Tag Archives: supervisory relationship

Supervision: Professional Disclosure Statements

Cobia and Boes (2000) advocate the employment of both professional disclosure statements by supervisors, as well as the development of formal plans for supervision.  The intent is to minimize the potential for ethical conflicts regarding informed consent, supervisor competence, due process and supervisee competence, confidentiality, and dual relationships.  Ideally, “the strategies increase the opportunities for learning the skills necessary for professional collaboration; establish an environment conducive to open, honest communication; and promote the development of rapport and trust in the supervisory relationship.”  (Cobia & Boes, 2000, p. 293)  It has been suggested that the document contain the “supervisor’s background, methods to be used in supervision, the responsibilities and requirements of supervisors, supervisee’s responsibilities, policies pertaining to confidentiality and privacy, documentation of supervision, risk and benefits, evaluation of job performance, complaint procedures and due process, professional development goals, and duration and termination of the supervision contract.”  (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 367-368)

In my view, the ideal supervisory relationship is much like the ideal therapeutic alliance between a counselor and a counselee… it is a bi-lateral relationship based on trust and mutual respect.  The professional disclosure statement effectively sets the expectations, as well as defines the mutual rights and responsibilities of the parties involved.  The supervisee stands to benefit by making an informed choice regarding a supervisor, perhaps leading to a more fulfilling and professional growth oriented experience.  The supervisor themselves benefit most by the limitation of potential liability.  Risk management, on the part of the supervisor, is integral in the process of developing a professional disclosure statement.

In any event, I agree with the authors that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” despite the fact that even the most diligently planned supervisory relationship will not be sufficient to prevent all of the potential ethical dilemmas.

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Cobia, D. C., & Boes, S. R. (2000, Summer). Professional disclosure statements and formal plans for supervision: Two strategies for minimizing the risk of ethical conflicts in post-master’s supervision. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 78(3), 293-296. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=56614181&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Drawing the Line between Supervision and Counseling

“When personal concerns are discussed in supervision, the goal is not to solve the trainee’s problem.”  (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 392)  The goal, simply stated, is to challenge trainees to address personal issues that could be potential counter-transference issues in their counseling relationships.  The supervisor is not meant to serve as a personal counselor, but as a mentor that can help identify how personal dynamics influence work with clients.  Generally speaking, this exploration should take place “in the present tense” and relate specifically to the supervisee’s case load.  All “past tense” issues that arise should be referred to a 3rd party counselor for individual therapy.

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Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.


Supervision: Self-report, process notes, audio recording, video recording, and live supervision

Self-report is described as the most widely used supervisory model.  Self-report within the context of a supervisory relationship is troublesome for the same reasons that self-reporting is troublesome in the context of a therapeutic relationship… it’s not always “objective.”  I don’t think people purposely misuse the self-reporting tool, but it is potentially an issue when the person reporting has a lack of insight or intuition.  The potential issues we need to be most aware of are those that are in motion and are totally unforeseen.  Because of the potential for lack of awareness, due mostly to inexperience, I would anticipate that self-report would leave all parties vulnerable to the inexperience of the supervisee.  Potential benefit is the relative ease of conducting this method, provider there is a relationship of trust and understanding between and among the supervisor and the supervisee.

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Without, self-report is likely a method we will employ during our supervision process, but it should not be the only method we employ.  Process notes build on the self-reporting process by adding written record regarding content and interactions in the therapeutic process.  I support the concept that “if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.”  I am already what you might consider a “documentation junkie”… so this is likely to be my strong suit.  We are required to keep detailed notes in both the clinical record and the case notes, so this should come easily to most competent clinicians.  It still has the drawback of the content having been filtered through a relatively inexperienced clinician… but I honestly believe that writing is a process that demands the inexperienced clinician reflect on, and subsequently justify, specific processes, strategies, questions, concerns, etc.  The second layer of documentation, when added to an oral self-report, gives the newly trained clinician the benefit of hindsight when and if a similar situation arises in the future… thereby making the experience more valuable for long term growth and development.

Recording, whether audio or video, is a valuable tool in that is allows for direct assessment that is not “filtered” by an untrained mind.  In my opinion, this is the single most effective (and time constraint friendly) way to get feedback from a supervisor directly.  Understanding that supervisors have their own caseloads, and their own lives outside of work… even the most dedicated supervisor can’t be expected to conduct live supervision (the most accurate and most valuable form of supervision) often.  Recording gives the supervisor the opportunity to review the content at their leisure, and without the pressure of having to serve a client “right this second” like live supervision.  It is a good balance between autonomy (on the part of the supervisee) and oversight (on the part of the supervisor).  I like this opinion… it would be my first choice among the methods of supervision.

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Intuition, Introspection, and Empathy in the Context of Clinical Supervision

The qualitative value of a supervisory relationship is as unique as the component parts.  The relationship between supervisor and supervisee can be conceptualized as a living entity that refuses to conform to a definitive list of “ideal traits.”  No two supervisory relationships are the same; just as no two supervisors, or supervisees, are identical.  Despite the absence of a definitive list of qualities that are desirable in a supervisee, Pearson (2004) has endeavored to compile a catalog of traits he considers paramount to the success of the supervisory relationship.  Included in his inventory are “psychological-mindedness and openness, dependability, interpersonal curiosity, empathy, willingness to risk, intellectual openness, habit of developing personal knowledge, minimal defensiveness, introspection, receptivity to feedback, and personal, theoretical, and clinical flexibility.”    (Pearson, 2004, p. 362)  To that list I would add effective written and oral communication skills, integrity, initiative, intuition, decisiveness, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor.  This essay will explore what I consider to be three of the most prominent aspects of a successful supervisee.

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Intuition can be described as “immediate understanding, knowledge, or awareness, derived neither from perception nor from reasoning.”  (Colman, 2009, p. 390)  Intuition is a cornerstone of the Jung-Myers psychological typology; it is also a foundational element of my personality and character.  Intuition runs through me.  I am generally good at analysis and I enjoy “the complex.”  I express interest in anything and everything, probably with too little discernment.  I have an aptitude for ignoring the standard, the conventional, and the authoritative.  I am always on the lookout for new projects, although I rarely bond with anything or anyone involved in those projects.  I have been described as a mesmerizing communicator.  I am content moving forward with a project despite having little more than a “rough draft” to work with.  I typically depend on the ability to improvise as situations develop.  Intuition runs through me.

Intuition runs through me, but it has its limitations.  I have a distinct tendency to neglect essential preparation at times, instead relying on ad-libbing.  I am fluid in thought and action, to a fault no less.  Routine tasks bore me to tears; I will seldom do the same thing, the same way, twice.  Repetition makes me restless. I am very apt to be flighty… I gravitate to one new interest after another.  I have been known to engage in brinkmanship with my career, often putting myself and my family in jeopardy.  I often find myself “working against the system” just for the joy of being one-up, and I revel in being a master of the art of one-upmanship.  In my employment history I have frequently offered unnecessary challenges to those who have power over my professional success.  And finally, I am my own worst critic.  Intuition runs through me.

In my opinion, fine tuned intuition is the difference between good and great.  Research into the micro-expression of emotions indicates that people with “good intuition” are able to accurately identify complex medleys of emotional expressions in just a fraction of a second with remarkable accuracy.  (Gilhooley, 2008, p. 106)  Within that context, I would like to make a conscious effort to refine my personal intuition under supervision.  I would like to gain insight into areas where I can trust my intuition, as well as confirm and deny areas where I have an intuition deficit.  All of these intuitive traits will need to be disclosed, balanced, and addressed with my clinical supervisor if I am to have a successful supervisory relationship.  Intuition runs through me, for better, or for worse.

When intuition fails me, and it inevitably will, introspection will pick up where it left off.  Introspection is generally defined as “a method of data collection in which observers examine, record, and describe their own internal mental processes and experiences.”  (Colman, 2009, p. 390)  It derives from the Latin ‘spicere,’ meaning ‘look,’ and ‘intra,’ meaning ‘within’; introspection is a process of looking inward.  (Macdonald, 2006, p. 356)   While some argue that no weight should be placed on the introspective institution (Carruthers, 2009), I believe the self-discovery process of introspection can pay dividends by building a supervisory relationship that is more productive.  Supervisors are expected to function in a variety of roles, including teacher, counselor, and consultant.  (Pearson, 2004, p. 363)  Time is money; we should all endeavor to make the best use of time.  My goal is to employ introspection to the extent that the importance of the “counselor” role is diminished, and the role of the “teacher/consultant” is emphasized.  This will be a real test of my boundary setting skills.  I envision that my effort to apply introspection will allow the supervisor to take on more of an educational or consultative role, thereby allowing them to focus more on traditional efforts such as conceptualizing techniques or interventions.  As an added bonus, introspection allows me to recognize my own comfort level, to assess my own personal history, and to identify and confront personal bias where it exists.

Empathy represents “the capacity to understand and enter into another person’s feelings and emotions or to experience something from the other person’s point of view.”  (Colman, 2009, p. 248)  Greater client satisfaction and increased confidence in empathetic providers have led to empathy being considered as a prerequisite to competence.  (Looi, 2008)  Empathy is recognized as an important component in the advance of a positive treatment relationship, even to the extent that it has been described as “the most significant discriminating factor for predicting treatment outcome.”  (Clark, 2010, p. 96)

I am cognizant of my personal deficit in this area.  All the intuition and introspection in the world doesn’t innately give someone like me the ability to walk in another person’s shoes…  it is a skill that I will need to continue to develop and refine.  “Having problems is not the problem; not dealing with our problems is the problem.”  (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 394)  One specific goal I have, and one primary criterion in my selection of a supervisor, is to find a mentor who can develop my empathetic awareness.  To that end, I endeavor to find a supervisor I can trust with my weaknesses, and that I can rely upon to help me develop areas in which I have deficits.

A successful supervisory experience doesn’t come without planning.  I understand that I have very high, perhaps unrealistic, expectations of a supervisor.  Best case scenario, I maximize the professional growth that can be realized by a perfect supervisory situation.  Worst case scenario, I make the best of a less than idyllic situation.  By exploring competencies under supervision, we as supervisees have the opportunity to refine qualities like intuition, introspection, and empathy.  In any case, assessment of competencies and the pursuit of “the ideal traits” is a lifelong endeavor in continuing education.  It only begins with clinical supervision.

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Carruthers, P. (2009). How we know our own minds: The relationship between mind reading and metacognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32(2), 121-182. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X09000545

Clark, A. J. (2010, Apr). Empathy and sympathy: Therapeutic distinctions in counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 32(2), 95-101. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=2026599301&sid=30&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Colman, A. M. (2009). Oxford dictionary of psychology (3rd ed.). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Gilhooley, D. (2008). Psychoanalysis and the “cognitive unconscious”: Implications for clinical technique. Modern Psychoanalysis, 33(1), 91-128. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?index=2&did=1596619281&SrchMode=1&sid=17&Fmt=6&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1274204301&clientId=4683

Looi, J. C. (2008, Apr 7). Empathy and competence. Medical Journal of Australia, 188(7), 414-416. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1465911401&sid=29&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Macdonald, C. (2006, July). Introspection and authoritative self-knowledge. Erkenntnis, 67(2), 355-372. doi: 10.1007/s10670-007-9072-z

Myers, I. B. (n.d.). The 16 MBTI® types. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.asp

Pearson, Q. M. (2004, Oct). Getting the most out of clinical supervision: Strategies for mental health. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 26(4), 361-373. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=733122011&sid=2&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD