Reflective Supervision/Consultation

What is it?

Reflective supervision/consultation (RSC) is distinct due to the shared exploration of the parallel process. That is, attention to all of the relationships is important, including the ones between practitioner and supervisor, be-tween practitioner and parent, and between parent and infant/toddler. It is critical to understand how each of these relationships affects the others. Of additional importance, reflective supervision/consultation relates to professional and personal development within one’s discipline by attending to the emotional content of the work and how reactions to the content affect the work. Finally, there is often greater emphasis on the supervisor/consultant’s ability to listen and wait, allowing the supervisee to discover solutions, concepts and perceptions on his/her own without interruption from the supervisor/consultant.

The primary objectives of reflective supervision/consultation include the following:

  • Form a trusting relationship between supervisor and practitioner
  • Establish consistent and predictable meetings and times
  • Ask questions that encourage details about the infant, parent and emerging relationship
  • Remain emotionally present
  • Teach/guide
  • Nurture/support
  • Apply the integration of emotion and reason
  • Foster the reflective process to be internalized by the supervisee
  • Explore the parallel process and to allow time for personal reflection
  • Attend to how reactions to the content affect the process
  • >> More information about RSC and how it relates to requirements for Endorsement®

    Research on Reflective Supervision/Consultation

    The research committee for the Alliance is headed by Christopher Watson, PhD, IMH-E®. The focus the past several years has been on developing an observational guide that defines the essential elements of reflective supervision/consultation in a one-on-one setting.  After identifying these elements, the committee invited leaders from member associations to code videos using the RIOS (Reflective Interactive Observation Scale).  Note the acronym spells river in Spanish that perhaps “reflects” the continuous ripples running through a reflective supervision/consultation meeting.  The committee is currently generating vignettes to illustrate elements at each level.

    The goal of RIOS is to provide a working definition of reflective supervision/consultation that can ultimately be used to examine and measure the outcomes and effectiveness of this important part of infant mental health practice. “The RIOS establishes the presence of ‘active ingredients’ inherent in a reflective supervision or consultation session and can be used to chart their longitudinal development across sessions over time. These components define the reflective nature of the supervision and include some which set it apart from other forms of relationship-based professional development such as coaching and mentoring.” (Watson, et. al. in Early Childhood and Special Education, Vol 18, 2014: Reflective Supervision and Its Impact on Early Childhood Intervention)

    The Essential Elements of a reflective supervision/consultation meeting are defined as:

    • Understanding the Story
    • Parallel Process
    • Holding the Baby in Mind
    • Professional Use of Self
    • Working Alliance
    Photo of the Research Subcommittee at the 2014 League Retreat in Kansas City, MO Back row from left to right: Barbara Einsohn, Angie Tomlin, Maren Harris, Bill Schafer, Shelley Mayse, Christopher Watson, Susan Dickstein. Front row: Margaret Holmberg, Jordana Ash, Deborah Weatherston, Sheryl Goldberg

    Photo of the Research Subcommittee at the 2014 League Retreat in Kansas City, MO
    Back row from left to right: Barbara Einsohn, Angie Tomlin, Maren Harris, Bill Schafer, Shelley Mayse, Christopher Watson, Susan Dickstein. Front row: Margaret Holmberg, Jordana Ash, Deborah Weatherston, Sheryl Goldberg

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