Exploring the supervision of occupational therapists in New Zealand

Herkt, Jacqueline
Hocking, Clare
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The purpose of this study was to explore the nature and process of supervision of occupational therapists as it occurs in New Zealand. There has recently been an increased focus on supervision by the profession. This study is therefore timely in seeking to describe the phenomenon of supervision. The study had eleven participants with some of the participants agreeing to be interviewed in both capacities those of supervisee and supervisor; this resulted in interviews with eight supervisees and five supervisors. Grounded theory was chosen as the methodology for the study. This methodology ensures that the voices of the participants are heard and that the study remains focused on their understandings and the meanings that they make of the process of supervision. Grounded theory allows for the generation of a conceptual model of the experience. By using the constant comparative method of data analysis a core concept of participating in supervision emerged.Participating in supervision describes a process that is heavily dependent on the quality of the supervisory relationship. It identifies the factors that bring supervisees to supervision and places emphasis on supervisory relationships that allow supervisees to explore the concept of me as a therapist. It highlights the benefits in therapists gaining an understanding of the wider picture in which they practice. It emphasises the significance of contextual factors such as supervision contracts and training, and highlights the issues raised by the type of power the supervisor holds. Positional power was seen by participants to be detrimental to the outcome of supervision whereas social power was seen to empower supervisees and allow a deeper relationship to develop. The trust in such relationships enabled issues to be raised without fear of consequence, or threat to competence. Supervisors were tasked to build on supervisees' strengths but to also challenge supervisees' actions and plans.Supervisees entered supervision believing that they would grow as therapists. For some this was possible and they were able to make the most of supervision. Supervision gave them a safe place to go and to explore what was happening, it was affirming. It empowered them to integrate knowledge, skills and behaviours such that they came away with insights. Importantly supervisees felt inspired. For others, poor relationships and structures resulted in guarding. They felt the need to protect themselves and they began fighting shy of supervision. There was obvious avoidance and frustration with supervision. This study takes us a step closer to understanding the place and value of supervision in occupational therapy in New Zealand.

Occupational therapists , Health Studies
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