Everywhere I go I run into conversations with new therapists about clinical supervision. The underlying theme in those conversations is “How do I get the most of out clinical supervision?” That question is exactly what Lauren Ostrowski agreed to write about today.
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A Guest Post by Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC
As mental health professionals, supervision is always going to be a mainstay in our routines. In general, I hesitate to use the term “requirement” when discussing supervision because I believe that case consultation with colleagues and supervisors can provide valuable and important learning opportunities. Of course, this must be discussed in informed consent documentation. It’s also imperative for supervisee and supervisor to be a good fit for one another.
For the purpose of this blog post, however, I am referring to required, formal, clinical supervision where there is a contract or agreement in place. Depending on education or licensing requirements, clinical supervision likely plays a major role at one time or another.
Think back to your supervision experiences. What comes to mind? After asking a range of counselors that question over the course of several years, the responses varied from supervision being “just a requirement” to “a wonderful experience that I learned a lot from.”
Now, here’s another question: What made it a great experience or would have made it better? Chances are that most of those answers will be related to preparation – whether on the part of the supervisor or the supervisee – before, during, or after the supervision session.
For the Supervisee
When I was receiving supervision for my license, I found that some preparation was helpful. Some elements related to professional development took some time (preparing for presentations or researching different ethical components, for example). The majority of my preparation was very easy to do, but also very crucial for making the most of my supervision experience.Here are some things that I found helpful as a supervisee:
- Take notes during the week so that you don’t forget what you want to cover at the next meeting (these can be 2 to 3 reminders).
- Be prepared to take just a few minutes with a concept that you think may take the whole session and vice versa.
- Be mindful of what is going well and what you would like to improve upon; chances are discussions of those positive occurrences can lead to learning something new.
- Don’t forget to discuss things that may not be directly client-related, such as an interaction with a colleague or a relevant news item.
- Remember that supervision is often focused on what we can do better, but it doesn’t mean that what you are already doing is necessarily wrong; it may help to think of it as different
For the Clinical Supervisor
Preparing for supervision as a supervisor can also vary widely, depending on needs and desires of both supervisee and supervisor. While I do not hold a credential specific to supervision, I have taken several different continuing education courses on supervision. I have worked with interns in two capacities: informally, as a colleague discussing cases that they had observed, and formally, where the intern’s cases and professional development are paramount to discussion of observed cases.Here are some things that I find helpful as a supervisor:
- Remember where the supervisee is in their professional development – There will be different questions brought to the table by a master’s level intern as compared to a seasoned professional who is seeking licensure in a third state and needs additional supervision hours.
- Find a balance in the pace of supervision sessions that is right for both supervisee and supervisor.
- Discuss at least one concept that is not directly related to client care in each supervision session – this can really help to divide discussions between cases and it offers the chance to answer questions or provide information about professional development or current events.
- Provide information about counselor self-care – anecdotal evidence has shown that supervisees seem more likely to take this concept seriously when it is discussed often in connecting with certain difficult sessions.
For Your Consideration
I find these questions to be helpful when there is time remaining and all of the other goals for that session has been accomplished – it may even be useful for both supervisor and supervisee to answer them:
- What is a memorable statement or event from a session?
- What has one or more of your clients taught you that changed the way you look at something or approached it in future sessions with others?
- What occurrence in session has made you happy, nervous, rattled, or surprised?
- If_____ [something that happened] in session, I feel that I would be able to handle it at the time, but I definitely know I would need supervision afterwards.
- What do you find easiest about counseling? Most difficult?
What kind of preparation did you do as a supervisee?
What do you do to prepare as a supervisor?
If you haven’t yet been a supervisor, what do you think you would do to prepare?
About the Author: Lauren C. Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC is a counselor in a community mental health agency in Pennsylvania. She is also a Distance Credentialed Counselor and is excited about beginning a limited private practice using distance (online) counseling.