Navigating Supervision

Navigating Supervision

Navigating Supervision

Clients, friends and family may not be aware of the requirement of licensed professional counselor interns to undergo professional supervision for a minimum of 18 months by an experienced, licensed professional counselor supervisor prior to working independently. This requirement might be considered similar to an apprentice or mentorship in that the supervisor is taking on the commitment of responsibility and liability of the intern’s professional conduct and actions during the course of their relationship. Without professionals willing to take this risk and role, the profession of counseling would be in trouble.  A supervisor wears different hats by acting in the role of teacher, counselor and consultant. Ideally it is a collaborative endeavor with the common objectives of increasing the intern’s awareness of their own issues in the counseling and supervision process, knowledge and skill in applying theory and techniques, and effective maintenance of safety and ethical standards for the client.

While researching how to make the most of the supervision process, it was helpful to normalize that even with optimum circumstances such as having the opportunity to interview each other and chose each other, that supervision is a challenging endeavor that can be positively impacted by the education of the consumer or intern (Pearson, 2004). A good foundation for an intern in preparing for supervision is to be aware of the fundamentals of providing supervision and of typical problems than can arise. A good starting point for this could be compared to the teacher/student relationship. I have found success in prior teacher relationships occurred when the expectations of the teacher were clearly defined along with their vision for assignments. An intern can educate themselves by seeking clarification from the supervisor. Pearson’s (2004) article in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling entitled “Getting the Most out of Clinical Supervision: Strategies for Mental Health notes the following as desired attributes for the intern to demonstrate in supervision:

Psychological-mindedness and openness

Interest and desire

Motivation and initiative

Enthusiasm and eagerness


Interpersonal curiosity


Willingness to Risk

Intellectual openness

Habit of developing professional knowledge

Minimal defensiveness


Receptivity to feedback

Personal, theoretical and clinical flexibility

The following have been cited as most important intern behaviors, (Pearson, 2004):

Demonstrates willingness to grow

Takes responsibility for consequences of their own behavior

Actively participates in supervision sessions

Demonstrates respect and appreciation for individual differences

Demonstrates understanding of own personal dynamics as they relate to therapy and supervision

The following have been cited as the major skill areas that are the focus of supervision, (Pearson, 2004):

Process (intervention) skills

Conceptualization skills

Personalization skills

Professional skills

The following have been identified as common occurrences in supervision (Pearson, 2004):

Counselor anxiety

Transference and counter transference

Parallel process

Individual and group supervision has always been something I have looked forward to and attempted to make full use of. It has definitely been a humbling and challenging process. The idea of growth as something to seek out is different from the sobering reality of being confronted on behaviors and actions that need change or improvement. It’s not an easy road but one worth traveling. I am thankful for the supervisors that have taken the risk and challenge of taking me on as an intern.

Pearson, Q.M. (2004) Getting the Most Out of Clinical Supervision: Strategies for Mental Health. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 26 361-373.

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