5 Tips for getting the best experience during Clinical Supervision
By Chris Campassi
While it is very important for counselors, therapists and social workers to get Clinical Supervision so that you can meet your licensure requirements and finally get your license after years of work, getting the best experience in Clinical Supervision is far more beneficial in the long term.
Focusing on your development with a strong clinical supervisor will allow you take risks while getting support, learn from your mistakes without shame or embarrassment, and prepare you to be able to think critically about client needs.
Tip #1: Clinical Supervision Training is Important
Choose a clinical supervisor that has had training specific to clinical supervision. Many therapists are assigned their clinical supervisor by the agency they work for once out of graduate school. If this is you, you may be very lucky and be assigned a seasoned, trained clinical supervisor who will be able to balance the needs of the agency with your professional development.
However, in reality, this is seldom the case. If you are doing agency work and find that you are not getting a development-centric supervisory experience, you may want to consider seeking outside supervision.
Tip #2: Be Proactive in your Clinical Supervision
Come to supervision on time, appropriately dressed (even during virtual sessions) and with clear goals of what you want to cover in each session. If you are unclear about how to properly prepare, inform your supervisor and request some coaching on how to best prepare.
Spending time preparing and being proactive will make you feel empowered in the process, and increase your autonomy as you develop. Being overly reliant on a supervisor may lead to feelings that you are incapable of practicing without the guidance of a supervisor.
Tip #3: Welcome Feedback from your Clinical Supervisor
Approaching supervision as an opportunity to impress your supervisor will likely lead you to struggle with direct feedback that may be beneficial to your growth and development. Your supervisor does not expect you to be a trained therapist during your pre-licensure supervision hours.
Your supervisor will expect you to be willing to take feedback, try things that are uncomfortable to you, and work through barriers you may have with a client. The purpose of supervision is to gain this feedback, and a strong supervisor will offer praise more for your willingness to be vulnerable and grow than for being naturally talented. Your supervisor is not talent-seeking, they are talent-developing!
Tip # 4: Be Willing to Make Mistakes as a Supervisee
Learning cannot truly happen without the willingness to make mistakes. My long-time therapist told me a long time ago that if I was not willing to make mistakes, I would never be a great therapist. Good maybe, but not great. Great requires a willingness to try new ideas and techniques, despite your discomfort, and mistakes are a natural part of this process.
Rarely will a mistake have a grave impact on your client’s well-being, and being able to openly acknowledge your mistakes with a client actually deepens the connection. Clients don’t want perfect therapists. They want therapists that are “Real”, and no can be real without making mistakes.
Tip # 5: Commit to the Supervision Process
Although it is quite scary, fully committing to a proactive supervisor process will lead to an incredible period of growth and development during your pre-licensure time. Resist the urge to coast through this experience. This is when you really start learning how to be a therapist.
Your schooling provides the foundation, but your supervisory experience informs your long-term development and success. By committing to the process, you also parallel what you ask of your clients. If you are ambivalent and avoidant during this process, how will you work with a client who is struggling with their own ambivalence and avoidance?
Clinical Supervision is a Long-Term Investment
Supervision is an investment of time, money and emotional energy. It can feel grueling, frustrating and downright aggravating at times. But it can also be supportive, rewarding and gratifying to know that this work will pay dividends in your future work with clients.
What you feel as anxiety during your experience will lead to confidence and autonomy down the road. Mistakes will transform into insight, and your vulnerability will manifest into strength and competence. But you do have to put in the work. Fortunately, with a strong supervisor, you will not have to do the work alone.
How we can help
Chris Campassi is an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) and Program Coordinator of Firelight Supervision. He is a licensed psychotherapist in Colorado and North Carolina, blogger, and clinical supervisor for provisionally-licensed and independently licensed therapists. Chris enjoys helping men, medical professionals, and former athletes manage their anxiety and stress so they can live fulfilled and balanced lives. Follow Firelight Supervision on Instagram.