Ongoing Supervision and Supports

Ongoing Supervision and Supports

Mother helping baby walk

Two important resources for effective early childhood mental health consultants are ongoing supervision and supports.

In the What Works study (Duran et al, 2009), all six study sites agreed that it is essential to build supports for mental health consultants, such as reflective supervision, peer support, and training and technical assistance to develop and sustain the key skills and attributes associated with the consultative stance.

A majority of the study sites emphasized the importance of reflective supervision and reflective practices (Duran et al, 2009). Reflective supervision offers empathy, supports reflective practices, and encourages self-awareness to help consultants explore their reactions to the work, manage stress, and understand the parallel process of relationship-based work (Parlakian, 2001). Reflective supervision is part of personal and professional development that builds on the relationship between the consultant and the supervisor, explores the relationships between consultants and their consultees (teachers and parents), and ultimately influences the relationship between the consultees and the young children in their care.

The experience of reflective supervision and opportunities for reflective practice supports two core elements of the consultative stance: the centrality of relationships and the parallel process where all relationships influence one another.

In addition to individual reflective supervision, most study sites supported reflective practice in small group experiences and used both processes to influence the consultant, provider, and caregiver relationships and enhance consultants’ ability to meet the needs of those they are serving (Duran et al, 2009).

Practical models offering these supports include:

  • One-on-one reflective supervision provided by the consultant’s immediate clinical supervisor or an independently contracted provider, both of whom would be knowledgeable about early childhood mental health consultation, early childhood educational practices, and trained in the reflective process approach
  • Peer group supports that encourage reflective practice, facilitated by the agency or organization providing early childhood mental health consultation or a peer group of independent practitioners
  • Didactic seminars paired with reflective case presentations
  • Shadowing and mentoring that involves an experienced consultant modeling the consultative approach for a new consultant, then providing time to reflect on observations and interactions
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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.