Variations of consultation type and focus allow for focused inspiration for consultees.
In phase 4 – method choice – of the six-phase process structure of peer group supervision, the case presenter and the peer group agree on a consultation module. With its focus and rules, it shapes the way in which the peer group members in phase 5 – consultation – shape their contributions.
The following six consultation modules are taken from a total collection of 20 consultation modules for creative and useful solutions which can be found in the handbook for peer group supervision.
Hypotheses are assumptions and attributions about meanings, intentions, contexts, developments or influences about phenomena in our everyday lives. The hypotheses we have about other people, interactions, relationships, and constellations seem valid and plausible to us. In practice situations, we perceive, experience, evaluate and act according to our own hypotheses.
Newly developed hypotheses may provide interesting starting points for other evaluations and solutions. They help the case presenter to re-evaluate own experiences and assessments through those different perspectives and to gain new insights and approaches for change.
The peer group develops alternating hypotheses for aspects of the presented case, concerning for example the intentions of people involved, plausible interpretations of events, or explanations for actions. Their assumptions begin with: »A possible hypothesis could be …«.
Case presentations trigger various reactions and responses in the peer group, either through the way they are presented or through what is being said. In a sounding board session, the peer group reflects what has been triggered during the case presentation – they let their evoked feelings »speak«: »Listening to you, I got a sense of …« Desirably, the peer group talks about individual emotional responses and their triggers instead of general thoughts, advice, or hypotheses concerning the case situation.
The expressed emotions might help the case presenter to gain more clarity on one’s own confusion regarding their case-related experience, which might cause diffuse feelings in oneself. Each shared response might be a clue for the case presenter as to which emotion might be triggered by the case. By this, the case presenter often feels appreciated and supported.
Unsolicited advice often triggers unwillingness. The consultation module »good advice« instead encourages the peer group to share well-meant and maybe even unusual advice. By choosing this consultation module, the case presenter explicitly allows the peer group to give »good advice«.
The peer group is supposed to express their advice in a direct way, for example »I would like to give you the advice …«, »I recommend …«, or »My advice for you would be to …« This stresses that this is not supposed to be any kind of hidden advice, so the case presenter may autonomously choose to follow or reject the given advice*. Expressing advice in an appreciative way helps the case presenter to focus on what is being said.
* See also: Kuechler, C. F. & Barretta-Herman, A. (1998). The consultation circle: A technique for facilitating peer consultation. The Clinical Supervisor, 17(1), 83–93.
When the case presenter has troubles understanding the positions or actions from other people involved in the work case, the peer group can make presumptions about those ›others‹ and how they might perceive the whole situation and the case presenter’s actions.
During »Identification«, the peer group take on the roles of ›others‹ mentioned during the case presentation. They speak from the ›others’‹ points of view about their perspectives on the situation or about their view on the case presenter. At the beginning, the case presenter suggests the order in which the peer group lets one of the ›others‹ speak after each other.
While listening to the ›others‹, the case presenter assesses whether the perspectives shared could be meaningful and inspiring for the case and what impact these ideas could have on the way they handle and take the case forward in the future.
The peer group develops paradoxical suggestions for the way how the case presenter may deal with the case situation from now own. In this way, they create new and even unusual perspectives for a situation that might be perceived as gridlocked. This helps the case presenter to change the way of thinking and assessment on the whole case situation and to become more open again.
Initially, the key question from the case presenter is being phrased in the opposite direction, literally topsy-turvy. For example: Instead of asking »How can I help Mrs Paulsen to get important tasks done with more focus?«, an ›upside-down‹ key question could be: »How can I help Mrs Paulsen to get less important tasks done?« Then, the peer group shares ›upside down‹ suggestions about how the case presenter could worsen the case situation through thoughts, assessments, or actions.
Some of the more relevant suggestions can be re-phrased by the peer group, so they can land »back on their feet« again.
Actstorming* is an appropriate approach when the case presenter needs ideas for expressions or verbatim sentences for a planned meeting or encounter. The peer group suggests phrases which the case presenter might use to achieve a desired outcome in the interaction. For example: »How can I confront Mr Wilms with something that bothers me without him putting up walls?«
The pre-condition for Actstorming is a specific planned meeting, i.e. the case narrator knows who will be invited and what will be their goal of this encounter.
During Actstorming, peer members alternately share phrases that are supposed to contribute to an achievement of the case narrator’s goal for the encounter. Sharing different approaches or styles – i.e. being very direct or rather diplomatic – is absolutely desired within this consultation module. The case presenter lets all the suggestions sink in and then evaluates what seems the most suitable or useful.
* Inspired by: Redlich, A. (1994). Berufsbezogene Supervision in Gruppen. Band 19 der Materialien aus der Arbeitsgruppe Beratung und Training. Fachbereich Psychologie der Universität Hamburg.
For those who want to set up a group to practise peer group supervision effectively, this book provides step-by-step instructions, proven methods and many practical examples.