10 Clinical Supervision Skills for New Supervisors in Therapy Practice

By Khara Croswaite Brindle, MA, LPC, ACS. Visit her website at: Supervisionary, LLC

You’ve considered all the aspects of setting up a quality supervision practice and have opened your doors to supervisees. What are the clinical skills you want to master in providing this meaningful service within the mental health field? Let’s take a look at some of these skills together, starting with Supervisionary’s three “C”s:

1. Curiosity

Supervisors who approach their supervisees with curiosity foster growth and self-awareness within the supervision relationship. Curiosity allows the supervisee to name their own thoughts, feelings, and reactions when providing therapy to diverse clients, with zero judgement from their supervisor as their support person. This reduces the risk of shame for supervisees who are truly still learning and developing their skills as helping professionals new to the field.

2. Compassion

Our second “C’ is compassion within the supervision relationship. Holding compassion for your supervisees as well as their clients keeps supervisors from having blinders on regarding a particular style or approach to the therapeutic or supervisory work. This is especially true for seasoned supervisors, who want to take care to remain flexible to supervisee experiences rather than assuming that all supervisees need the same thing. Compassion brings both supervisor and supervisee back to a place of curiosity which fosters growth, and can also serve to protect professionals against burnout within the field.

3. Critical Thinking

The last “C” is critical thinking. How can a supervisor foster this skill in supervision with their supervisees? Can it serve as an invitation to look at clients from systemic, multicultural, or humanistic lenses? Is it about understanding the thoughts, feelings, and resulting decisions your supervisee makes in regard to their client work? Can supervisors encourage supervisees to develop their own plans of action from the concept of scaffolding, knowing supervision is a temporary support in place before a supervisee is on their own within the field? Critical thinking is the close cousin to brainstorming and collaboration, which remain beneficial to both supervisor and supervisee in the professional work we do.

4. Meeting Structure

Providing a predictable structure for supervision meetings is also an important skill of clinical supervision. Is it about setting an expectation that supervisees come with questions ready for each meeting? Is there prioritization for staffing critical incidents, challenging cases, or transference and countertransference? What work focuses on self-of-therapist development in our meetings? What boundaries can we maintain as supervisors to indicate this professional relationship, such as consistency in scheduling, referring supervisees to therapy for separate work, or redirecting over-reliance on leadership in order to support a supervisee’s autonomy and clinical competencies when they finish supervision?

5. State Requirements

Although it’s the responsibility of supervisees to understand their state requirements for seeking licensure, more often than not they come to supervision with questions about the parameters as well. Being well versed in the requirements for your pre-licensed supervisee is helpful in setting up supervision to best meet their goal of achieving professional licensure. This captures an understanding of your state’s requirements, including what counts as direct client hours and indirect hours, final count of hours of experience required to apply for licensure, supervision hours needed, clarity on if telesupervision is approved, and where to find documents for signing off on hours when your supervisee is ready to submit their final paperwork.

6. Supervision Models

What models of supervision do you embody as a supervisor? Reflective, person-centered, and The Empowerment Model are three models worth exploring. Each model informs how you show up for your supervisee, as well as the types of questions or reflections you might introduce within the supervisory relationship. Models also inform boundaries in this professional relationship, again redirecting supervisees into their own therapeutic work if needed.

7. Clinical Writing and Documentation

Although underrepresented at times, clinical supervision also serves as an opportunity to help supervisees with their clinical writing and documentation. How can we support a streamlined progress note? Does it pass our checks and balances for client and therapist comfort? Does it support clinicians in writing notes in five minutes or less? Does it meet criteria for Medicaid or private insurance if notes were audited? Can a supervisee maintain timely notes for each client on their caseload? Does their documentation support the golden thread of diagnosis, treatment plan, and therapeutic goals within each client session?

8. Navigating Critical Incidents

In addition to supporting note-writing, many supervisees look to supervision for guidance on navigating critical incidents. How do we define a critical incident? What are examples? What protocols are in place should our supervisee experience one? Have a conversation about critical incidents goes a long way in empowering your supervisee to take appropriate steps, such as notifying you, documenting what happened, and supporting thoughtful follow-up for the clients they serve. It also doesn’t hurt to review some scenarios ahead of time, helping supervisees embrace their skills in curiosity, compassion, and critical thinking!

9. Providing Feedback

What’s your style of providing feedback and how often? Are you someone who likes the structure of a written evaluation quarterly, every 6 months, or annually? Do you provide feedback and focus on supervisee strengths in regular supervision meetings? It is written or verbal? On the journey of professional development, supporting supervisees in seeing their growth and progress can feel empowering, especially because we see supervisees often underreport their skills.

10. Receiving Feedback

In addition to providing feedback to supervisees, do you also ask for feedback as a supervisor? Although I’ve heard from dozens of mental health leaders how vulnerable this makes them feel, it’s an important part of the supervision relationship. Perhaps you have a supervisee fill out an evaluation such as the Supervision Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ), found online. Or is there an opportunity for feedback in your regular meetings? Do you schedule a quarterly or annual review of your supervisees goals where feedback fits in nicely with that agenda? Finding ways to ask for feedback is a must when continuing to develop your skills as a clinical supervisor.

How are things measuring for you now as a new supervisor in practice? We hope these 10 skills help you on your journey to providing confident, competent supervision within your therapy practice!

Khara Croswaite Brindle, MA, LPC, ACS - Clinical Therapist

About the Author

Khara Croswaite Brindle, MA, LPC, ACS

You can visit my website at: Supervisionary, LLC

Khara Croswaite Brindle, MA, LPC, ACS is mental health therapist and an Approved Clinical Supervisor in Colorado. She is the co-founder of The Empowerment Model of Clinical Supervision and co-owner of Supervisionary, LLC, a business dedicated to providing quality supervision training and tools for mental health leaders. Khara is passionate about turning pain points into possibilities for therapists through professional consultation, published books, online courses, training, and supervision. She is proud to hold various roles as a burnout consultant, TEDx Speaker, suicide assessment trainer, and professor.