Clinical Supervisor Resources - Placements in Mental Health Settings
There are a range of resources available to make clinical education in the mental health setting a success, including training for the educator, training for the student, practical hints, and formal guidelines.
Clinical Supervision and Placement Guides
The Mental Health Coordinating Council’s Practice Placements in the Community Managed Mental Health Sector project
The Practice Placements in Community Managed Mental Health Sector Placement Guide was written to address the growing requirements of community based student placements. This practical guide provides details on the practice placement process, how to structure a placement and some information for the organisation, student and clinical educator.
Some of the tools included in this resource include:
- Organisational Profile Template to be given to the student prior to placement start
- Practice placement expectation template to clarify practice placement expectations
- Placement policy and procedure document to alleviate anxieties and clarify roles.
The Occupational Therapy Practice Education Collaborative - Queensland
The Occupational Therapy Practice Education Collaborative - Queensland (OTPEC-Q) aims to provide strategic leadership for quality practice education that reflects contemporary occupational therapy practice. Although designed for the Occupation Therapy discipline, resources on this site can also be considered in a broader allied health placement education perspective. In the near future it will release a 'Mental Health Placement Resource Kit', which may assist clinical educators plan and facilitate placements in the mental health setting
Clinical Supervision Support across contexts
Clinical supervision support across contexts reports on the experiences with using an online learning module for supervising students in the mental health setting, including evidence based recommendations and videos to assist with your learning. Note that the focus of this module is acute illness in an inpatient setting.
Clinical Supervision Guidelines for Mental Health Services, as part of the Queensland Plan for Mental Health 2007 – 2017
For overarching principles of supervising Allied Health clinicians in the Mental Health setting, Queensland Health (2009) completed the Clinical Supervision Guidelines for Mental Health Services as part of the Queensland Plan for Mental Health 2007 – 2017. The Clinical Supervision Guidelines for Mental Health Services provides a standardised, generic and flexible statewide approach to clinical supervision for all mental health professionals involved in mental health service delivery. Some of the information in the staff based guidelines can be adapted to the student context but an awareness that fundamentally this resource is aimed at a qualified staff level is also necessary.
Supervisor’s toolkit for Mental Health practitioners
The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Learning (2008) also compiled a supervisor’s toolkit for Mental Health practitioners. This kit has a comprehensive collection of self-administered scales that can be used to assess readiness for supervision, evaluation of supervisor, supervisee and the supervision itself. Suggested templates for supervision agreements and agendas are also included. Though predominantly for the supervision of clinicians and not students, it may be a good place to start for self-evaluation with respect to your own skills and needs prior to taking on a student.
The first week of placement is the primary time to build a safe and accountable environment for the student to learn. A thorough orientation is imperative, and generic allied health student orientation resources can be found at:
- Deciding to offer a clinical education placement
- Preparing for a clinical education placement
- At the start of placement
Resources specific to the mental health setting include:
In addition to generic orientation resources and procedures, additional considerations in the mental health practice context can include:
- Self disclosure
- Managing emotions in sensitive situations
Students may be confronted by strong emotional reactions when exposed to sensitive situations, and as such reach a level of discomfort not often felt in the professional realm. The student may need to bring more self-awareness and emotional maturity to this setting but may not be ready to, reacting in a number of ways. When faced with discomfort, Pisani (2005, p. 31) asserts that trainees have a universal tendency to self-disclose to their supervisors early in the relationship. She calls such disclosures “confessions” and suggests they may be intended to: 1.) test the supervisor’s ability to accept the student; and 2.) define the parameters of the supervisory experience. If you maintain an acute awareness of this early in the placement and are able to address it, the supervisory experience can be positive from the outset. Supporting a student to be open and honest about their reactions while maintaining a level of professionalism, can provide them with the confidence to proceed throughout the remainder of a placement.
A sample ‘practice placement orientation checklist’ available in the Mental Health Coordinating Council’s Practice Placements in the Community Managed Mental Health Sector project placement guide
Safety considerations will vary across settings but must be prioritised early in the student placement. Listen to Hazel Bassett, an experienced Mental Health Occupational Therapist and Clinical Educator, describe key safety considerations when taking a student in a Mental Health Setting.
Which of the areas outlined might be relevant in your practice setting? Does your workplace have any safety considerations that need to be addressed? How would you open a discussion regarding the parameters of supervision? Is there already a resource, structure or network within your workplace that might help you achieve acceptance early in the placement experience? Sign in to complete this reflective activity as part of your CPD log below
When transitioning from the University based learning environment to the clinical environment, students can be impeded by feelings of anxiety relating to being in an unfamiliar environment. Once a strong working relationship has been established, students may like to guide the flow of placement. Given this opportunity, students may gain a sense of empowerment and feel more at ease with the tasks ahead of them. Supervisors could ask the student ‘what would you like to achieve today?’ ‘How are we going to achieve that?’ Remember the SMART goals principles? They work with students too!
Resources to support student goal setting in mental health practice contexts
The Mental Health Coordinating Council’s Practice Placements in the Community Managed Mental Health Sector project placement guide has provided a template for setting and measuring objectives for students on placement that can be used to evaluate the goals that were set initially at the end of a student placement.
Consider your own practice. What unique opportunities does your clinic provide? Make a list and discuss these opportunities with your student. Ask your student to link their identified learning goals with the learning opportunities that your clinic can offer. Sign in to complete this reflective activity as part of your CPD log below
General principles of giving feedback can be applied to students on placement within a mental health setting. Additionally, within the Mental Health area there are four major skill areas that comprise the focus of supervision: process (intervention) skills, conceptualisation skills, personalisation skills and professional skills. By breaking supervision down into these focus areas, you and your student are provided with a framework so that you can target your feedback and offer a discrete method to identify your student’s strengths and challenges.
Along with formal assessment of competencies that are provided by the universities, evaluation of the mental health placement is a valuable process to ensure successful outcomes continue in the future. The Mental Health Coordinating Council’s Practice Placements in the Community Managed Mental Health Sector project placement guide have provided a template for overall practice evaluation, Placement Educator Feedback – from a student, and Placement Educator Feedback – University perspective.
Also refer to the ‘End of Placement’ section of this website for general resources to assist with evaluation.
- Mental Health Coordinating Council (2013). Practice Placement Guide: Mental Health Workforce Professional Entry Practice Placements in the NSW Community Managed Mental Health Sector – a NSW Pilot Study. MHCC, Sydney. http://mhcc.org.au/media/11009/ppp-placement-guide-final-2013.pdf
- Pisani, A. (2005). Talk to me: Supervisee disclosure in supervision. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 75 (1), 29.
- Pearson, Q. (2004). Getting the Most Out of Clinical Supervision: Strategies for Mental Health. Journal of Mental Health Counselling, 26(4), 361-373.
- Clinical Supervision Guidelines for Mental Health Services (2009), Retrieved from Queensland Health: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/qcmhl/supervision_res
- Queensland Centre for Mental Health Learning (2008). Supervision Training 2008 - Supervisor Toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.health.qld.gov.au/qcmhl/Supervision/SuperTool.pdf