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Clinical Supervision

Qualified Supervisor-Florida

As social workers, we have an eagerness to guide others on their wellness journey. This is an intimate and privileged role, one that is sometimes accompanied with uncomfortable emotions, stress, and frustration. We get to experience similar growth pains that our clients experience, which is why I believe it is essential for clinicians to engage in their own form of self-exploration and self-transformation. Although this is touched on in school, the role of a supervisor is to reinforce this process in a caring, compassionate, and safe way. Self-exploration allows a clinician the space to truly reflect on their own beliefs, values, and morals, and create an awareness that can enhance rather than impede their clinical work.

As a clinical supervisor my goals include (1) increasing quality care for individuals working with my supervisee, (2) assisting the supervisee in increasing their knowledge base, self-awareness, integrative skill set, creativity, and passion, and (3) supporting and guiding the supervisee in competent, ethical, and evidence-based informed clinical practice. Foundational components to attaining these goals include: (a) establishing and maintaining a safe, nurturing, empathetic, respectful, honest, and genuine space to enhance the supervisory bond, (b) providing psychoeducation regarding theoretical frames with corresponding interventions, (c) providing space for experiential learning and modeling, (d) incorporating case conceptualizations and consultations, and (e) educating and modeling ethical standards of clinical practice while educating/modeling complementary practices. Although my supervision methods are adjusted based on each clinician’s strengths, limitations, eagerness, and learning style, I maintain my foundational goals and objectives among all supervisees. 

 
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My Supervision Theoretical Frame

It took me a while to develop an understanding of the theoretical lens and framework that influences my practice with clients. This was due to the fact that I was drawn to so many different ways of knowing and felt that all of them were beneficial in some way. I have always been opposed to “boxing” individuals into one theoretical model; however, the foundational underpinnings of psychodynamic theory and person-centered theory significantly influences my clinical practice with clients as well as supervisees. 

The work of Carl Rogers and his person-centered approach to supervision facilitates the development of the supervisee as they increase their understanding of themselves and the therapeutic process (Talley & Jones, 2019). As a supervisor, I feel that I am responsible for facilitating a safe supervisory space and relationship that invites curiosity, tolerance for complexity, openness, safe-disclosure, experimentation, and mutuality (Pack, 2009; Walsh et al., 2003). As a field that exposes us to emotionally impactful and demanding experiences, a secure supervisory relationship is vital in being able to work through therapeutic impasses in constructive and supportive ways (Safran et al., 2014).


Califronas and Montaiuti (2017) emphasized that it should be the supervisor’s goal to create a climate of “empathy, respect, genuineness, and offer mutual acceptance of responsibility for practices and tasks planning” (p. 2). It is within this place of mutual trust, acceptance, and confidence where our safe supervisory bond is built. This bond can promote the safe space for self-reflection of professional insecurities, challenges, denied grief, and a significant potential for problem resolution (Califronas & Montaiuti, 2017). I am drawn to this person-centered approach in the context of clinical supervision, as it emphasizes the resourcefulness and resiliency of the supervisee to manage triggering moments. It promotes the personal and professional development of the supervisee by creating mutual agreed terms and acknowledges the supervisees internal power (Califronas & Brock, 2017). Additionally, it acknowledges the supervisee as a person in process while highlighting their potential for growth.

  

Similarly, the psychodynamic frame of clinical supervision also emphasizes the importance of the supervisory alliance, relationship, and process. This framework views the supervisory relationship as a relational dimension (Milne, 2009), an ongoing process of discovery which can transform and evolve over time. I utilize the supervisory relationship as a process to uncover how unconscious emotions can impact present interactions, engagement, and perceptions (Bomba, 2011). 

There is a transformative process that can occur within a psychodynamic model of supervision. I use this model to guide the supervisee in increasing their self-awareness, insight, and understanding of their own unconscious processes in a way that builds competency and reduces shame. A lack of awareness, validation, and compassion usually results in feelings of shame. Through the process of addressing countertransference in supervision, I always ask my supervisees this one question: Would you consciously choose to be feeling this way or have this emotional reaction? The answer is always the same: No!  I utilize this as a jumping off point to truly capture the essence of unconscious processes and how our past experiences can impact our relationships, professional work, and overall perceptions. I use this reflective process to promote differentiation of the supervisee’s own emotions and those that can be evoked by the client (Bomba, 2011). Complementary to person-centered supervision, I understand that the client’s material is processed through the supervisee’s lens and the importance of integrating the supervisee’s experience of the client in the supervision process (Talley & Jones, 2019). Due to the complexity and profound impact of our unconscious processes, I strongly encourage all of my supervisees to engage in their own psychotherapy to explore their intrapsychic processes more.

Some view the psychodynamic supervisor’s role as didactic and view the supervisor as the “uninvolved expert” who has authoritative power in increasing the insight and understanding of the psychodynamic process (Frawley-O’Dea & Sarnat, 2001). Although I am not naïve to the unequal power differentials that can exist in clinical supervision, my engagement as a supervisor is to promote partnership and utilize our relationship for experiential processing. I engage my supervisees in a collaborative development of goals and objectives in the initial stages of supervision but will also reexamine if what we initially decided on still works in the context of how our relationship has evolved. When providing feedback, I also tend to offer two to three different perspectives on how something may have been perceived (whether by the supervisee or client) and will ask which view most aligns with their perception rather than assuming. Additionally, I examine and identify the parallel processes within the supervisory session and believe it to a valuable tool for experiential learning. It provides a portal where increased self-awareness can occur, and where the supervisee can learn how to use themselves in the therapeutic dyad (Sumerel, 1994). Frawley-O’Dea and Sarnat (2001) promote this type of supervisory engagement in their supervisory-matrix-centered approach which integrates influential components of the supervisory relationship. Within this frame, the supervisor is no longer identified as the uninvolved expert, and utilizes a relational frame to process enactments and interpret themes within the therapeutic and supervisory dyad. 

Clinical supervision is an evolutionary process, and I view this process as journey for the supervisee as well as for myself. Within this mutually developed safe and explorative space, I engage in the same reflective process to learn more about myself as a person, clinician, and supervisor. I hope that my supervisory style, “why”, and purpose continue to be questioned. I have always feared confidence because there is no room for growth and change and I hope to continue to model this for my supervisees.