Clinical supervision is an essential part of the training of all mental health professionals. The insight, support, and guidance provided by experienced clinicians can help trainees sharpen their skills. This allows new professionals to effectively enter the field with the skillset and knowledge they need in order to provide the best care for their patients and clients.
While clinical supervision is standard practice, it is often viewed as a barrier due to various challenges.
To overcome these challenges and remove the barrier, mental health organizations need to focus on providing effective clinical supervision; for both the supervisor and supervisee. This may seem simple in theory but there are a lot of challenging factors that can get in the way of effective clinical supervision. However, having the right strategies and tools in place can create an effective organization across the board.
Mental health professionals have inherently difficult jobs, taking on clients’ stressors on a daily basis. This is why supervision is crucial for not only the supervisee’s skillset but for the supervisee’s own mental health.
Besides providing assistance with cases and offering ongoing educational training, supervisors help new clinicians maintain a healthy and sustainable practice by providing self-care tips and acting as a mentor for the supervisee.
Clinical supervision is a great opportunity for supervisees to learn from experience. From an ethical standpoint, it is difficult for new clinicians to provide the best care if they are still learning. The supervisor provides guidance with these cases so that new clinicians can learn by doing without putting patients at risk.
The practice provides emerging professionals with ongoing feedback about real-world situations to expedite the learning process. However, there are so many more elements to effective clinical supervision such as:
The process to find the correct supervisor in order to put these elements into practice can be complex. Challenges are likely to arise in any team. Even though each mental health organization is different, there are a number of common challenges.
Lack of time due to busy schedules and heavy workloads is most likely the top challenge mental health organizations face when it comes to clinical supervision. The demand for mental health care has increased yet the number of licensed professionals is still diminishing. As a result, most supervisors tend to have many responsibilities and a more than full workload on top of their supervision duties.
Another challenge you may encounter is that supervision is not considered a priority. This may be a direct consequence of a lack of time and chaotic work environments. However, when supervision is an afterthought (for the supervisor, supervise, or both), then it cannot be effective. Similarly, if supervision is viewed as only a bonus, then it will not be made a priority by anyone.
How mental health organizations and especially management staff view the practice of supervision is important. If your management doesn’t prioritize it then neither will supervisees. If supervision is always deferred or neglected in order to accommodate other tasks, then it cannot be effectively carried out.
The type of clinical environment could also have an effect on supervision. Factors such as the location of the organization, shift work patterns, and cognitive demands can result in staff shortages. And when mental health organizations are busy yet understaffed, clinical supervision will not be seen as a priority.
Supervisors need training and support too. Supervisors need to be familiar with professional guidelines and the standards set by board regulators. They also need clarity about their role and responsibilities within your organization. Without this, supervision may be conducted haphazardly and with little structure.
A supervisor and supervisee will need to foster a strong, working relationship. This type of relationship requires both individuals to trust each other. If a supervisee finds their supervisor unhelpful, then they may distrust their advice or not seek it out at all. Although this type of relationship can take time to develop, it needs to be a priority for both individuals in order to be successful.
The final common challenge that needs to be addressed in organizations is a misunderstanding about the purpose of supervision in the licensing process. Supervisees may feel anxious if they are micromanaged which can decrease their engagement in the process. When there is a lack of understanding and open communication it can also cause friction between your supervisors and their supervisees.
There are myriad reasons why these challenges may arise. Most of the challenges discussed are related in some way and the occurrence of one challenge may directly (or indirectly) cause or affect another. Busy work environments and miscommunication in mental health organizations are likely to cause the most problems when it comes to clinical supervision. Although these elements can be corrected, supervision may still suffer if it is not addressed in a timely manner.
A third-party partner may be the ideal solution for mental health organizations facing challenges with effective clinical supervision.
At Motivo we take care of your clinical supervision so your time can be spent on managing your organization or caring for patients. As a virtual clinical supervision platform, Motivo can manage the supervision of your pre-licensed clinicians in an effective manner.
Our platform is designed to make the supervision process seamless for your supervisees so that they can focus on learning. Partnering with Motivo will immediately mitigate any of the challenges you have been facing with supervision. Learn more about partnering with Motivo today.
CEO and Co-Founder
Implicit bias is hard to detect but causes harm. Therapists need to be vigilant so we can honor our clients' lives and struggles.
Carla Smith, Ph.D, LCSW, LMFT
Chief Clinical Officer
Clinical supervision has been at the core of therapist training since Freud and before. How has it continued to develop?
HerMaya Onunwor, DSW, LISW-S
Senior Director of Compliance and Training