Who Needs Supervision of Supervision?
By Shannon Heers
I pose this question, who needs supervision of supervision, to get you as a clinical supervisor thinking about the answer. Is supervision of your clinical supervision something you need? Why or why not? It’s worth taking a moment now to think about your answer.
If you are a clinical supervisor of therapists, social workers and/or counselors, it’s likely that you have gotten your own clinical supervision in the past. Hopefully you’ve experienced not just good but excellent clinical supervision. It’s very difficult to be a good clinical supervisor if you’ve never received high quality clinical supervision yourself.
And if you’ve gotten your own supervision in the past, and have chosen to do the extra work and training to become a clinical supervisor, it’s also likely that you’re invested in training and molding other clinicians. Taking the path to become a clinical supervisor is not always lucrative financially but it can be incredibly professionally satisfying.
So now you’re a clinical supervisor, and you have some supervisees who are looking at you like you know all the answers to everything. Right? But, in actuality, you don’t! You’re still learning. But your learning is years ahead of your supervisees. In order to stay years ahead of your supervisees, however, you should consider getting ongoing supervision of your supervision.
What is Supervision of Supervision?
Supervision of supervision, or colloquially known as sup of sup, is when you as a clinical supervisor are working with your own clinical supervisor to oversee your clinical supervision. Not to be confused with clinical supervision of your clinical cases, sup of sup provides you with support and oversight of your supervisory work.
Sup of sup can take different forms. Individual sup of sup with a dedicated clinical supervisor is the most common type of sup of sup. But there are also group sup of sup options, which I would argue are just as helpful if not more helpful than individual sup of sup for your learning and professional development as a clinical supervisor.
You can also get sup of sup from the same clinical supervisor who provides you with consultation on your clinical cases, if you have someone like this in your work. You just want to make sure that your clinical supervisor has experience providing sup of sup, which is a different service than just providing clinical supervision of cases.
Peer sup of sup is also a type of sup of sup. This is two or more peers, who are at similar places developmentally as a clinical supervisors, who get together regularly to provide each other with supportive peer sup of sup.
Who Needs Supervision of Supervision?
As an Approved Clinical Supervisor with over 15 years’ of experience providing clinical supervision and sup of sup, I would argue that anyone who is providing clinical supervision could benefit from sup of sup. However, there are certain clinical supervisors who absolutely need sup of sup.
If you are a new clinical supervisor and have never supervised provisionally-licensed clinicians, you need sup of sup. If you’re supervising a Master’s level student intern for the first time, you need sup of sup. And if you’re fairly new into your journey as a clinical supervisor (within the first 5 years), you also need sup of sup.
Those clinicians that are pursuing your ACS (Approved Clinical Supervisor) certification are required to have someone sign off that you have provided 100 hours of supervision in order to qualify for the credential. They are asking for supervision of your supervision to make sure you’re getting proper oversight as you’re starting off as a supervisor. You also should be getting supervision of your clinical supervision.
And for those experienced clinical supervisors, who have been doing clinical supervision for more than 5 years, I’d still recommend you get some type of sup of sup support. Whether that’s in a monthly group, with peers, or with your longtime clinical supervisor, you can still benefit from understanding supervision issues in a different way.
Causes of Poor Supervision
As sup of sup is a fairly rare service that is offered, you’ll have to be diligent in searching for a clinical supervisor who has the expertise to provide you with supervision of your supervision. A simple Google search may or may not yield you the results you’re looking for. You may have to dig deeper.
You’re looking for a clinician that really specializes in providing clinical supervision, not just someone who does it on the side. You want a supervisor with the proper training, perhaps the ACS credential (although as this is a newer credential it’s not absolutely necessary), and substantial experience.
How can we help
Here at Firelight Supervision, our ACS credentialed clinical supervisors provide sup of sup in both individual and group formats. Not all of our supervisors provide sup of sup, but those that do meet all of the training, experience and expertise criteria that you’re looking for. Check out our Supervision of Supervision page if you’re interested in learning more about how we can support you in your clinical supervision journey.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, approved clinical supervisor, guest blogger, and the owner of a group psychotherapy practice in the Denver area. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Firelight Supervision on Instagram.