Why so much clinical supervision?
- Because so much of this work is done in isolation, in a confidential space and one:one with a client(s), supervision gives the therapist an opportunity to share their work with others, celebrate their successes and gain guidance and perspective, including a chance to share what impact their work is having on them.
- Because the work is done under someone’s license, supervision is one important way the clinical supervisor can ascertain what the therapist is actually doing, and can give input or direction when needed with attention to client safety.
- Because it’s essential to know ourselves. The heart of our work is relational, which means the therapist must practice self-reflection and understand their own triggers and motivations, biases and blind spots in order to support their clients to do the same. Ideally, this work can be done with a supervisor in a trusting environment.
- Because it’s a learning opportunity - supervision is structured to be supportive of professional development at every level of experience.
- To identify and avoid the slippery slopes! Ethical dilemmas, difficult decisions and complicated relationships come up regularly in our lives; as a therapist we are required to tend to our client’s well-being first. This means we need to regularly “check our work” with others who can help us consider ethical and legal issues and catch ourselves before we go off course.
So what goes on in there, anyway?
In individual supervision, the clinician typically brings areas they are struggling with in their work or successes they’d like to share. They check in about required paperwork needs, professional development goals and the logistics of the work, and spend most of the time talking about their caseload, ethical issues and intervention plans. Supervisors are always listening for risk and safety issues for clients and making sure that the clinician is monitoring their clients’ safety in addition to their treatment goals. The relationship between supervisor and supervisee is attended to, discussed, and feedback is invited in both directions to enhance the quality of the relationship.
In a group supervision, up to eight therapists gather to learn from one another. With eight therapists and only two hours, we rarely have enough time to get to everyone’s clients, so the group prioritizes together how to use their time. The therapists identify themes in their work and talk through strategies for understanding their clients and responding to them. Every school year, each of our therapists spends between three and four hours across several groups to do a deep dive into their work with a chosen client. Their colleagues listen, ask questions and offer reflections to help move the therapist forward in their work. At times we read and discuss articles, watch videos or welcome a trainer into the group supervision to further develop clinical practice. Supervisors are always monitoring for safety concerns and making sure clients are always getting the best care. Experiential supervisions are some of my favorites -- that’s when we bring in interventions like play therapy techniques or art therapy activities and we try them out together.
Once our therapists achieve licensure (usually they’re required to have had at least 3000 hours of supervised experience before taking their exam), we continue using a similar supervision model to support their growth. In All-In!, our licensed therapists have the option of joining a “consultation group” instead of continuing in a supervision group. The consultation group is peer-led and gives licensed clinicians the chance to practice facilitating group supervision and supporting one another. For those who are interested in becoming clinical supervisors themselves, this consultation group is a chance to practice clinical leadership.
The goal of clinical supervision is to not only enhance and develop therapists’ clinical skills but also to further their professional development.
Thanks for reading!