Finding the "Perfect for You" Clinical Supervisor

Well, it looks like your life just got really real. You wrapped up graduate school, you just got your first official clinical license in the mail, and you are ready to rock the therapy world with your energy, optimism, and newly acquired expertise! Whether you are an old pro with more than a decade of experience in the field working in non-clinical roles or you're a fresh-faced novice thrilled to be part of something bigger than yourself, one thing is certain: You're going to spend the next couple of years practicing with the support and guidance of a Clinical Supervisor.

As you're fantasizing about landing your "dream job," which you can read more about here, I encourage you to expend that same amount of energy in locating and locking down a Perfect-for-You Clinical Supervisor. Knowing that this will be your go-to person for the next 2-3 years of your professional life, it's important to planfully and intentionally select a Clinical Supervisor that is a great fit for your unique needs. Since things are already a bit overwhelming right now as you are sifting through job options and launching your career, it might be helpful to have some guidance regarding the questions to ask and things to consider when selecting a Clinical Supervisor.

Let's start with the basics. Ideally, your Clinical Supervisor will be someone that you are able to select on your own, someone who is completely focused on your needs as a new clinician, someone who has experience in your specific area of interest, someone who understands your philosophical and theoretical approaches, and someone who has established his or her own relatively successful career in the field. Most licensing boards do not allow you to use a spouse or significant other for Clinical Supervision, for obvious reasons, and I additionally recommend that you select a person who isn't already a close friend as it may impact their objectivity and ability to provide direct feedback. Mixing business and pleasure simply isn't a great idea when seeking a Clinical Supervisor, even if you have a friend willing to provide it at a bargain price.

Another fairly basic piece of information to consider is whether you would like to have an agency-based Clinical Supervisor or a private Clinical Supervisor. Some employers will hand you a ready-made Clinical Supervisor that often doubles as an administrative supervisor, some employers will provide you with a monthly stipend to put towards private supervision, and still other employers will leave you completely on your own to obtain and bankroll Clinical Supervision. There are also some employers who will offer to provide you with agency-based Clinical Supervision for free while also allowing you the option of obtaining a private Clinical Supervisor and paying for it on your own. Let's talk a little more about this issue, as it can get confusing or even create an ethical conundrum over time if it's not handled well. I have been both a recipient of and provider of Clinical Supervision in each of those capacities (agency-based and private), and I've learned quite a bit from my own experiences as well as the experiences of my supervisees. There are some pros and cons of each option, which we should talk a little more about.

Agency-based Clinical Supervision: The Pros

1) It's typically free. That's an obvious YAY!!

2) It's typically scheduled into your workday, which means less commuting time to and from someone else's office.

3) Your Clinical Supervisor is typically available on-site and you can pop in with questions as needed.

4) Your Clinical Supervisor is typically keeping notes for the agency, which means lots of oversight that he or she is providing adequate hours of supervision. The paperwork is also typically kept in your HR file as a double protection in the event you are audited by your licensing board in the future.

5) Your Clinical Supervisor has likely provided a very similar service to what you are doing in your new clinical role.

6) If your long-term career goals lie within that specific agency, it's great to bolster your relationship with colleagues and learn the ropes there.

Agency-based Clinical Supervision: The Cons