Talking about our work for the purpose of ethical development is an art and a science. It is a practice. This article focuses on one facet of this practice - supervision, specifically one intervention used in supervision, case discussion. Supervision provides crucial improvement for the interpreter, a mirror of the individual’s process, reflecting the effectiveness and ethicality of the work in the light of our colleagues’ experience, eyes, minds and hearts.
When diminished by a conversation about our work, we do not return to that conversation (Parker Palmer). Nor do we learn. Judgment and criticism forestall the opportunity to grow and ‘make it right’. We are more likely to keep our work in the dark, the details obfuscated even to ourselves. Our vision is clouded. We all pay the price.
We must capture our actual experiences in review. We continue to struggle with the very real human costs, fallout from the gaps in our professional development and consideration of each other in our work. Complex understanding of a case brings increased response options, wider responsibility to a greater number of factors as well as compassion and understanding which encompass the entirety of our work.
We in the helping professions show a trend of being hypercritical of our selves …[and others]… (Feasey, 2002). The hypercritical response grows to a tipping point where we are expelled from a process engaged with team and consumers, into some version of a fight/flight response, limiting awareness - of options, thought worlds, culture, and communication dynamics. It preempts our awareness - thus hobbling an effective and ethical decision-making process. This occurs when we are interpreting and in discussion with colleagues.
Case discussion is the opportunity to discover and apply strategies for staying with our decisions and the consequences of those decisions (Dean & Pollard, 2011). It creates a process and a setting which helps contain our inner “What the…!!!?” long enough to engage with the person/task at hand. Guidance and discovery are encouraged, yet are not a tacit approval of decisions that have been or may become harmful or unethical.
As a participant in case discussion during supervision, expect commitment, learning how to do a case presentation, and participation in a reflective process with a qualified facilitator. Commitment is made to brooking both the familiar and unpleasant or unwanted aspects of analysis for the gain of insight.
A facilitator possesses the skills and experience required for supervision - cultural sensitivity, knowledge of the myriad approaches to an interpreter’s professional development and of group dynamics. They provide a framework for “…epistemological curiosity, critical consciousness, non-authoritarian power relations” - (Kennedy & Kennedy 2010).
Facilitation aims for cohesion, maintains the structure of the inquiry, initiates ground rules - a pact the dyad or group realizes and maintains throughout. Confidentiality applies, and feedback focuses “on the value feedback may have to the recipient, not on the value or ‘release’ that it provides the person giving the feedback” (Lehner, 1975).
In preparation, a case synopsis (prospective or retrospective) is provided prior to the discussion. The process of learning case presentation is itself a practice in confidentiality, distinguishing the salient features of a case.
Case discussion strives for accurate reflection and restructures a case review using, for example, the demand control schema for analysis (Dean & Pollard). The discussion develops and models a process, which contributes to the heightening of the collective intelligence. It strengthens relationship to community. It is ultimately participation in a wellspring of shared experience, building upon the natural processes from within each of our communities in a manner both considered and reflective. We develop a common language, gain or hone negotiation skills with colleagues and the people whose communications we hold in trust. We sustain our ethical growth…and we return to the conversation.
*Although I am the one bringing this topic to the table, it is in large part because I have spent time in many of your kitchens of knowledge – my thanks to those from whom I have learned so much, directly and indirectly, whose work precedes and provides our foundation.
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