Abstract: Supervising Information Communication Technologies in Social Work Practice: A Mixed Methods Study (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Supervising Information Communication Technologies in Social Work Practice: A Mixed Methods Study

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Liberty Ballroom I, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Karen Sewell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Jane Sanders, PhD, Assistant Professor, King's University College at Western, London, ON, Canada
Faye Mishna, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Marion Bogo, MSW, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Betsy Milne, BA, Research Assistant, Munk School of Global Affairs
Andrea Greenblatt, PhD Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose: Supervision of social workers is both an important contributor to ongoing professional development and supports the provision of effective client services within an organization. These goals are achieved through supervisory activities and discussions, taking place within the supervisory relationship. The integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is ubiquitous across clinical social work practice, yet this integration is not often discussed in supervision. Moreover, this integration accelerated in response to Covid-19, as organizations embraced ICTs at an unprecedented rate. This presentation will highlight findings from a mixed-methods study of Canadian social workers and their discussion of ICT use in supervision.

Methods: We employed a mixed-methods research design, involving surveys and interviews, to explore ICT discussions in supervision. The study received IRB approval. The following research questions were addressed: 1) What factors predict social workers' discussion of informal ICT use with clients in supervision (quantitative)?; and 2) What factors do social workers consider in disclosing informal ICT use in supervision, and if they do, how do they experience the discussion (qualitative)?

The quantitative survey (n=948) was distributed May to December 2017, through Canadian regulatory bodies, social work associations, professional email lists, snowball methods and social media. The qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews (n=22) between April 2019 and June 2020. Social workers were purposively recruited for the interviews from agencies representing diverse client populations.

Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive, bivariate, and logistic regression analyses. Qualitative data analysis followed Braun and Clarke’s six phases of reflexive thematic analysis: familiarization with the data, coding, generating themes, reviewing themes, naming and defining themes, and writing the report. We employed methods to increase credibility and trustworthiness.

Results: The majority of study participants (63.2%) reported discussing their ICT use in supervision, yet over one third of participants (36.8%) indicated not having these conversations. Having an agency policy related to ICT use and the type of practice setting were the only statistically significant factors related to ICT discussion in supervision. Participants with an agency policy were twice as likely to discuss ICT use in supervision. Participants working in a child welfare practice setting were almost five times as likely to discuss ICT use than social workers in hospital settings. Three themes were generated from interview data related to social workers’ considerations in discussing ICT use with their supervisors: 1) messaging from the supervisor, 2) supervisory direction for work, and 3) the need to inform. Each theme had two dimensions related to deciding whether or not to discuss ICT use in supervision. Limitations of the study will be shared.

Conclusions: The findings present a picture of supervisory ICT discussion that is highly dependent on organizational policy and supervisors’ interpretation of these policies. The organizational setting was also predictive of ICT discussion in supervision. Qualitative findings further highlighted the importance of the supervisory relationship based on supervisor qualities and availability. Supervisors require the knowledge and skills necessary to provide comprehensive supervision and advocate for policies to protect and support social workers and their clients.