NUMBER 997 • 6 JULY • LIFE SPACE SUPERVISION
The use of daily life events as a focus for supervision
Ainsworth and Fulcher (1985) highlight the fact that the group care practitioner uses the natural opportunities provided by daily life events as the focus for interventions with children. This applies equally to life-space supervision as it provides a far more natural environment in which to observe the worker and gives focus to understanding the worker’s actions. The life-space supervisor would use the natural opportunities provided by being with the worker in their work environment as the focus for intervening with the worker. By using the daily life events of the worker, the supervisor can assess the worker’s level of functioning, growth and developmental areas, because she will have seen the worker in the context of the child’s world. In formal office supervision, the supervisor must depend on what the supervisee tells her about the actual intervention rather than being able to see for herself what the worker did in any given situation.
Life-space supervision can help the worker, for example, by offering support and giving feedback on how she is interacting with the children, what the dynamics in the rest of the group are at the time, how the child is reacting to her, her body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and her verbal response.. For example, an interaction with a child will take on a different meaning and have different influences if it happens in the dining room with other staff and children around where possibly the child is hungry and the worker is trying to relate to more than one child, as opposed to the worker relating to the child in his room after the meal. An inexperienced worker may try to intervene with a child in an environment not conducive to growth and change and must learn to alter this environment both physically and emotionally so that the child will be able to experience the situation therapeutically. With life space supervision feedback is immediate and new learning occurs in the situation in which it is necessary.
Garfat (2003: p.5) emphasizes that a relational approach is ‘….the presence of the necessary clarity, boundaries and relationship-based expectations that provide containment while promoting empowerment and growth.’ This is exactly what we are trying to achieve in life-space supervision. By being there, in the environment, and using daily life activities, the supervisor finds the opportunities to help the worker develop, just as the child and youth care worker in the environment finds parallel opportunities to help the child developmentally. The supervisor needs to provide a safe, containing environment for the child and youth care worker to function, explore, discover herself and make changes to her interventions and the environment if necessary. The supervisor needs to see the worker ‘in action’ to be able to assess whether or not her interventions are appropriate and in fact addressing the needs of the children and youth. The supervisor will gain an insight into the super- visee in the life-space that she will not be able to gain from office supervision. She will be able to take into account what is happening around the worker, what the actual situation is, other influences in the environment, the behaviour of other children in the setting, the worker’s level of awareness and ability to adapt to the environment and the intervention needed.
Life-space supervision is an excellent opportunity for workers to learn in the ‘here and now.’ This means that they can immediately transfer learning to similar situations. It happens ‘in the moment’ and in the workspace of the worker. The fact that the worker can be observed and supported as she is doing her work makes this kind of supervision appropriate to the profession.
Life-space supervision in child and youth care practice. In Garfat, T. and Gannon, B. (eds.) (2005) Aspects of Child and Youth Care Practice in the South African Context. Cape Town: Pretext Publishers. pp.49-62