Center for Healthy Interpreting
Center for Healthy Interpreting

What is supervision?

“ one becomes a critical thinker in two or even four years nor when they are left alone to practice independently – in a classroom or in a booth – without the provision for regular reflection amidst those who know and do the work.” 

--Robyn Dean, Street Leverage, April 3, 2012


Supervision is a mechanism by which practice professionals such as doctors, therapists or others who work with people, come together to discuss the issues, ethical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and otherwise, that arise during one’s work.  According to Robyn Dean and Robert Pollard, “interpreting, like medicine or law enforcement, is a practice profession involving a similar need to acknowledge the personal-professional balance and develop insightful judgment skills that take personal feelings into account, not deny them or view them as inappropriate or unethical.”[i]


In the mental health profession, the term supervision refers not to “oversight by one’s boss” or other such punitive concepts, but to discussions between practicing professionals (whether or not they are peers in terms of work experience or where they fit on the employment hierarchy), aimed at furthering the effectiveness of one of the professional’s work.  Supervision of this sort is a regular aspect of mental health professionals’ training and their ongoing professional development.  “Seeking supervision” on complex cases, ethical issues, etc., is a fundamental and common practice that all mental health professionals engage in.  In fact, ethical standards in the mental health professions mandate that such supervision be obtained whenever needed.  Failure to d so is considered an ethical breach.  Patient confidentiality is understood as applying to supervision, not in the sense that patient specifics cannot be discussed – they often must be – but in the sense that the confidentiality commitment the clinician makes to the patient is “extended” to include the individual providing supervision.  This perspective on the mandatory nature of peer supervision and the presumption that such confidential supervision is an extension of provider-consumer confidentiality is one that many interpreters find unusual, even uncomfortable, even though it is the norm among practice professionals.[ii]


[i] Dean, Robyn K.; Robert Q. Pollard and Mark Alan English. (2004) Observation-Supervision in Mental Health Interpreter Training.  University of Rochester Medical Center. p. 4.


[ii] Ibid


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