3 Key Aspects to Finding a Great Clinical Supervisor for ASWs and MFTs

Are you in the market to begin MFT or LCSW clinical supervision hours towards licensure?  Or are you looking for someone new to supervise you, either because your supervisor left your agency or you simply want a change in perspective on your clinical work? Looking online and trying to decipher what is important, both in a clinical supervisor and supervision itself, can be a daunting task.  Supervision is often listed by governing bodies as a relationship between a supervisor and supervisee, ensuring the practice of responsibility and accountability towards clients, as well as contributing to the overall competence of the supervisee.  This is a huge, overarching umbrella under which the mentorship takes place.  Built on trust and a safe relationship with one another, supervisees can learn and grow in the helping field and supervisors can be assured that clients’ needs are a priority. I have found these three key aspects listed by the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) to be the most beneficial when filtering your list of Google-found supervisors’ names, trying to figure out who would be the best fit for you.
  1. Administrative: Your supervisor will help you administratively by: reviewing your case notes, talking with you about policies regarding your agency, reminding you of laws pertaining to the profession and your work specifically with clients, etc. Additionally, when you look on the clinical supervisor’s website, do they mention anything about forms?  By this I mean do they have a contract for you to print to allow your supervisor at your agency know that you have an outside clinical supervisor?  In California, this is required by the BBS (Board of Behavioral Sciences) with your paperwork for licensure.  Overall, your clinical supervisor should have a clear understanding of all of the “paperwork-y” and administrative pieces of your job, as well as your governing board’s requirements of supervision.
  1. Educational: What does your potential clinical supervisor’s educational background look like?  Where have they worked? What kind of trainings have they received?  Knowing also that your supervisor has years’ worth of clinical supervision experience, both with LCSWs and MFTs, can be comforting.  Additionally, if they have had experience in the academic world, putting the theory on the clinical experience that you are getting at your job, I think this is a bonus for you.  That person can teach you specific clinical skills that are attached to a particular theoretical orientation, or offer guidance in how to research more information yourself in certain specialty areas.
  1. Supportive: While not confusing clinical supervision with your own personal therapy, supervision can be a place to get support from another provider in the field.  With the trust that you are able to build with a supervisor, you will be able to discuss your successes as well as your mistakes (we all make them, I promise you!).  I find that supervisors using more of a collaborative supervision model can be extremely helpful with support.  Along with trust, other attributes to look for in a clinical supervisor might include: being a good listener, empathy, safety, and respect.  The clinical supervisor should talk with you about avoiding burn out and increasing your own self-care, which is an area that I believe we as a profession cannot highlight enough.
While deciding on the appropriate fit of an MFT or LCSW clinical supervisor is a personal one, I hope this short list gets you started in the right direction.  If you would like to talk more about MFT or ASW clinical supervision, please contact me via phone, email or this website.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!