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December 13, 2022
By: Dr. Carla Smith, LCSW, LMFT
Clinical supervision is an inherent part of the training process for clinicians. While you have to go through the process of supervision in order to become licensed, there are some misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding clinical supervision. This includes even the supervisors and supervisees as they conduct and receive supervision themselves.
A better understanding of the process and intentions behind this incredibly valuable process will make it more meaningful to clinicians and pre-licensed therapists. To this end, let’s have a look at common misconceptions regarding clinical supervision.
Different roles require different skill sets. Just because an individual has excelled as a clinician, does not necessarily mean they have the skills required to be a supportive supervisor. Clinical supervision is not therapy. Supervisors are there to guide clinicians which requires a different approach than therapy.
Credible knowledge as well as experience and skills in clinical practice are valuable assets for a clinical supervisor. However, possessing traits such as being open, honest, approachable, and non-judgmental are critical as well.
Some clinicians may regard the need for supervision as a slight on their skills and experience. Since supervision has been affected as a punitive measure in certain situations, there is a misconception that needing supervision is an undermining of their skills. In fact, the opposite is true. Supervision can help a therapist to hone their skills through their phases of growth and development. Delivering quality service to clients is essential. Supervision, or as some call it, consultation throughout a mental health professional’s career can aid them in growing and providing optimal service to their clients.
Monitoring for compliance on the part of the pre-licensed therapist is vital for safeguarding the profession and ensuring a premium quality of services for clients. Just as important is the professional development of the supervisee. ‘Good clinical supervision‘ is not just a monitoring process. It is also an enabling process. The goal should be to equip the pre-licensed therapist with the tools to facilitate reflection and self-assessment, not just to check whether they are following protocol.
In their supervisory role, some clinicians feel that they must present as infallible; an expert on each topic broached. Supervision is a process of interaction and cooperation between two professionals (or professional-in-training). Maximum benefit is attained only when both parties are completely open and honest with each other. A clinical supervisor must be able to promote equality within the relationship.
A supervisor is going to gain more respect by being honest about their limitations. If there is a query to which they do not know the answer, it is best to let the supervisee know and then perhaps pursue researching the answer together.
The implications are that success is attainable should the correct techniques and processes be followed. Constructive supervision is about the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee. Not about ticking off goals on a checklist of skills. Professional development is imperative. However, the supervisory process is also intended to be a two-way street inviting communication and mutual growth.
When supervision sessions started gaining traction fifty years ago, they were viewed as therapy sessions to promote self-development and self-exploration. It is critical for clinical supervision to serve as a safe space for a supervisee to seek guidance on issues that they are struggling with. However, of equal importance, is that the process serves to develop the professional by building their skills so that the licensed mental health practitioner can provide excellent services to their clients.
A veteran professional can still be affected by issues of diversity. The presence of racial, age, and gender differences in supervision may impact the supervision process negatively. For example, a 55 year old white women may not fully grasp the inter-personal challenges facing a 25-year old Hispanic male. A competent supervisor is cognizant of cultural differences and how issues of diversity may impact the supervision process. They know how to proactively find the best solution to deliver the best quality guidance. In addition, it is critical to match pre-licensed counselors with clinical supervisors that can best relate to the journey they are following.
Clinical supervision is a tool to provide a platform for growth and development for the supervisee and supervisor. Yes, it may act as a safety net for when certain circumstances overwhelm. However, regular check-ins with a clinical supervisor can serve as a barometer of your growth and facilitate a deeper reflection of your journey as a therapist.
As human beings and healthcare workers, we never stop growing, learning, and changing. Once you step out as a licensed therapist, you do not enter the world with immunity to life’s hardships and an inability to be affected by your patient’s ordeals. In fact, it is your humanity and your pool of experiences that lend to your empathy and ability to guide clients on their journeys. But, all the while, you are on your journey. You will glean so much more from those experiences if you have a trusted sounding board.
Clinical supervision is a prerequisite for pre-licensed therapists to obtain their licensure. Motivo aims to provide accessible, affordable clinical supervision to pre-licensed therapists. Finding the right supervisor means you will grow more holistically. Motivo can help you connect with a vetted clinical supervisor, suited to your field of specialty, in your state.
As the saying goes: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” To effectively take care of others, you have to first take care of yourself. The right kind of clinical supervision is a safe space that builds your confidence and curiosity while pushing you beyond your comfort zone so that you can come to grips with your origins, your ego, and your prejudices. Motivo is a platform with almost 1,000 vetted supervisors ready to be matched with you to help you get the clinical supervision that you need to achieve licensure. Click here to learn more about how Motivo can match you with your ideal clinical supervisor.
We’ll be with you every step of the way.