin to create conversations and expectations for child focus practise. Particularly for practitioners who might work mainly with adult clients and may not be used to these conversations. During my conversation with Hanna, she used the example of working with a young graduate who we’ve called Eve for the purpose of this podcast. And she talked about how she would engage Eve initially in conversations around a child focused practise.


Hanna Jewell (04:08): So if I was working with Eve, I think one of the early kind of relationships establishing your working relationship might be just to understand a little bit about her practise, kind of her values, what she likes to do in her work, how she operates and how she works. And for clinical supervision it’s really great to have an understanding of previous experiences in clinical supervision. Have they been helpful, have they not been helpful? And how might we and when we’re working together, replicate some of the good things and avoid some of the things that weren’t helpful before. So I guess you want to have an understanding about just how are you going to work together. Did Eve get feedback from previous supervisors, like if she had challenging feedback, what did she get out of the clinical supervision? And if we were to work in a way that both kind of challenged, nurtured and still she had a sense of growth in her practise, what would be some of the things that we would be wanting to do? What would we be doing? How would she give me feedback because it’s a two-way thing.


(05:18): I might overstep, maybe I’ve gone too far with her even, it’s a bit too challenging. So I’d want to make sure that she felt okay about also saying something back to me that, “Oh, hang on, that’s a little bit too challenging.” So that I will kind of have a bit of a discussion with her around, “Is this okay? I’m a bit curious about kind of what’s happened and I’d like to kind of explore it because I think that might be a point of interest around this work that you’re doing. But let me know if it’s too far or it doesn’t kind of make sense to you.” And so I can have a sense of maybe pulling back or making sure that it’s kind of at the pace that is okay with her. Because I think one of the really important things about challenge is being able to do that in a safe relationship where you feel supported by someone because you’re less likely to be defensive and you’re more likely to be open and grow out of that. And I think you have to hold onto someone’s strengths. So what are Eve’s strengths?


(06:25): Let’s know those and let’s look at what some of her growth areas might be. And then thinking about the accountability back to practise and the fact that you’ll still want to focus on the client family, our centre, how do we keep hold of that in our sessions? How do we keep that in mind when we’re having this discussion together? So the most you can do is kind of clarify that at the beginning part of your establishing supervisor relationship. And then I think it’s not just a one-off process, but something that might be ongoing so that at each session you want to check in, what’s going to be helpful today, check in, how did the conversation go today? And then I think that’s sort of like, is there anything we might change? Is there anything that I might have done that wasn’t helpful? And then thinking about how you might change practise or work in a bit of a different way. And that maybe you could do that over time as well, that you’ll continually kind of grow in terms of your understanding and relationship together and how safe someone feels too.


Dan Moss (07:30): I asked Hanna about how she might establish safety and supervision with new workers such as Eve, so that a supervisor can challenge a practitioner in ways that are both supportive and generative.


Hanna Jewell (07:43): Talking about talking in some ways it’s about that sort of contract. How are we going to have this conversation together? And if Eve has not been challenged before, what might that be like if I was her supervisor and I did challenge her, how would that go? Maybe it might be too challenging. How would I do it in a way, how could she inform maybe a process that might be helpful to her? Because I guess leaving with the idea that she’s the expert on herself and her own work and pace, and I might be in the position of keeping in mind the vulnerable potentially children that aren’t being talked about. So if I was to notice that and given that she’s a well practised practitioner, she knows what she’s doing, but given I did that, how would I best raise that with her? And how do you think it would be helpful if we worked together on those issues?


(08:38): Would she feel okay about giving me feedback if she felt it was too challenging given that she’s never had challenge before? What’s our step into doing some of that? And so maybe also the sense of some reassurance of, so if I offered some challenge, maybe I will also ask you, “Is that too challenging? Is that too challenging? Have I asked that in a way or are you okay with responding to that?” So having a sense of where that might be gauge, really by her giving me feedback around that, but also the confidence to step into this next thing, no challenge into a supervisor relationship that might have enough of a challenge but not too much of a challenge that she felt overwhelmed.


Dan Moss (09:25): I asked Julia to describe an early conversation she might have had with a practitioner in their first meeting.


Julia Oxley (09:31): Often in individual focused services and particularly in adult focused services that I’d be really curious as a supervisors where they see their role is in thinking about their adult clients that might be parents and how they understand that. And whether that aligns with maybe what the organisation stance is. So there may well be times where they may feel that that’s not their role or they’re not sure about how far their role takes them in being able to inquire and being able to intervene around supporting their clients in their parenting or around the welfare of children. So I think that that’s an interesting thing to reflect on in supervision to get some sort of idea around where might our role be. And where might the clinical services’ role see that and therefore the clinician helping them to reflect on that too.


(10:21): It’s not uncommon to hear clinicians say, “But we only work with the adult.” It’s hard for them to think about where that extends and how that relational aspect of the work… Clinicians are good at thinking about risk and risk feels clear to them that they need to perhaps respond to situations where there’s risk. But I would love, I always try to encourage clinicians or the practitioners to think about thinking more broadly than just risk because I think that can close down a conversation if that’s the only agenda we have in the work we have with our clients that are parents. If a client in any way feels like we are assessing them in ways that they might be slipping up or doing something wrong with their children, they’re less likely to want to open up with us. So I think it’s really to think about not only their role and what the policies and the organisational stance on working with children, but also thinking about what might be any potential benefits.


(11:21): And what might be a way in which to engage a adult client that’s a parent in a way that they also see as helpful. The practitioner might not feel comfortable to discuss parenting because what they’re responding to is that the adult parent client is not comfortable to speak about that. And so they’re kind of picking up on that, that wall, and so it becomes part of the taboo subjects. And I think that that’s really important to reflect on. I would have no doubt that in majority of the people we see, if not everyone that we see who are parents are very invested in their parenting role and highly value that. They may not feel a hundred percent comfortable or they may not feel as though that’s an area that is either relevant or safe to bring up in professional appointments or they may have got the message that it’s not important in this space.


(12:18): So it’s really important again to explore why practitioners haven’t even breached it and what might be getting in the way too. Whether it’s that kind of taboo message that they’re getting from the client, whether it’s something about themselves that they feel they’re not comfortable or capable or they might only be looking at from a risk perspective. What’s got in the way or they’re not seeing it as their role. So really just I think maintaining that kind of curious stance and looking for opportunities to maybe suggest that this is important and there are things we can do about it. And there are ways that we can ask and if that doesn’t work well this time round or doesn’t get much more information, but to keep that conversation going in a way that hopefully breaks down some of those barriers.


Dan Moss (13:04): This idea of challenging practitioners is often discussed by supervisors who want to both support improved child focused engagement skills, but also maintain an encouraging and supporting relationship with the supervisee. This is an area that Banu is extremely experienced in and I asked her a little bit about some of her strategies.


Banu Maloney (13:27): Creating safety and supportive but challenging relationship within the context of supervision. I think it behoves the supervisor to raise those complex issues. I’m also your manager, I’m also responsible for how you are connecting in this space with other staff. I’m also responsible for your wellbeing in terms of how you are working with families and children. So that is also an aspect of my work, while at the same time I’m wanting to be the person you can talk to so that you can be the best therapist, best worker you can be. So can we talk about what that raises for you in terms of conflict in your mind and what can I do to reassure you that I am actually wanting to attend to both. And I’m wanting to attend to both aspects of my responsibility for you in the safest and the most supportive way possible for you?


(14:32): Supervisor’s role is to make failing a learning process. It behoves the supervisor to be aware in themselves what are their own strategies for managing, making mistakes in their own practise. What have they found helpful and what do they need to do in order to support their supervisee in order to be able to be transparent, to be open. Hold them, as in kind of normalise it, but at the same time to say, “But we need to find a way to get through this. We need to find a way to repair this. We need to find a way to make the right moves, having made this mistake. How can I help you to do that.” As distinct from, “What are you going to do about it?”


Dan Moss (15:23): Nick and Angie provided their thoughts on the important balance for supervisors in providing both encouragement and challenge for practitioners.


Nicholas Barrington (15:34): When meeting with and supervising practitioners, I’m quite mindful of the skills and the things that we do together. The relationship that we build is a model and a template that can help them and support them in the relationship they try and develop with the people they… helping clients and young people that they are in contact with. And also holding in mind that that is a model and a template that those young people, those families can then use as well in their own lives. So it starts with, I guess, a mindfulness of myself in that relationship. So starting with trying to be present in a way that is genuine and real. So for me that’s using humour and being kind of fallible and having mistakes and uncertainties and allowing them to be present for my own thinking and learning, but also made available to those I might be supervising or working with.


Angie Nyland (16:37): So I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the differences between people and it’s really, I think that’s part of an earlier conversation in supervision and an ongoing one as well. What do we do with that? How do we be different but somehow come together and work together? Overall, I think considering connection and culture and context is always really important of everybody involved. I think it’s important to explore the difference between feeling uncomfortable and unsafe. So I think that when people are uncomfortable, that can be a good thing. It’s a real opportunity or part of our work as a supervisor is to bring something into awareness that might not have been there previously.


Dan Moss (17:20): Speaking again with Hanna about the example of working with a new graduate such as Eve, I was interested in understanding how she might help her to walk in the shoes of the child of her adult client, even when that child is not physically involved in the professional engagement.


Hanna Jewell (17:38): The idea of stepping into the shoes of the child might be a question about bringing that child into the supervisory session as she might… the parent as well, at various times by asking questions if the child was here or what do you think the child might notice? What do you think? So just asking questions, I guess I’d be curious about some things about what’s happening with the child. How do you think the child understands what’s happening to their parent? If they were here in this session, or what do you think if we ask them, “What do you know and understand about your mum and some of the difficulties and some of the things you notice?” And how do they make sense of it? What do you think the child might say? So getting them to actually in a lot of ways in the questions, step into that child and really have a sense of kind of, “Oh, I wonder how they are understanding this and taking this on board.”


(18:37): And it’s okay if they don’t know the answer because in some ways it’s like, “Well that’s interesting. We don’t really know and understand what’s happening for the child in this.” And so that curiosity hopefully opens up also a little bit of like, “Well, maybe that might be something that might go away and explore further. Be really curious about what might be happening to the child and how they might find out some more information.” And then I guess it also opens up the idea about, “Well that’s interesting, maybe you don’t know what are some of the barriers or some of the things you think might get in the way.” Is that going to be easy to just engage with the child and ask them or, “How do you feel about doing some of that work? Have you done it before? Have you tried anything before? Because sometimes people have tried things and in the past has anything worked?” So just exploring some of Eve’s strengths as well in terms of how she might think she might operate or go ahead next.


(19:33): And then having a sense of a bit of plan maybe at the end of the session about what the next steps might be to engage more and understand more about the child. The other thing is sometimes those are opportunities, is like, “This an area that you would like to do some more work in? How confident do you feel in working with children? It might be that next step. Is that something that you’re interested in kind of progressing?” And the other thing I think about in that is, well, what’s in scope? What is the accountability in her role as a worker? There is a sense that she needs to engage and understand what might be happening to the child. You can’t just totally ignore, but then she might not, if the child has other needs and specialty needs, it might be a referral to another service. So what’s in scope for this worker to do? What’s the expectations also of the organisation which she works with? And just to clarify that with her, what the boundary of that kind of work might be.


Dan Moss (20:37): I was interested in asking Banu how she ensures that children are not forgotten in supervision or in practise.


Banu Maloney (20:45): Children in particular can get forgotten or they can mistakenly be thought of, we are protecting them from knowing anything about this. And I go where angels fear to tread, so to speak. And I’d say, “What do you know about the children for this client? How old are they? And are they aware of their mother or father coming to therapy or this couple coming to therapy?” People often baulk at that or kind of a bit surprised at that like, “We want to protect the children.” And I would ask a few questions around, if you were to reassure your children about how you’re managing things in your life, what… I’m not saying you say this to them, but what would you say? How would you explain to the children? And so I would encourage the supervisee to explore what’s happening for the children.


(21:43): Parents will often say, “Oh no, we never fight when the children… and we only have arguments after they go to bed.” And are surprised that the children actually know what’s going on or think that they… I think it’s a human responsiveness by parents to want to protect their children. And I think as therapists we can become collusive in that process as well. So the worker might also start to think, “If they’re not mentioning the children, I won’t mention the children as well.” And I think it takes a bit of courage on the part of the therapist to say, “I want to ask some questions about other people in your life.” Is there something that’s missing in my supervisees knowledge base or skills base about how they can bring children into the picture that I might have a role in helping them to know about it.


(22:41): Whether I’m doing therapy or whether I’m doing supervision, I have in mind a check-in for every 20 minutes. “Are we talking about the things you came to talk about? Is this going the way you thought it would go? Is there something else we should be addressing?” And then also keeping in mind 20 minutes before the end of the session, “I’m going to stop now and say, is there anything that we haven’t touched on that’s important for us to talk about? And if we were to stop now, would you feel like this is time well spent?” So there ways I kind of be accountable, I suppose, for the time. And I’m hoping that that would also help my supervisee to know we’re not just sitting there chatting, we’re actually tracking our learning.


Dan Moss (23:30): I asked Nick and Angie how they ensure that child is kept at the centre of conversations, both in supervision and in practise.


Nicholas Barrington (23:40): When we are in supervision and holding a client at the centre, we are holding not just an individual at the centre, we are holding a family unit or a system. And so mindful of and curious about the impact of practise and approaches and challenges, not only on the individual client that you might have first contact with, but on all of those people meaningfully connected to them. Particularly those most vulnerable and so often it is children.


Angie Nyland (24:13): It’s also helpful to be thinking about bringing in those multiple kind of perspectives. So having a real systems approach. So who’s not there that has an influence and how do we consider them, who is there and how do we bring them in and create the climate for people to be able to work together. And thinking about the ages or developmental stages of young people and children and how that might influence the kind of work or questions or way that we find out what’s happening for them. And then what to factor in when it comes to supervision.


Dan Moss (24:47): I asked Hanna how she might work with Eve or in fact with all practitioners to increase their choices and skills in asking child focused questions. Particularly when those practitioners might have differing levels of skill or confidence in asking these questions.


Hanna Jewell (25:07): So if you’re wanting to increase the skills and choices that a clinician has and working with the family, both in working with the parent and potentially engagement with the child. I guess that’s having a clear understanding about what they’re confident in doing themselves and what they may have tried before, what’s their experience of working with families potentially maybe they have not had any. They’ve usually just engage with the adult and they might know a little bit about the family. So thinking about what some of the next steps might be. I think that sense of some of the choices they might make in terms of expanding their work and increasing their sense of, “Well what’s your starting point and where might you go to?” Because they might not be ready to do the whole lot all at once, but what’s the stage part of this process that feels safe to enter, to experiment with. To engage maybe with their client as a parent and talk some more about their parenting, might be the step in terms of than… before they work with the child.


(26:20): So understanding more about the parenting and I think that sense of… you’d be interested in Eve like, “What are you a bit curious about? What are you curious about with this family? What might be your goals, do you think? What might be really helpful for this family? If there was something to a really good outcome of this, what would it be that you’d want to achieve? What do you think the parent might want out of this situation? And what do you think the child might want given that you are engaged with this family as well?” So exploring all those goals and outcomes and then I guess, you’re wanting to match that with the skill of the worker and how you might go about achieving that in a stage safe and careful way. And hopefully keeping that safety and that engagement in your relationship too.


(27:11): Because then I think one of the great things if you have good clinical supervision is that you’ll maybe take some challenges, but you’ll also come back with, “Oh my gosh, that was really difficult. It didn’t land quite how I went.” And continually being open to explore that, but you have to feel safe with your supervisor to be able to do that. So getting people to experiment and explore and do some of that work and to continue to evolve that as you’re going along. I think if you can achieve that, that’s a really good goal in terms of expanding some of those choices that someone has because they’re willing to try different things at different points. And then the other thing I think about that in terms of choices is just that sense of reflective space. When you made some of those choices, when you did that with Eve, what was happening for you?


(28:07): What did you hope to achieve out of that? What went well in that interaction and what are some of the things you might change? So that actually some of that time to reflect back on what happened, enables people to have a sense of, “Oh, if this was to happen again, would I do the same thing or would I do something different?” So I think having that space to be able to explore that and work on those issues at that time, so that they’re reflective about that and they’ve got something they’ll take away. So there’s some learning from all the experiences that you have with clients and families that informs your practise.


Dan Moss (28:45): Julia and Nick both described their own supervision strategies in increasing the confidence for practitioners so that they might allow themselves to ask questions about the child of an adult client, even where they might be feeling unsure or a little bit apprehensive about those questions.


Julia Oxley (29:07): If I hear that the client is a parent, I just start with asking, what is the relationships? We might even write a genogram and helping the practitioner to see where the relationships might be for this client. And I might even draw on some common experiences that I’ve had in my practise about what might be happening for parents that I often see and reflect on that. So using my own experience in being a practitioner myself and working with parents to see what potential things might be coming up. So just maintain that position of understanding, getting a sense of what the practitioner has maybe thought is important or whether there’s any gaps there. That’s probably a starting point. And if that doesn’t feel comfortable, if I get a sense, because you get a sense in the room with supervision, if that’s not something that they’re familiar with or this is news to them. There might be need to be a conversation about what’s got in the way of being able to understand some of these things, what their thoughts are about that. And again, what their role is in exploring those relationships.


Nicholas Barrington (30:19): I think that there’s not necessarily KPIs for this, but the presence of the supervisee in the space, and if they are relaxed and comfortable and present in a genuine kind of way, then that’s a good sign. That’s a sign that safety and trust is being established, that the stuff that they share and bring has some more challenge to it. That the depth to which they can share and reflect and see themselves and their own challenges and mistakes and those things are easily, more freely shared and reflected on and talked about. And then used as growth and opportunities to learn as opposed to fear of critique or judgement . I guess developmentally, evolutionary as a practitioner, seeing them increasingly hold those multiple perspectives. Having a richness to understanding of the challenges and difficulties that not only families experience and the nuance and difference within families. But also themselves, their work context, and how the multiple kind of layers of these experiences come to be interwoven and impact each other.


Dan Moss (31:44): So that concludes episode one of our two part series on supervision for children’s wellbeing. In this episode, we are focused on supervision with practitioners who may not be experienced in child focused supervision. Hanna, Banu, Julia, Nick and Angie have provided the benefit of their wisdom and experience in engaging practitioners that both supports them and challenges them to increase their skill and confidence in regularly asking questions about children’s wellbeing. Please join us in a fortnight for episode two where we will more specifically focus on supervision for practitioners whose main role is to work with children and families. I can’t wait to join you and continue the conversation with our friends from the Bouverie Centre. So I’m Dan Moss and goodbye for now.


Narrator (32:34): Visit our website at to access a range of resources to assist your practice. Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, led by Emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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