Finding the Ideal Clinical SupervisorFeb 21, 2022
Well, it looks like your life just got really real!
You wrapped up grad school, you just got your first official clinical license in the mail, and you are ready to rock the therapy world with your energy, optimism, and newly acquired expertise! Whether you are an old pro with more than a decade of experience in the field working in non-clinical roles or you're a fresh-faced novice thrilled to be part of something bigger than yourself, one thing is certain: You're going to spend the next couple of years practicing with the support and guidance of a Clinical Supervisor.
As you're fantasizing about landing your "dream job," which you can read more about here, I encourage you to expend that same amount of energy in locating and locking down a Perfect-for-You Clinical Supervisor. Knowing that this will be your go-to person for the next 2-3 years of your professional life, it's important to planfully and intentionally select a Clinical Supervisor that is a great fit for your unique needs. Since things are already a bit overwhelming right now as you are sifting through job options and launching your career, it might be helpful to have some guidance regarding the questions to ask and things to consider when selecting a Clinical Supervisor.
Let's start with the basics!
Ideally, your Clinical Supervisor will be someone that you are able to select on your own, someone who is completely focused on your needs as a new clinician, someone who has experience in your specific area of interest, someone who understands your philosophical and theoretical approaches, and someone who has established his or her own relatively successful career in the field. Most licensing boards do not allow you to use a spouse or significant other for Clinical Supervision, for obvious reasons, and I additionally recommend that you select a person who isn't already a close friend as it may impact their objectivity and ability to provide direct feedback. Mixing business and pleasure simply isn't a great idea when seeking a Clinical Supervisor, even if you have a friend willing to provide it at a bargain price.
Another fairly basic piece of information to consider is whether you would like to have an agency-based Clinical Supervisor or a private Clinical Supervisor. Some employers will hand you a ready-made Clinical Supervisor that often doubles as an administrative supervisor, some employers will provide you with a monthly stipend to put towards private supervision, and still other employers will leave you completely on your own to obtain and bankroll Clinical Supervision. There are also some employers who will offer to provide you with agency-based Clinical Supervision for free while also allowing you the option of obtaining a private Clinical Supervisor and paying for it on your own. Let's talk a little more about this issue, as it can get confusing or even create an ethical conundrum over time if it's not handled well. I have been both a recipient of and provider of Clinical Supervision in each of those capacities (agency-based and private), and I've learned quite a bit from my own experiences as well as the experiences of my supervisees. There are some pros and cons of each option, which we should talk a little more about.
Private Clinical Supervision: The Pros
1) You can select your own Clinical Supervisor based solely on YOUR needs. You have lots of options.
2) Your Clinical Supervision will likely be more respectful of your time and needs, as you are paying them to provide you with a service and customer service is important in this field.
3) You Clinical Supervisor will not be wearing multiple hats (i.e.: administrative supervisor, program director, etc). They are just your Clinical Supervisor and that's it.
4) You have a safe and confidential place to vent, acknowledge areas where growth is needed, and be vulnerable without fear of it reflecting on the services you are providing within your agency.
5) Your Clinical Supervision sessions can focus completely on YOUR needs and the issues that you yourself would like to discuss, not agency-related topics, as your Clinical Supervisor has no other agenda based on allegiance to an outside party.
6) You may feel more empowered and able to discuss your long-term career goals in a setting that is outside of your current pace of employment. Your Clinical Supervisor most likely has no personal desire to keep you working in the role that you are currently in, unless that's where you truly want to be.
7) Your Clinical Supervisor will likely be more willing to assist you in advocating for yourself in terms of salary and benefit negotiations, asserting yourself with your agency, etc.
Private Clinical Supervision: The Cons
3) Your Clinical Supervisor may or may not be intimately familiar with your specific agency, which could mean that he or she may not fully understand your job role, paperwork, policies, etc. It will fall on you to educate your Clinical Supervisor on those specific issues.
4) Some Clinical Supervisors may not be the best at formalized record keeping, so you'll want to have a clear understanding of how your records will be maintained.
2) Have you yourself ever been terminated from employment or had a complaint made against your license? Have you ever had any ethics-based issues arise with clients that were not appropriately resolved?
3) Are you contracted with any specific agencies to provide supervision?
4) How many people have your provided Clinical Supervision to? What percentage of your supervisees have passed their licensing exams and met the requirements for full licensure? Have you ever been 'fired' by a supervisee?
5) Can you explain to me the full, start-to-finish process for licensure? What are the requirements for paperwork? What about continuing education? What are the work and supervision hour requirements? What are the minimum and maximum time-frames for licensure?
6) What is your area of expertise and what additional trainings have you had in that area?
7) What types of theoretical orientations do you practice from? What types of modalities do you find yourself typically using with clients and why?
8) How do you view your role as my Clinical Supervisor? What expectations do you have of me as a supervisee?
9) Have you ever personally worked in my specific job role? If not, can you explain to me your understanding of what my role is?