3 Things You Need to Know Before Beginning Supervision
By Pansy Ayala
Whether you’ve recently graduated from school or have worked in the field for a long time, starting the process of becoming fully licensed as a counselor or social worker is a huge step in your career! The process may seem long and daunting but having people in your personal and professional life who can truly support you during this period of time will make such an impact.
One of the people that will hopefully be influential and impactful in your career is your clinical supervisor. Depending on where you work, a clinical supervisor may be assigned to you or, in other cases, you’ll need to search for a supervisor on your own. There are pros and cons to both scenarios including flexibility in choice of your supervisor, cost, availability, relationship longevity, and familiarity with your area of practice.
Regardless of how you come to be supervised, it can be really helpful to know what to expect before beginning supervision. This not only involves understanding the logistical pieces like how often you’ll meet for supervision and whether you’ll attend both individual or group supervision but also about the supervision experience itself.
Here are 3 things you need to know before beginning your supervision journey!
1. A Good Fit Clinical Supervisor is Important
Your supervisor is someone who you will interact with often so it would be ideal to be partnered with someone who can meet your needs. Everyone’s needs are different but most people benefit from having a supervisor who they work well with, feel comfortable around, who is interested in their professional development and goals, is available for consultation and support, and who can support and guide your clinical practice.
If you have the opportunity to find your own supervisor, you would most likely have the chance to speak with them and ask all the questions you need to make an informed decision about fit. It can be helpful to find a supervisor who is familiar with the modalities and theoretical orientations that you use as a clinician in order to adequately support you in your growth.
If you’re assigned a supervisor through work and there is flexibility in who this person may be, trust your instincts and advocate for yourself if you feel there is a better fit. You may not have the option to choose or switch supervisors and might have to work through challenges that arise but your relationship and experience can still be a positive one.
2. Identify Your Needs in Clinical Supervision
You may feel like you don’t know what you need before you get started but don’t let that stop you from brainstorming. You might be surprised by how much you can come up with! Identifying your needs will help you get the most out of your supervision experience.
Do you have gaps in knowledge that you’d like to fill? Are there areas you feel more competent in than others? It’s obviously important to be proficient and competent in your own area of practice and you can address those needs in supervision. But, it’s also important to maintain a healthy curiosity and basic knowledge about things outside of your everyday professional experience since we don’t live or work in isolation.
What type of support do you need? How do you learn best? These are questions that would be useful for both you and your clinical supervisor to know in order to enrich your supervisory experience. You might be someone who benefits from talking things out while someone else might learn best from learning from materials outside of supervision and having a conversation about that. There is no one right way but there may be more helpful ways than others.
3. Clinical Supervision Can Be Both Rewarding and Challenging
While it may feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to take risks, doing so will allow you to develop a strong and secure relationship with your clinical supervisor. Having a strong and supportive relationship means that you can more openly address what you are feeling and share questions and concerns you have about yourself as a clinician or about your work with clients.
People often feel alone with their feelings and experiences and are pleasantly surprised and relieved when they learn that others share similar feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Taking risks in a supportive environment can also allow clinicians to first-handedly experience what it is like for clients to be vulnerable with them in therapy sessions. Clinicians can develop a deeper sense of compassion, empathy, and understanding for clients when they allow themselves to be open and vulnerable to new and challenging experiences.
How can we help
The time you spend accruing clinical and supervision hours towards licensure is a unique time in your career where you have professional support, guidance, and consultation built in. Knowing what to expect before beginning clinical supervision can help you make the most out of your experience from the very beginning.
Pansy Ayala is a licensed therapist with Catalyss Counseling and specializes in working with professionals and parents who are experiencing anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and/or relationship issues. She uses a holistic, individualized approach to better understand who you are, what areas of your life you find problematic, and how you can reach your goals.