Staying current with scholarship enriches the work of field educators: it teaches us innovative ways to solve perennial field problems, suggests new readings for field seminars, keeps us abreast of current debates in social work education, and even inspires us in our own writing on theory and research. “What We’re Reading” presents our brief summaries of the findings of recent publications in field education. Our emphasis is on implications for practice. Readers are encouraged to suggest articles or books for future review.

Coaston, S. C. (2019). Cultivating self-compassion within the supervision relationship. The Clinical Supervisor, 38(1), 79–96. doi:10.1080/07325223.2018.1525596

Novice clinicians, or clinicians-in-training (CITs), often times experience anxiety, stress, and self-criticism. These feelings can negatively impact their performance while practicing at their field placement and “cloud the training experience” (p. 79). The author explains that, due to the negative feelings CITs can face and the negative impact it can have on their learning development, researchers have suggested the inclusion of self-compassion into the training environment. The author describes self-compassion as “compassion directed toward the self when one encounters failure, uncertainty, or suffering” (p. 80). Self-compassion consists of three components, the first being mindfulness, which is a non-judgmental awareness to the present moment. In the context of a self-compassion framework, the author describes mindfulness as an activity “intended to create a balanced awareness of positive and negative thoughts and feelings and enhance perspective and clarity in regards to personal experiences” (p. 81). The second component of self-compassion is common humanity. Common humanity can help CITs recognize that failures and mistakes are common, especially in the learning process. Creating a sense of common humanity is important because without it, CITs run the risk of becoming self-critical. Finally, self-kindness is an important aspect of the self-compassion framework as it is a “personalized, caring, and understanding response to pain and suffering” that can help individuals avoid harsh self-judgements (p. 81). These three components interact together to form a self-compassionate framework that can benefit the professional and personal development of CITs.

After providing explanations about what self-compassion entails, the author explains the importance of a self-compassionate supervisor. As a supervisor, it is important to incorporate compassion into one’s supervisory approach as it can help establish a strong relationship and “empowering learning environment” (p. 83). The author suggests to supervisors that they assess their own knowledge of self-compassion and assess their supervision style in order to ensure that they appropriately create an environment that promotes self-compassion for a supervisee.

Throughout the article, the author offers various self-compassion exercises, discussion points, and practices that can be completed by supervisors and supervisees either together or separately. For instance, the author suggests that supervisors engage in formal self-compassion training. By doing so, supervisors can reduce “the chance for supervisees to equate self-compassion with self-pity, self-indulgence, complacency, or selfishness” (p. 85). The Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training program is a formal, educational platform suggested by the author as a productive resource for supervisors to utilize. The author strongly suggests that CITs practice “reconceptualizing self-care as a self-compassionate act” (p. 85). Self-care is important to our practice, but can be difficult to participate in. However, the author suggests that if CITs reframe the idea of self-care into an act of self-compassion, then they can engage in this self-compassionate act when feeling discomfort and learn how to self-soothe in moments of difficulty. The author describes six other exercises and practices in order to guide supervisors in creating a self-compassionate learning environment and, as a result, instill self-compassion into CITs.

Fearnley, B. (2020). Enhancing social work student learning: Converging Bronfenbrenner, Bourdieu and practice learning. Social Work Education: The International Journal, 39(2), 214–226. doi:10.1080/02615479.2019.1618258

Providing students with support throughout their field placement is essential and can be accomplished in different ways. As a practice educator, it is important to offer support that will enhance a student’s learning and development. In this article, the author utilizes Bronfenbrenner’s ecological approach and Bourdieu’s habitus, capital, and field in order to provide practice educators with a model that offers students support in their learning, development, and preparation for future practice.

To start, the author describes the two frameworks that his model is based on. At the core of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological approach are structures called the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. His approach describes how individuals develop and evolve based on the interactions they have with each system. The author then explains that Bourdieu’s three principles are interconnected; an individual’s habitus (or internalized characteristics that contributes towards how they think or feel) and their access to and possession of capital (or their recognized knowledge) determines where they are situated in the field, which is the social and institutional places a person may be socially positioned.

The author provides specific details on how these two frameworks converge within a student’s field placement. If a field educator applies these two constructs, they have a greater chance of gaining an understanding of the student, which will enable the educator to effectively support learning and development. By converging the two concepts, a scaffolding learning approach is developed with three objectives. The first objective involves the practice educator building a relationship with the student. In doing so, the practice educator will recognize the intersectionality between the student’s ecology, and their habitus and capital. As a result, they will learn how to provide focused support and guidance. The second objective involves observing the students’ development of self-awareness in which the student learns how “their ecologies of self, including their habitus and capital” significantly impact their professional development and interactions with service users (p. 8). Finally, the third objective involves the student applying Bronfenbrenner’s and Bourdieu’s concepts to their field practice and discussing these applications together in supervision. In conclusion, the three-tiered scaffolding approach based on Bronfenbrenner and Bourdieu’s theoretical frameworks provides practice educators with the tools to gain a deeper understanding of their students and enables them to offer specialized support in students’ professional learning and development.

Jones, C. T., Welfare, L. E., Melchior, S., & Cash, R. M. (2019). Broaching as a strategy for intercultural understanding in clinical supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 38(1), 1–16. doi:10.1080/07325223.2018.1560384

The supervisory relationship can play a crucial role in the overall internship experience. The authors suggest that a strong supervisory relationship is related to supervisee development, satisfaction, engagement in supervision, willingness to share openly, and better client outcomes. When considering the different factors that can impact the development of a bond between a supervisor and supervisee, the authors shed light on how the social and cultural identities of each individual play a role in the relationship. For instance, when supervisors discuss cultural identity with supervisees of color, the supervisees found the conversation beneficial, decreased their discomfort, and increased their “sense of agency within the relationship” (p. 3). Moreover, when these conversations occur, “the supervisory working alliance is strengthened” and the counseling skills of supervisees are improved, leading to positive client outcomes (p. 4).

Based on these results, the authors suggest an approach to supervisors who are interested in leading discussions of social and cultural identities with supervisees. This approach is known as broaching, which is defined as “an ongoing behavior, attitude, and strategy that counselors use to address and examine the cultural factors impacting a client’s life and/or presenting problem” (p. 5). Though the authors suggest that the best time to begin the broaching process is during the first two sessions, they acknowledge that all supervisors are at different levels of the broaching process. For this reason, the authors provided information on Day-Vines et al. (2007) continuum of five broaching styles, which range from a less involved to more involved broaching style. This continuum starts with an avoidant style, which is strictly focusing on supervisory concerns rather than including culture-related discussion, then progresses into an isolating style, a continuing/incongruent style, an integrated/congruent style, and ends with an infusing broaching style, which involves a supervisor who is “committed to social justice and equality in a way that transcends their professional work” (p. 7).

Depending on the level a supervisor is on within the continuum, broaching will look different between supervisory relationships. Regardless, the authors describe what broaching should look like within supervision. For example, the authors explain that broaching a discussion about social and cultural identities does not mean you are strictly discussing world events or information about a specific cultural group, though discussions may include these topics. Instead, broaching enables supervisors and supervisees to have a discussion on how their identities impact their supervisory relationship. Moreover, the authors emphasize the importance of the supervisor being responsible for starting the conversation as well as being open and self-aware. Finally, the authors note that some supervisees will have different reactions to broaching. However, the key to the broaching process is consistency. To help start the broaching process, the authors offer three tables of prompts that range in broaching styles and the stage supervisors are in on the broaching continuum.