Q&A with the trainer: Trauma-informed supervision

Feb 2024

Written by Billy Black Noel Macnamara

Over the recent decades, we have seen leaps in research and practice promoting the importance of taking a holistic trauma-informed approach to caring for children and young people with trauma. As recognition of trauma-informed care continues to grow, it’s becoming increasingly important to turn some of that attention to supporting those that have dedicated themselves to working with trauma-exposed children and young people.

Noel Macnamara, Deputy Director of the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care, has run several popular workshops on the topic of trauma-informed supervision, equipping supervisors to support direct care workers facing the inevitable challenges of working closely with trauma.

I caught up with Noel to find out more about his workshop and why trauma-informed supervision is such an important ingredient of a trauma-informed approach to care.

 

 

Hello, Noel! Firstly, what is trauma-informed supervision?
Trauma-informed supervision is a way to support staff and carers who are exposed to the trauma experiences of those they are working with and caring for. It helps to mitigate against the impact of secondary trauma and offers a space for staff to explore the impact of secondary stress.

And why is it so important for supervisors to take a trauma-informed approach with their supervisee care workers?
Understanding trauma and the impact of trauma for clients and those working with children and young people is essential. Without this understanding, the expectations and decisions that a supervisor make will be flawed and the results of these flaws will manifest as disconnections in the supervisor and supervisee relationship and the relationship between the supervisee and the client.

Some workers out there may feel like this level of supervision is not worth the time or trouble since they are not suffering from trauma themselves. Do you think trauma-informed supervision is necessary for all care workers?
To work with those who have lived experience of trauma is to expose yourself to the pain and suffering of others. The empathic approach requires that you open yourself to that pain and suffering. That means, at some time, you will be affected vicariously by the very nature and impact of the trauma on the life of the child.

What led you to realise how important this is, for supervisors to be trauma-informed?
When I stopped thinking of trauma as something that affected “other people”, called “clients”, and realised the innate humanness of us all: professionals, clients, parents, carers, managers, and CEOs.

The trauma-informed supervision training workshop you run is always so popular! Why do you think that is?
The overwhelming majority of supervisors and frontline managers that I know want to do the very best that they can to support and educate the staff that they are responsible for. Also, it is now recognised more clearly than ever before that secondary trauma is an occupational issue and not a personal flaw.

You’re running the next workshop on trauma-informed supervision on the 21st February, is there anything new that returning participants can look forward to?
The workshop this time will have a stronger focus on supervision strategies and processes, to ensure that trauma-informed approaches remain at the forefront of practice when working with children and young people who have experienced trauma.

Thanks Noel!

If you are interested in registering for the upcoming session on trauma-informed session, you can click here to find out more and reserve your spot.

For more information on trauma-informed supervision, check out our free practice guide to understanding secondary traumatic stress and staff well-being.

You may be interested in: Care teams Supervision Therapeutic care Therapeutic specialist Trauma-informed care

What are the 10 essential elements of the Intensive Therapeutic Care System in NSW?
What are the 10 essential elements of the Intensive Therapeutic Care System in NSW?
Concepts of ‘complexity’ and ‘evidence’ are often heard in discussions that seek to find ways to better meet the needs of traumatised young people requiring more intensive forms of care....
Read more
An emerging paradigm - Welcome to our new therapeutic care blog
An emerging paradigm - Welcome to our new therapeutic care blog
Over the past two decades, the term therapeutic care has emerged as a new paradigm used to integrate constructs that had traditionally been considered separate – therapeutic processes and the...
Read more
Coaching and mentoring - The art of giving feedback - Practice guide
Coaching and mentoring - The art of giving feedback - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to support Therapeutic Specialists and Supervisors in Intensive Therapeutic Care in NSW in their development and support of staff. It is a companion to the...
Read more
A model for coaching staff in Intensive Therapeutic Care: A guide for therapeutic specialists and supervisors - Practice guide
A model for coaching staff in Intensive Therapeutic Care: A guide for therapeutic specialists and supervisors - Practice guide
This guide has been developed for use by Therapeutic Specialists and Supervisors who have a role in supporting and developing the practice of staff. It covers the critical elements of...
Read more
What is effective therapeutic care? Research brief
What is effective therapeutic care? Research brief
This research briefing is an introduction to therapeutic care as a preferred response for children and young people who have experienced complex trauma and are unable to live at home....
Read more
The evidence base for therapeutic group  care:  A systematic scoping review - Research brief
The evidence base for therapeutic group care: A systematic scoping review - Research brief
The NSW Government has undertaken major reforms over the past two years aimed at improving outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care. Following a review by Verso Consulting...
Read more
The role of emotions in therapeutic care
The role of emotions in therapeutic care
The role of emotions within human service work may at first glance appear to be intuitively obvious and incontestable. Indeed, Howe (2008) described the day of a human service worker...
Read more
The needs of LGBTIQ young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
The needs of LGBTIQ young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
Young people who are same sex attracted, trans or gender diverse – a population who will be referred to in this document as LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and...
Read more
Staying on your game as a therapeutic specialist
Staying on your game as a therapeutic specialist
What follows is a mixture of tips, reminders, encouragement and hopefully a little bit of inspiration. Start with your “why" - Knowing your why is a key essential to success...
Read more
Safety from the outside to the inside
Safety from the outside to the inside
At the recent Therapeutic Specialist’s forum, there was lots of discussion about the concept of physical and relational safety in Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC). We all agreed that it is...
Read more
Therapeutic residential workers? Who are we?
Therapeutic residential workers? Who are we?
This blog is to introduce my recent research with therapeutic residential workers. Further blogs and practice guides relating to finding, keeping, acknowledging and celebrating the best person for the job...
Read more
Vanessa Farrell interview: Therapeutic opportunities in the time of COVID-19
Vanessa Farrell interview: Therapeutic opportunities in the time of COVID-19
In this video, we talk to Vanessa Farrell Therapeutic Care Manager at Anglicare. I had the opportunity to hear Vanessa speak at a recent Therapeutic Specialist Community of Practice on...
Read more
Isaac's story: Having a voice in out-of-home care
Isaac's story: Having a voice in out-of-home care
Isaac is 15 years old, about 6ft tall, and you know when he is in the room. Isaac lives in his house with one other young person. Isaac experiences the...
Read more
Tahlia’s story: Having a voice in out-of-home care
Tahlia’s story: Having a voice in out-of-home care
Tahlia is a 16-year-old young woman who likes to be in complete control of her world at all times. She is as strong, articulate and as sassy as they come....
Read more
Care teams - Collaborative processes for creating healing and change - Practice guide
Care teams - Collaborative processes for creating healing and change - Practice guide
A care team approach is an essential element of therapeutic care. This guide has been developed to support the practice of collaboration and participation through Care Team processes of which...
Read more
The role of supervision in the trauma-informed journey
The role of supervision in the trauma-informed journey
The intention of trauma-informed practice and care is an increased understanding of how present behaviours and difficulties can be understood in the context of past trauma. The approach offers a...
Read more
Understanding and supporting young people who self-harm in residential care
Understanding and supporting young people who self-harm in residential care
Some of the young people we care for in the ITC programs deal with emotional distress and pain by hurting themselves physically. Young people hurting themselves is distressing to them...
Read more
The role of praise in working with young people
The role of praise in working with young people
We can see each of our daily interactions with each of the young people we care for as bids for connection.  By choosing to turn toward, to turn away, or...
Read more
The healing power of friendship
The healing power of friendship
Can the friendships and connections that can develop in Intensive Residential Care be nurtured and grown rather than feared? I would like you to take a moment to think back...
Read more
Preventing self-harm among young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
Preventing self-harm among young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
Many young people in out-of-home care are at an elevated risk of self-harm and suicidality. The reasons range from early exposure to abuse, disconnection from family, instability of their living...
Read more
How do you support staff feeling defeated and powerless? A Case Study
How do you support staff feeling defeated and powerless? A Case Study
My work as a Therapeutic Specialist is about finding ways to equip and support staff to provide high-quality therapeutic care for young people living in Intensive Therapeutic Care homes. It...
Read more
The 10 essential elements of Intensive Therapeutic Care NSW - Practice guide
The 10 essential elements of Intensive Therapeutic Care NSW - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to describe the 10 Essential Elements that form the basis for Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) service provision in NSW. The 10 Essential Elements have been...
Read more
Vicarious trauma and secondary stress in therapeutic residential care - Research brief
Vicarious trauma and secondary stress in therapeutic residential care - Research brief
It is generally accepted that child welfare professionals are at high risk of experiencing vicarious trauma: the manifestation of traumatic symptoms resulting from working with individuals who, themselves, have encountered...
Read more
What works? Promising practices to support young people who self-harm
What works? Promising practices to support young people who self-harm
Why do young people in out of home care self-harm? What are the best predictors of suicide and self-harm? What really works when supporting young people who self-harm in out-of-home...
Read more
Q&A with Cate Keady from the Elver Program
Q&A with Cate Keady from the Elver Program
Since 2018, Cate Keady has worked within the Department of Communities and Justice to establish and manage the Intensive Support Services Elver Program - in partnership with South Western Sydney...
Read more
What makes a good therapeutic residential care worker? Practice guide
What makes a good therapeutic residential care worker? Practice guide
Trained staff and consistent rostering are essential elements of therapeutic residential care. The purpose of this guide is to consider more broadly what makes an excellent therapeutic residential care worker...
Read more
Achieving effective supervision – Games that supervisors play
Achieving effective supervision – Games that supervisors play
In the previous blog, we discussed how easy it is for the supervisor/supervisee relationship to be consciously or sub-consciously ambushed by power/defensive game play. Kadushin (1968) described games as repetitive...
Read more
A story you may recognise
A story you may recognise
Peta had worked in residential care for 18 months. She took the position because she had had a difficult childhood and she felt that she had a lot to offer...
Read more
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2
In the first part of the Blog, we explored limit and expectation setting, maintaining a state of occupancy and the planning process for a successful transition. In part two of...
Read more
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 1
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 1
This is a two-part blog and will focus on the transition of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house; however, most of the content is transferrable to other placement...
Read more
Reflections on the therapeutic specialist forum
Reflections on the therapeutic specialist forum
Last month, 40 Therapeutic Specialists from a range of organisation’s gathered in Sydney for the annual Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) Therapeutic Specialist Forum. Across two days participants engaged in workshops,...
Read more
Changing your practice to being trauma informed in therapeutic residential care
Changing your practice to being trauma informed in therapeutic residential care
Whilst the following Arabian proverb takes a bit to get your head around it leads rather nicely into this blog and our brief introduction on the relevance of the conscious...
Read more
Supporting children in out-of-home care to cope with ambiguous loss
Supporting children in out-of-home care to cope with ambiguous loss
When you think of grief and loss, what comes to your mind? You may think of the immense sorrow one may experience. For some of us, we can seek solace...
Read more
Client mix and client matching in therapeutic care - Practice guide
Client mix and client matching in therapeutic care - Practice guide
Client mix and the process of client matching is one of the 10 Essential Elements underpinning the Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) system in New South Wales. This guide has been...
Read more
Trauma-informed care - Research brief
Trauma-informed care - Research brief
This research briefing aims to define and clarify what trauma, complex trauma and trauma informed care are. Extensive literature has now surmised that exposure to adverse experiences such as child...
Read more
Trauma-informed relationship based recovery reflection tool
Trauma-informed relationship based recovery reflection tool
“Childhood trauma has the potential to interrupt the normal physical, physiological, emotional, mental and intellectual development, of children and can have wide-ranging, and often life-long implications for their health and...
Read more
Pulse check survey
Pulse check survey
The ITC Pulse Check Survey and Outcome Report provides a point-in-time reflection on the experiences of the reform process by ITC agency staff. To this end, the survey results clearly...
Read more
Secondary traumatic stress and staff well-being: understanding compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in therapeutic care - Practice guide
Secondary traumatic stress and staff well-being: understanding compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in therapeutic care - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to support organisational congruence and in the provision of trauma informed therapeutic care and the critical need for a well-supported, capable, and stable staff group...
Read more
Frequently asked questions by foster carers: Behaviours that challenge
Frequently asked questions by foster carers: Behaviours that challenge
In Australia, there are about 18 thousand children and young people in foster care. Most foster carers will be the first to tell you how rewarding it is – but...
Read more
12 ways foster and kinship carers can promote compassion and self-compassion in children and young people
12 ways foster and kinship carers can promote compassion and self-compassion in children and young people
What are Compassion and Self-Compassion?Compassion is the ability to feel and connect with the suffering of another human being, self-compassion is the ability to feel and connect with one’s own...
Read more
Christmas in residential care: It doesn’t need to be the most wonderful time of the year
Christmas in residential care: It doesn’t need to be the most wonderful time of the year
Christmas is a time of joy and celebration for many Australians, but it can also bring pressure and unrealistic expectations. The shops are decorated, Christmas songs are everywhere, and cheesy...
Read more
New years' resolutions and other goals for teens in care
New years' resolutions and other goals for teens in care
When I was a teen in care, I found the (well-intentioned) focus on my progress from case workers and other adults exhausting. If I tried hard, I made “progress”, but...
Read more
Trauma-sensitive family time is about connection and repair
Trauma-sensitive family time is about connection and repair
Relationships with family come with good times and challenges for everyone, but for children and young people in care, this birthright of family connection can often be deprioritised for the...
Read more
Trauma-informed care connects to children’s needs; trauma-informed carer training should connect to carers’ needs
Trauma-informed care connects to children’s needs; trauma-informed carer training should connect to carers’ needs
The CETC is thrilled to announce our new online course “Caring for Children and Young People with Trauma” is now live and free for all South Australian kinship and foster...
Read more
Can we provide trauma-informed care for children without changing our beliefs about their behaviour?
Can we provide trauma-informed care for children without changing our beliefs about their behaviour?
This blog article was written by Noel Macnamara, Executive Manager - Research and Policy and Deputy Director, Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care, CETC. There is a growing tendency to...
Read more
How are restrictive practices interpreted in therapeutic residential care?
How are restrictive practices interpreted in therapeutic residential care?
This blog article was written by Glenys Bristow,  Senior Specialist, Therapeutic Residential Care, CETC. Restrictive practice in therapeutic care The Royal Commision into Violence, Abuse and Exploitation of People with...
Read more
What do foster carers tell us about their support needs? - Research brief
What do foster carers tell us about their support needs? - Research brief
Foster carers are a crucial human resource in responding to children and young people who have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma. The design and implementation of foster care programs varies...
Read more
The role fear plays in the lives of children and young people in out-of-home care
The role fear plays in the lives of children and young people in out-of-home care
Fear is a fundamental human emotion triggered by a perceived threat. It serves as a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight, flight,...
Read more
Hard vs soft skills: which are more important in residential care work?
Hard vs soft skills: which are more important in residential care work?
Not everyone is suited to being a therapeutic residential worker. Working in therapeutic care requires special skills and qualities, some that can be taught or mentored, and others that are...
Read more
Hearts of Gold: Reflecting on Foster Care Week 2023
Hearts of Gold: Reflecting on Foster Care Week 2023
Foster Care Week, observed from September 10-16, is an annual celebration acknowledging the incredible contribution our volunteer foster carers make to the lives of children in out-of-home care. The theme...
Read more
Spotlight on a therapeutic specialist in out-of-home care - Jess Wright
Spotlight on a therapeutic specialist in out-of-home care - Jess Wright
Foster Care Week 2023, celebrated from September 10-16, is an annual celebration of foster carers and their supporters for the contributions they make to the lives of children, young people,...
Read more
Research Update: Understanding Relationships in Therapeutic Residential Care
Research Update: Understanding Relationships in Therapeutic Residential Care
The Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care (CETC) is engaged in ongoing research to understand how positive, trusting relationships and social connections can be fostered for young people in Therapeutic...
Read more
Meet the CareSouth team
Meet the CareSouth team
CareSouth was recently awarded the Outstanding Therapeutic Residential Care Team Award at Youth Action NSW's Youth Work Awards. The CETC proposed the new Outstanding Therapeutic Residential Care Team award category...
Read more
The effective and efficient approach to preventing placement breakdowns
The effective and efficient approach to preventing placement breakdowns
For children with complex trauma, the out-of-home care sector is more often reactive rather than proactive or preventative. Not many programs exist to provide significant early intervention support, as opposed...
Read more