In 2006 I burned out. Hit the wall. I’m not sure where my head went, but it went!

Photo courtesy ©123rf/Sakda Saetiew (adapted)

Photo courtesy ©123rf/Sakda Saetiew (adapted)

The reason? The work. Dealing with sexual abuse all day, everyday.
Pressure, responsibility, volume, seriousness, risk, concern… All of it. I just ran out of steam.

The answer? Better supervision…

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Before I get to writing about clinical supervision (coming soon…), I want to establish the need and address some things we can do to help ourselves first.

Learning the hard way…

My wife and my friends will tell you the truth about me – “he’s a bit ADHD,” or, “ he’s very high energy.” Someone saying, “I don’t know how you get it all done” isn’t unusual for me. It’s who I am.
So when things went pear-shaped and I got sick and just stopped dead in my tracks, they were worried.  I was worried.
Here’s why:

  • I was exhausted but couldn’t get to sleep.
    Photo courtesy ©123rf/Robert Red

    Photo courtesy ©123rf/Robert Red

  • Wasn’t eating properly (and I like my grub!)
  • Stopped doing the things I love in my spare time.
  • Felt weak and drained and had no energy.
  • Headaches, irritability, neck and shoulder pain.
  • Couldn’t face the thought of work, let alone going in and doing it
  • Yet found myself ruminating about kids, cases and decisions…
  • My body ached, my mind was numb and I had no motivation or energy for anything


Something had to give…

I’ve written before about some of the practical steps I took to address all this. I had to change a few things to make my working week more bearable. Managing my time better, spreading out my leave, etc.
But there was something about the nature of the work that required another solution. And something more than the normal agency management supervision.
Working with other people’s problems is challenging. It’s also very draining. We get affected by the trauma and difficulties our service users face.
That’s why we need clinical supervision.
Click to get your free e-book: Connecting with Troubled Young People’…

Decisions, deadlines & dilemmas…

Management supervision doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s mainly about decisions, deadlines and dilemmas. What we need is help with the way the work affects us personally, too – clinical supervision.
That’s where clinical supervision really scores. The focus is on how we and the work connect. How we affect the work and how the work affects us.
It’s a two-way street.
[shareable cite=”Jonny Matthew”]Management supervision is mainly about the work, not the worker – that’s why we need clinical supervision as well![/shareable]

Before clinical supervision…

Now, you and I know that organisations don’t easily part with their cash. Particularly in these days of austerity.
In a future post I’ll look at what clinical supervision is and how we can work to secure it.
In the meantime, how can we get the support we need? Here are a couple of things that might help (though won’t solve it on their own!)…

  • Set up a peer supervision session – say once a month? Do it at lunchtime if diaries don’t allow a formal slot during work time.
  • Work impact as a supervision agenda item – ask your management supervisor to agenda a discussion about the impact of the work each time you meet.
  • Set up a mastermind group  – a group of people with similar work interests – a kind of out-of-work-time peer support group. Check out this summary of how to set one up.

None of these will replace proper clinical supervision. But they can help by creating a forum to discuss the impact of the work. It can also help to hear about other people’s efforts to cope.
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There are a few other practical ideas to help you cope better – things I learned the hard way: click here.

Stop beating yourself up!

So, if you’re feeling the pressure and starting to wobble. If it feels like you’re always playing catch-up. If you worry about cases when you get home and can’t seem to throw it off…
Welcome to the club!  :0)
Working with troubled kids has that affect. It’s a normal reaction to an “abnormal” working environment.
So you can stop beating yourself up!
In the next week or two, I’ll be addressing clinical supervision itself… In the meantime, please comment below on your experiences of coping in tough situations.


  • What are your experiences of supportive – if not clinical – supervision?
  • Is there anything you can do – practically – to ease the load you’re carrying at work?

Please let me know – join the conversation by leaving a comment below or by clicking here.


Need a book on supervision? This is the best in my view. It’s pricey, but worth every penny – and more:
Morrison T (2001) Staff Supervision in Social Care: Making a real difference for staff and service users. Pavilion Publishing Ltd: Southampton

Related previous posts…

To get all these posts in one place, plus more, check out my eBook: Looking After No.1 – Self-Care for People Working with Troubled Children

Photo courtesy of © 123rf/Ion Chiosea (adapted)

Photo courtesy of © 123rf/Ion Chiosea (adapted)

Learn more about Looking After No.1 – click here…
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© Jonny Matthew 2015

Disclosure of material connection: The above book links is an “affiliate link.” This means that if you click the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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