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Got Supervision? Social Work Supervision and Jazz

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Certainly, social work supervision could be considered similar to the role of a jazz band conductor. Social work supervision is independent melody lines, improvisation, syncopated rhythms, and ensemble collaboration in concert…metaphorically speaking.

Caspi and Reid (2002) explain that those interested in social work supervision should make sound choices about the direction of their education. The jazz conductor also recognizes the importance of the ‘clarity of expectations’ from his players.

They may improvise, but it must be within the structure of the song. Caspi and Reid (2002) also emphasize the need for clarity of roles for everyone involved. This clarification reduces anxiety, builds negotiation into the relationship, and shows that issues are open for discussion. As in the jazz band, the player may say to the conductor, “What if we try the dissonant transition ‘this’ way? It is almost impossible for me to change my embouchure that quickly.” The comparisons to social work supervision are endless.

Social work supervision could be encompassed in many metaphors. How about a natural scientist? A scientist is interested in process, order, knowledge, education, learning, and truth. Nature embodies chaos, compassion, creativity, and change.

Herman Lotze (2010) describes that there is a unity in nature. Development, ‘spontaneous growth of order from un-order,’ and the ‘inherent purposiveness’ of ‘actions and reactions,’ are the end result. Holman (2010) presents the case for mankind, and the ability to ‘successfully face disruption and emerge stronger than ever.’ She explains how we become part of a gradual change which leads to the ‘transformation of culture itself.’

The social work supervisor wants to instill these philosophies and methods in their supervisees. In turn, the supervisees may want to empower their clients with these methods when possible. The social work supervisor wants to provide a framework for improvisation, growth, conversation, empathy, science, and a spirit of diversity with an ‘open- mind.’ In my experience in the ‘helping professions’ and in music, what may sound to one like tuning an instrument may sound like a melody to another.

Caspi, J.; Reid, W. (2002). Educational supervision in social work. Columbia Press.

Holman, P. (2010). Engaging emergence: Turning upheaval into opportunity. San Francisco, CA, US: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. xvii, pp. 239.

Lotze, H. (2010). Nature evolved from chaos. In: Microcosmus: An essay concerning man and his relation to the world. Vol 1(3rd ed.). Edinburgh, Great Britian: T & T Clark, 1888. Pp. 419-442.

David Lee Bastin is a social work graduate student at Tennessee State University. David’s interest in social work stems from his work as a therapist for the Tennessee state mental institution. David plans to continue working with those suffering from serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. Follow David on Twitter @DAVIDBASTIN2

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