Methods: We reviewed data collected from a convenience sample of twenty-three (n=23) clinical social work supervisors who have or had provided post-graduate supervision for at least five years prior to data collection. Thematic analysis was selected for this research for the purpose of identifying specific types, patterns, and themes of social justice behaviors that are mentored during clinical social work supervision.
Results: Three unique foci of social justice practice were identified during the analysis: relational dynamics, opportunities for critical conversations, and advocacy and policy change. Relational dynamics included, but were not limited, subsets of behaviors which demonstrated openness and appreciation for supervisee’s identity, ethnic and cultural background, power dynamics, and the co-development of supervision goals, which moderated positions of power within the supervisory relationship. Opportunities for critical conversations primarily included reflexivity and awareness of supervisor and supervisee privilege positions, and introduction of social justice topics. Advocacy and policy change issues were primarily focused on critical considerations of oppressive administrative and public policies, their impact on clients, supervisee leadership, and promoting accessibility to services.
Implications: Findings provide a clearer picture of the specific and practical ways in which social work clinical supervisors introduce, discuss, and model practice behaviors that promote social justice. The identified themes provide valuable insight for practitioners and supervisors who want to increase awareness and competency of social justice-focused clinical social work. Within the supervisory context, these themes can help to guide the development of a social justice-informed framework that will leverage practice behaviors consistent with core social work values. Implications for future research, post-graduate education, supervisory practices are discussed.