Rivista per le Medical Humanities

Graziano Martignoni
rMH 32, 2015, 11-12

Supervision, a practice in Social Humanities

The article introduces the topic of supervision in care and assistance, in social and health professions, as a fundamental moment for the creation and permanent custody of a professional identity. A meeting point between the order of thinking and the order of sensing, supervision constitutes a privileged position for reflecting on practices, a position of resistance against “degenerative” forces, which tend to emerge during daily approaches when responding to the needs of those who are suffering. In fact, supervision, intended as a method and means of caring for those who care, works against emotional draining, against the disorder of uncontrolled passions, against the risk of a sick complicity, against the darkness of confusion, against the danger of neutralizing gestures of care-giving and overseeing others who are suffering. The introduction focuses on the central theme regarding the historically anchored difference of the practice of supervision within a social and healthcare context.

Paolo Marino Cattorini
rMH 32, 2015, 13-21

Supervision with regard to ethics, psychology, and Medical Humanities

 The article leans towards several crucial issues that emerged during the interdisciplinary consultations carried out for the benefit of the supervisors involved in accompanying students from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland. The meeting between supervisor and operator is full of emotional turmoil and moral dilemmas and demands that horizons fuse together so that they may understand each other mutually. “Feel inside the other” means echoing what is actually within the other person, even if dealing with irritation, aggression, anger, or even hatred. So that these experiences are not brought to “action” and are, instead, contained, allowing them to be “voiced” during a session, the necessary conditions must exist – in the institutional setting and within the interior forces of the consultant – in order to then be able to elaborate them. All supervisors should, therefore, ask themselves towards which ideal training or care-giving practices they lean towards and why they consider as being a priority the values that they attempt to promote in the student or in the consultant. Along with the objective of “feeling better”, there is the scope of “knowing the truth about oneself”, of growing (and make others grow) autonomously, of nurturing creative choices, of developing a unique existential style. The author submits to the discussion the idea that, in practices regarding psychological help, one does not have to ultimately deal with comfort, well-being, or happiness, but with the truth about: oneself, others, the world, and even a god. A truth that may also cause suffering and make one “feel worse” (more or less temporarily). The theoretical questions raised by the author are taken into consideration through the mirror of film narrations.

Lorenzo Pezzoli
rMH 32, 2015, 22-27


The article, which originates on the sidelines of supervision work within a training framework for supsi (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland) social workers, moves around the very word “supervision”: “super” and “vision” are the two words that, together, give life to that device that allows for a sort of “super oversight” (from a more experienced, older, or competent professional), in diversified areas of clinical work, with regard to the gesture of the operator and to the supervised person itself, as well. The term “super”, along with the term “vision”, indicates the possibility of placing oneself in the position of “looking” from a different point, “from above”, which allows for a different perspective: a “vision that adds something”, that goes “beyond” and that, therefore, in this sense, enriches the perception of new elements (details, vibrations...). Supervision shows something that become visible and presents itself in front of the observer: a new thing, not previously present or visible, thus offering further and more profound levels of understanding. In the article, the reflection given on supervision is developed through the fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, “Godfather Death”.

Ornella Manzocchi
rMH 32, 2015, 28-34

Desire, the core of supervision

Based on a concrete experience when supervising social work students at the supsi, the author questions herself about one of the difficulties that arose among healthcare and social workers relevant to the loss of the ability to desire. The act of desiring, or wanting, is a fundamental existential thrust, without which life would be reduced to the capacity of a response to a need. This opens up to thoughtfulness, to the extension of time. The ability to desire opens the way towards imagination and creativity. Due to this, the author hypothesizes that one of the tasks that supervision could currently attempt to assume is precisely that of restoring vitality and vigor to the ability of students towards the act of desiring: a capacity that results in the desire to open up their minds and hearts to new perspectives of understanding the events that concern aiding and caring relationships and to a new way of taking on the responsibility that an aiding and caring relationship requires – not only towards the other individual, but towards themselves, as well. This desire would favor two different objectives: to strive towards a good state of wellbeing and serenity for themselves and for others, and to move towards an ever improving understanding of the elements involved in a professional experience, starting with internships and training. In the article, theoretical reflection is accompanied by a narrative contribution, deriving from a process of supervision.

Graziano Martignoni
rMH 32, 2015, 35-45

An invitation to travel in the archipelago of the «Thirty I»

Supervision is described by the author in metaphorical terms, through the images of the trip, of the clearings, and of the islands. Formative supervision is, for care and assistance operators, an unavoidable stopping place in the creation of their professional identity. A place where they can rest, take a break, wait. A clearing where, tired from a journey into the darkness and the riskiness of life, one can rest while, at the same time, stare at the light that breaks through the disorderly branches and foliage. Beyond any educational declination, supervision (individual, group, or team) plays a calming and healing role for those involved in healthcare and social work. It is not coaching, nor a place for theoretical studies, but the space-time of an accompanied loneliness, of an exchange of views with themselves, the antechamber of tried and true self-care. It does not deal with what one does, but with what one is or becomes in relation to those who seek help. In the clearing made possible by supervision, one sails through the archipelago of care and assistance, coming upon and landing on thirty visible and invisible islands. Islands as unknown lands, but also wonderful lands, since even the stories of an everyday, simpler life contain wonders, yet, also the dreadfulness of human existence. Islands of unease, but also of amazement, capable of making an encounter with another individual an experience of a human passionate vibration. Knowing how to grasp that moment, that wonder, which is extra-ordinary, is what protects healthcare and social workers from becoming mere workers.

Viola Rusca
rMH 32, 2015, 73-83

An African experience

The author, who is an obstetrician and usually works in a Swiss hospital, describes her experience as a volunteer in the Ifakara hospital in Tanzania, between January and March 2015, in a narrative form, as if it were a diary. While it unravels, following the rhythm of a daily work routine in a new reality, through various wards, and different encounters, the story strongly illustrates the emotions aroused in this context, not only through her involvement with birth, but even more so with death: a not so uncommon occurrence experienced by the local population in a way that never ceases to concern the author.

Giulia Balestra
rMH 32, 2015, 84-86

Konzo and witchcraft

Konzo and witchcraft, the topic of the author’s article and of her thesis in medical anthropology for the University of Amsterdam, led her to live an experience in Congo and confront herself with the local ways of interpreting and dealing with an unusual and rather unknown crippling disease, which is widespread in this country. Konzo, discovered in Kahemba by Dr. Trolli in 1938, when the disease had become such that there was talk of an epidemic and the cause of which was initially attributed to a virus, is now attributed to the high content of cyanide present in cassava, to the inadequacy of its preparation, and to the monotonous diet of the population. However, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), they are used to stating: “Congolais hakufaka na microbe te” – “a Congolese never dies because of an infection” – since magical interpretations are dominant in the local culture. Konzo, a disease with particularly obscure and controversial origins, is indeed intimately tied to witchcraft. For the anthropologist who tried to study this relationship, a meeting with a witch doctor proved to be indispensable.

Francine Rosenbaum
rMH 32, 2015, 87-93

The sound of words

The article presents a reflection on the documentary oDyaina, of the young Malagasy filmmaker Laza Razanajatovo (Madagascar, 2013), from the point of view of the ethno-clinical approach of discomfort and care. Ethno-psychiatry is based on the assumption that other cultures have a knowledge that must come to be known and actively used during care-giving. This, therefore, places an obligation on those who practice it to place themselves in another world and, in this manner, create a space for care-giving. With this, the author confronts herself with the issue presented in the film, which tells of a psychiatric hospital that is based on the Western conception of psychiatric care centered on the individual, in a context of the underdevelopment and inanity of public health policies. In this hospital, Rajery, a most popular traditional Malagasy musician, who plays the valiha despite having a stump in place of his right hand, proposes group or individual sessions to the patients in the hospital a couple of times a month, which he and the head physician of the hospital call “music therapy”. The article offers the readers a reflection on the ways of conceiving music and its effect on the population and the environment and, particularly, on how radically different its function is in traditional healthcare areas as compared to those managed under a biomedical context.