Peer group supervision in a lay counselling context.
Supervision is a core prerequisite for the registration and ongoing education and professional development of various levels of mental health care workers in a South African context. There is, however, a dearth of South African literature that pertains to the supervision of such workers. It would appear that the dominant form of supervision of practice is dyadic, but such supervision is resource intense. This study explores a structured model of peer group supervision (PGS model) as a possible alternative to individual supervision. As the PGS model is in a preliminary, developmental phase, this research is also an exploratory investigation. The main aim of this study was to explore how a group of experienced, voluntary lay counsellors, working under the auspices of a national, non-governmental mental health agency utilised and evaluated the PGS model. Four peer group sessions were held with the group of ten lay counsellors, in their usual site of practice. A focus group discussion was then held, followed by the participants completing a semi-structured questionnaire. The intention of this research design was that the participants' perspectives be given priority in this investigation. The concurrent collection and analysis of data was achieved by employing a qualitative, interpretive grounded theory methodology (Addison, 1989). The findings considered the way in which the group utilised the PGS model, and examined the participants' experiences. The group of lay counsellors were enthusiastic about the potential for the PGS model to offer them a forum to collaboratively discuss and assist each other with their casework. The findings were then integrated with the literature pertaining to peer group supervision, as well as ideas from a variety of sources that discuss the construction of optimal learning encounters. The findings were then discussed from a perspective of situated cognition and the notions of local knowledge and communities of practice were used to propose a deeper understanding of the experiences of the group. This research undertaking resulted in the participants making some recommendations for the adaptation of the PGS model. Further recommendations for both the application of the PGS model and for research into supervisory practice are made.