Online vs In-Person Clinical Supervision

Online vs In-person Clinical Supervision

Clinical supervision is a must if you want to advance as a therapist. All states require a certain number of hours of clinical supervision as part of your residency in order to become an LPC, LMFT, or LCSW.

Some agencies or employers offer supervision hours as part of the contract. However, many others either don’t offer enough hours or don’t offer clinical supervision at all. In these cases, you’ll have to get paid clinical supervision elsewhere.

The moment you pay for clinical supervision, you become a customer. And as a customer, it’s your duty to research your options and choose the service type that’s most appropriate for your situation.

You of course have to consider things like the supervisor’s credentials, skill set, level of experience, and cost. But you also have to consider whether the clinical supervision will be done in-person or online.

Why does in-person or online clinical supervision matter?

Online vs in-person clinical supervision might seem like such a minor thing on the surface, but it’s actually one of the most important decisions you can make. This decision has major implications for both your professional development and your own personal well-being.

Still hard to believe? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each choice.

In-person clinical supervision

As you can expect, this entails meeting with a clinical supervisor one-on-one in a real-world location. This could either be in their office, in your own home, or in a similarly neutral but private location.

Pros of in-person clinical supervision

The benefits of in-person clinical supervision include:

Personal connection. Your clinical supervisor is going to be your trainer, critic, counselor and coach. Chemistry is key if this relationship is going to work, and there’s no better way of reading someone than speaking to them face-to-face. You’ll be able to notice more of their body language and facial cues than you would on a video conference.

Dedicated space. Most in-person clinical supervision sessions are conducted in the privacy of the supervisor’s office or in a similarly controlled location. This allows for focused, uninterrupted sessions as well as a discreet venue for sensitive discussions, like the supervisee’s patients and case work.

No equipment required. Unlike online clinical supervision, in-person sessions don’t require any additional technology or equipment. Just a private location and a way to take notes.

Cons of in-person clinical supervision

The downsides of in-person supervision include:

Limited local options. You can’t just hire anyone to be your clinical supervisor. You need someone with the right experience. You need someone you can afford. More importantly, you need someone you mesh with, and who can help you grow professionally. That might be hard to find if you live in an area with limited options.

Long commutes. If it turns out you can’t find anyone local, you now have to drive or take transit to your supervisor’s location. Depending on your location, the traffic alone might use up a significant chunk of your day.

More difficult to schedule. In-person clinical supervision sessions are a challenge to schedule thanks to the distance and travel time required — both to and from the meeting location. This limits your options and affects the rest of your calendar. It’s not unheard of for people to have to set aside an entire day for a single appointment.

COVID-19 exposure. It’s an unfortunate reality of our current situation, but you have to be careful about infection risks, especially if you’re a healthcare provider who does service calls. Both you and your clinical supervisor are at risk of coming in contact with an infected person and passing it on to the other.

As you can see, in-person clinical supervision is and continues to be a viable choice for therapists at the start of the career, but does carry some inherent trade-offs. Let’s review the other side of the coin: online clinical supervision.

Online clinical supervision

Online clinical supervision occurs remotely, but differs from phone conversations in that it’s conducted through an online meeting platform of some sort. This meeting platform allows for video conferencing, but also allows the sharing of files and/or screen sharing.

Pros of online clinical supervision

When you do online clinical supervision, you can benefit in the following ways:

More options for finding supervisors. An online supervisory arrangement lets you choose from a longer list of clinical supervisors. There’s a bigger chance of you being able to find a supervisor with the right experience, management style, and cost.

More convenient and easier to schedule. Now that you don’t have to worry about transit time and traffic, both you and the clinical supervisor have more options available on your respective calendars. This allows you to both devote more time to a session (if necessary) and get more done on a single day.

Safer for social distancing. Online clinical supervision sessions are perfectly suited for responsible social distancing. Keep yourself, your patients and your supervisor safe by limiting your conversations to remote sessions.

Cons of online clinical supervision

Online clinical supervision isn’t for everybody. There are tradeoffs such as:

Equipment required. In order to run an effective online clinical supervision session, both you and your supervisor will need a decent computer or device with a suitable video conferencing app installed. You will also need an internet connection with enough bandwidth to support video conferencing. It’s easy to take these requirements for granted, but not everyone has the equipment necessary to make online clinical supervision work.

Strict guidelines for remote locations. Video calls with your family can be done from nearly anywhere, but clinical supervision cannot. You’re going to be discussing sensitive patient information which shouldn’t be overheard by other people–even your family members. If you conduct a call in a public location, you’ll be breaching your patient’s trust and exposing yourself to legal action.

Needs to be HIPAA compliant. You can’t use just any video conferencing app for your supervision sessions. The video conferencing platform you use has to be HIPAA-compliant to ensure patient privacy. Platforms that meet this requirement are fewer and may involve additional costs, but they are definitely available if you know where to look, and at decent prices.

The verdict: online vs in-person clinical supervision

Most clinical supervision sessions in the years leading up to 2020 have been conducted in person, but as video conferencing technology improves, so do the reasons for migrating to online sessions.

Many clinical supervisors were already offering online sessions in some form or another. But the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent social distancing has placed this squarely in the category of “must-have.”

There are downsides to an online arrangement, of course. But these negatives do not outweigh the convenience, cost and safety benefits of online clinical supervision.

Find an online clinical supervisor

If you are looking for an online clinical supervisor, but want to do it in a more targeted and effective fashion than personal networks and Google searches, then try Motivo. You’ll have access to hundreds of clinical supervisors so that you can find your match and begin earning hours from a distance. Learn about Motivo here.


Rachel McCrickard, LMFT

Rachel McCrickard, LMFT

Rachel is the CEO & Founder of Motivo, a HIPAA-compliant video platform connecting mental health therapists to the clinical supervision hours needed for licensure. She's also a LMFT, and brings her years of experience as both a therapist and a supervisor to her vision for Motivo. She also is a huge fan of pizza and yoga, in that order.

Want the best advice on how to build your dream therapy career?

Every week, we publish articles that will motivate, inspire, and tackle some aspect of the therapy career journey — whether that’s licensure, clinical supervision, or even private practice!

Sign up to the right to get updates whenever we publish something new and inspirational 👉