Best Practices for Supervisors:

Starting the Supervisory Relationship


Establish thorough informed consent practices, complete with a written supervision contract, discussion of licensure/certification needs, and a tentative plan for completing them. Remember to:

  • Keep your supervision contract current, taking care to include an up-to-date professional disclosure statement regarding your academic, clinical, and supervisory experience. Also include your supervision style(s), any specialties, and any training you are currently engaged in.
  • Outline the following: Limits of confidentiality; expectations of the supervisor and supervisee; evaluation and consequences of underperformance; tasks, functions, and goals of supervision; parameters for terminating the supervisory relationship; and ethical and legal considerations (i.e. chain of command with employer, representation in marketing efforts, etc.)
  • Provide an understanding of the responsibility to contact, when to contact, and how to decipher between emergency and non-emergency situations.
  • Before both parties sign this document, there should be a conversation to answer any questions or discuss any concerns.

Building Rapport


Take considerable care to build rapport and focus on the person-hood of your supervisees. Similar to the therapeutic relationship, the supervisory bond can create an environment where supervisees can thrive.

  • Get to know your supervisees’ identities by being curious and asking questions. Share your identities and be open to questions; you might even include sharing genograms or engaging in expressive activities.
  • Explore philosophical stances and ethical values; ask/share cultural and family-of-origin influences.
  • Pay close attention to verbal and nonverbal expressions of emotion; access secondary emotions, masked by frustration, lack of empathy, anger, etc.
  • Encourage your supervisees to identify their needs and emotional reactions, both in supervision and while in session.
  • Lean into difficult conversations that uncover negative or divisive thought processes.
  • Help supervisees’ process and accept the things they are not able to control or change.

Multicultural Supervision


Your supervisees will represent diverse cultures, identities, experiences, and philosophical stances. Take care to explore the individual culture of each supervisee and use this information to create an individualized plan to meet their needs.

  • It is imperative that considerations of culture, diversity, power, and privilege within the supervisory relationship be introduced early on by the supervisor.
  • Openly discuss experiences of discrimination and prejudice your supervisees experience and have experienced. Develop a plan to address any trauma caused by clients, employers, or in their past.
  • Discuss any systems of oppression that have impacted your supervisees’ lives.
  • Continuously assess your supervisees need to attend their own therapy and have some referrals available.
  • Use culturally specific interventions aimed at increasing your supervisees’ cultural humility and identity development.
  • Challenge your supervisees’ own biases, assumptions, prejudices, and contributions to oppression.

Focus on Emotional Responses

Both supervisor and supervisee must (learn to) pay close attention to emotional responses. Whether between client and therapist or/and therapist and supervisor, exploring reactions in the present can promote deep awareness.

  • Get into the habit of asking your supervisees about their emotional responses in a given moment. Learn the cues and ask questions to identify meaning-making.
  • Identify the origins of emotional responses, along with any transference or countertransference.
  • Take inventory of your own emotional responses; as you know, much is affected by any reactions left unexplored.
  • Make self-care a common theme of supervision.
  • Be aware of any signs of physical, emotional, and/or behavioral indications of distress.

Conducting Online Supervision


Many states require supervisors who use videoconferencing for supervision to engage in training. Armed with that training, the follow suggestions will help develop practices for ultimate success:

  • Create a space free of distractions, with optimal lighting and access to your Internet source.
  • Focus on nonverbal communication that expresses your attention, interest, and openness (i.e. lean in, make eye contact, etc.).
  • Carve out the time; if you conduct supervision at home, remember to create a space free of distractions from family members or visitors. Remember your confidentiality statement and what it will take to ensure others are not privy to sensitive information.
  • Refrain from doing other work while in supervision; this is your supervisees’ time.
  • Always have a backup plan in the event of Internet outages.