April 13, 2021

Clinical Supervision professional development course provides lifeline for "drowning" supervisors

Jane Matheson, former Wood's Homes CEO teaches four-week course (May 25-June 8) for current and future clinical supervisors.
Jane Matheson, PhD, RCSW, former CEO Wood's Homes
Courtesy Wood's Homes

Jane Matheson, PhD, RCSW, says she sees a familiar reaction with supervisors when difficult issues arise in the workplace. “I think with new leaders – and sometimes with leaders who have been in the role a long time – when you present them with a difficult supervisory situation they will often go to the worst possible scenario. 'Well if the person doesn't do it, then I'm going to fire them!' As opposed to a whole lot of other nuanced conversations that should come before that,” she says.

The former CEO of Wood's Homes, adds she'll present clinical social work supervisors with a whole lot of other options and strategies during her online, four-week professional development course, offered through the University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work (May 25 - June 8.) Matheson, who is also a Registered Clinical Social Work Supervisor with the Alberta College of Social Workers Clinical Registry, has always had passion for the subject, which was the focus of her doctoral research.

Over the twelve years she’s offered the supervisory course she’s observed that three types of professionals (not all participants are social workers) who take her class. The established supervisors who, as she says,“have started to wonder if they actually know what they're doing.” The second group are “really brand new at the job and wondering why they even took it.” And finally social workers who have been in their front-line roles a long time who want to become supervisors.

Many clinical social work supervisors are promoted because they’re experienced practitioners, not because they’re proven managers, which can create a lot of stress down the line.

“Many, many are capable people. They're like, 'Oh my God, I’m drowning! I’m ending up – in a way – doing clinical work with my supervisors, as opposed to doing supervision in a clinical way.' This course helps to balance those things.”

– Jane Matheson

“Many, many are capable people," she says. "They're like, 'Oh my God, I’m drowning! I’m ending up – in a way – doing clinical work with my supervisors, as opposed to doing supervision in a clinical way.' This course helps to balance those things.”

As for the other two groups, she says current managers will find a lot of useful information, provided they are “open to the fact that they might have to change some of the things they're doing.” And those considering moving into the supervisory realm should get a foundation of understanding, both for what the job might entail as well as good questions to ask before you accept the role.

The issue of great practitioners being thrown into roles they aren’t prepared for isn't unique to social work, however Matheson says that social work’s unique perspective can create a difficult personal dynamic for many new managers.

“Social work really values egalitarianism,” Matheson says, “but when you're a supervisor, CEO, or program manager, you're in charge. I think this course provides a great foundation and creates space to think about components of supervision that are meaningful and that you can develop. You’ll also get some tools and ideas to help you handle thorny situations. It will set you on the right path to practice, practice, practice.”


The Faculty of Social Work's Professional Development Courses are offered in conjunction with the experts at UCalgary Continuing Education. Our courses provide micro credentials for social workers and other allied health professionals. Our classes are eligible for Alberta College of Social Work Accreditation Credits.