Methods: We followed the five steps of Arksey & O’Malley (2005)’s scoping review framework: identifying research questions, identifying relevant studies, selecting studies, charting/extracting the data, and collating, summarizing and reporting results. Guided by our scoping review protocol, we identified relevant studies through searching seven databases using the concepts of human service professions (e.g., social work, mental health professionals) and supervis*. We enhanced rigor and transparency through adhering to the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews reporting guideline.
Results: The database search resulted in 16 843 records. Removing duplicates, each title and abstract of 8692 articles was screened by two research team members, resulting in 998 articles which were independently full text screened by two team members. Database searches resulted in 160 articles, with 15 additional studies identified through reference lists. A total of 175 articles were included.
Most studies were conducted in United States (57%, n=100), with 49% (n=85) authored by social work scholars. Studies employed quantitative (68%, n=119), qualitative (20%, n=35), and mixed methods designs (12%, n=21). Many studies were conducted within settings qualifying as child and family services (32%, n=56), or behavioral and mental health (21%, n=37).
We found a wide range of supervision constructs examined (n=192). These include supervisory support (23%, n=45), relationship (11%, n=21), and supervision frequency (9%, n=17). Of particular importance, only 14 articles (8%) defined, measured, and specified what supervision meant for the reported study, and only 26% of supervisory measurement constructs used validated measures. Of organizational outcomes reported, job satisfaction was the most reported outcome (34.2%, n=26), and validated measures were used in 45.8% (n=120) of the quantitative outcome evaluations.
Studies found supervision had an ameliorative impact 63.6% of the time (n=220), as compared with detrimental impact only 2.6% of the time (n=9). Supervision had a mixed impact on 12.7% (n=44) of organizational outcomes, and a neutral or non-significant impact on 21.0% (n=73) of outcomes.
Conclusion and Implications: This scoping review contributes an understanding of the outcomes of supervision for social work and human services in the available literature. Findings support the value of supervision for practitioners and organizations, although methodological concerns plague the empirical literature and limit resulting implications. We make recommendations for future research.