Clinical supervisors are one of the most important parts of a therapist’s training, which makes finding a good one crucial for your success. Here are some qualities to look for when you’re considering clinical supervisors to work with at the beginning of your career.
They are approachable and supportive
Finding a good clinical supervisor is a lot like finding a good therapist. Your relationship with your supervisor has a huge impact on the effectiveness of your sessions.
It’s important that you feel comfortable around your supervisor. During your sessions, you’ll talk at length about your emotional reactions to client interactions, so you’ll want to feel a strong sense of trust.
Your clinical supervisor will also provide you with feedback on your work with clients. Receiving feedback can be challenging , so feeling that your clinical supervisor is approachable and supportive will go a long way for your development as a therapist.
To determine whether you find a prospective clinical supervisor approachable and supportive, ask yourself these questions:
- If a client’s behavior triggered me, would I feel comfortable sharing details with my supervisor?
- If I made a mistake in a session, would I be afraid to tell my supervisor?
- Do I feel any major reservations about telling them about my personal experiences or background?
- How do I feel after spending time with them?
If you find yourself feeling embarrassed or fearful around them, chances are that you aren’t a good fit for one another. You want conversations to feel engaging yet free-flowing. While the content of your conversations may feel vulnerable at times, the individual acting as your clinical supervisor should help you feel welcomed and accepted.
They give clear, tangible feedback
Feedback is helpful when it’s clear and actionable. Your clinical supervisor may not have all the answers, but they should be able to help you look at a situation differently so you can problem-solve and adjust your approach where needed.
To ensure that your clinical supervisor is giving you helpful feedback, ask yourself these questions after your sessions:
- What did I learn from this session and how can I apply that feedback to my next client interaction?
- What aspects of their feedback are confusing?
- Do I disagree with their feedback? Why or why not?
- Do I feel understood by them and does their feedback directly relate to what I raised in the session?
They are up-to-date on research
Many clinical supervisors have been in the mental health field for decades. This means that they’ve encountered a wide range of client situations and have extensive experience helping others. It can also mean that some of the techniques or philosophies they learned in graduate school are out-of-date.
Many therapist credentials require that therapists undergo continuing education, which can look like additional training or certifications. Check whether your prospective clinical supervisor engages with these opportunities, as it’s important that they are up-to-date on the latest research, therapy modalities, and mental health rhetoric and discourse. Chances are, just from talking with them, you’ll be able to tell whether they are in-touch with contemporary mental health practices by the language they use or the theories they lean on the most.
They follow guidelines for supervision and exhibit professionalism
You might be surprised to hear that there are training programs and credentials specifically offered for those who want to become a clinical supervisor, but their expertise is very specific. The typical skills that a therapist brings into session may not be exactly what is needed when it comes to clinical supervision.
To determine whether a prospective clinical supervisor follows appropriate supervision guidelines, ask them:
- Have you taken any training to be a clinical supervisor?
- What are your guiding principles and values for supervision?
- What’s your approach to helping me grow as a therapist?
Most good clinical supervisors have extensively thought about their teaching and mentoring approach when it comes to helping other therapists grow. You also want to find someone who has high standards of professionalism. Look for good email communication from your clinical supervisor, as well as punctuality and reliability when it comes to your sessions together.
They encourage self care
One of the main functions of a clinical supervisor is that they provide you with an objective appraisal of your own wellbeing. As you talk about your week’s worth of client interactions, a good clinical supervisor will be able to tell when you’re at risk of burning out. They can recognize and point out your patterns, both in your client work and in the ways that you cope with the unavoidable heaviness of being a therapist.
A good clinical supervisor will point out to you when you’re overworking. They’ll encourage you to take care of yourself and help you find better ways of doing so.
Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship takes effort on both parts. It's your responsibility to take your clinical supervisor’s suggestions into account, and it’s your clinical supervisor’s responsibility to consistently support and guide you in your practice.
By honoring the boundaries of the relationship and openly sharing your expectations, you build a strong foundation for your relationship with your supervisor.