“Talk to supervisor” It seems like these have become the go-to bar of choice. To my knowledge, nobody who’s currently on the list has called or come by trying to meet with me, yet people continue getting added to it, so it grows and grows. I believe that the “Talk to supervisor” bars that have been coming up are really a decision to not decide. Maybe Staff doesn’t want to talk to the client directly? Maybe Staff isn’t comfortable setting a bar expiration date? Maybe Staff doesn’t understand that they can both bar for a set time AND require the client to meet with me before receiving services? I don’t know. So, we’re going to try an experiment, or an exercise, if you prefer. Starting today, I am putting a 1-month moratorium on “Talk to supervisor bars. “We’ll talk about how this went at next staff meeting and decide at that time if we’ll put the option back on the table.
I found the above email in my clinical supervision bin. It still makes me cringe all these years later. This is NOT a good example of how to be a supervisor. The above was happening as the supervisor never provided any leadership. For those who work as front line social workers in Community Mental Health settings, maintaining a safe and respectful space for clients and staff should be a high priority. A bar policy is intended to help staff stay consistent in both simple and complex situations.
The question that should be outlined by a supervisor and understood by staff is:
What warrants a bar? Interruption of services, mission, and safety are the main criterion for barring.
Types of Bars? All offenses are not created equally, so there should be more then one bar. The system I have seen working best is:
- Regular Bar: This is ideal for clients who visit the program daily.
- Deny Once: Denying a client services one time is a common and effective method of delayed bar.
- Delayed Bar: A delayed bar begins the next time the client comes for services. There are three different scenarios that warrant a delayed bar:
- When the community violation is severe.
- When the client does not visit the program every day.
- When the client exits the program before staff can inform them of violation.
How to Deliver the Bad News it’s important for staff to discuss when they will tell the client. The safety of the staff and clients come first,
- Tell a client when they are leaving the program.
- Tell a client when they return on their next visit or call to make an appt.
- Tell a client in the moment.
How to Avoid a Bar
- Ask client to go take a walk or a break for a few minutes.
- Ask client to stay in one part of the program – away from the area of conflict.
- Ask client to leave for the day and reassure them they can return tomorrow.