CAMFT's Supervisor's Corner
Supervision demands a "teaching-learning" alliance between supervisor and supervisee. To this end, establishing clear goals at the outset and refining these goals throughout the supervisor-supervisee relationship encourages congruence on goals and tasks during the supervisory hour (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992). Congruence of expectations (shared goals) between people in a relationship is as important as the expectations of any one individual and enhances the likelihood of a mutually satisfactory supervisory encounter. Establishing clear goals facilitates nonhierarchical dialogue in the supervisory process, fosters trust earlier in the formation of a supervisory alliance, contributes to anxiety reduction about evaluation from the supervisor because the supervisee knows what is expected, and supports a collaborative teachinglearning alliance. Clearly established goals permit the supervisor and the supervisee to be honest with themselves and each other.
Periodic reviews of goals may reveal previously unexpressed ideas and feelings about how the supervision might be more beneficial. If a satisfactory way of proceeding can be worked out in the opening phase of supervision, both supervisee and supervisor are likely to arrive at a mutual process of discovery and dialogue (Meyer, 1995). This is not to say that the supervisor does not have knowledge and expertise to impart or that the relationship is one of full equality. The difference in knowledge, experience, and sometimes age, in addition to the fact that the supervisor will be evaluating the trainee's performance, means the supervisory relationship is not one between two equals. But within the context of acknowledged differences, an open process of discovery through dialogue and collaboration may be encouraged through the manner in which goal setting and evaluation are conducted.
Despite its merits, this collaborative approach to goal setting in the supervisory encounter often meets deep-seated resistance. Some interns are simply uninformed about how to utilize supervision, and the act of writing goals feels overwhelming. Mutual conversation on goal setting can produce anxiety in supervisees, who fear being candid, knowing they will be evaluated. In such instances it may be useful to utilize prepared supervision instruments. One useful instrument is the Supervision Questionnaire (Ladany, Hill, & Nutt, 1996), a measure of supervisee perceptions of the quality and outcomes of supervision. Another instrument is the Supervisory Working Alliance Inventory: Trainee Form (Efstation, Patton, & Kardash, 1990), a measure of supervisee perceptions on how skillfully the supervisor treats the supervisee. With these instruments, the supervisee makes choices on a prepared scale. In the early stages in the supervisory relationship, when trust is still being developed, even this activity may be threatening. When supervisees find it difficult to engage in goal setting, any way that maximizes the likelihood of supervisorsupervisee congruence in expectations is valuable and worth exploring. It is a question of matching the goal setting activity to the intern's learning style, level of clinical development, and comfort level.
Supervisors should have some knowledge of the processes that support clinical development as well as the normal stages of development in the supervisor-supervisee relationship. This knowledge helps the supervisor order the goals and make them realistic. If the supervisor takes into account the stages interns progress through in developing competence and a positive supervisory relationship, this understanding contributes to reducing anxiety and strengthening the relationship because the supervisor is someone "who feels safe and suggests goals that are realistic and make sense." Additionally, setting a structure helps the supervisor stay on task. Many supervisors are very busy people who have competing demands on their time and energy. Having a structure helps them stay focused in the supervisory encounter.
In the following case example, the supervisor and supervisee elected to write the goals that each had for supervision, and then compare their statements so they could check for potential problematic mismatches. The decision was made three and a half months into an established supervisor-supervisee alliance that both felt was working well.
It was decided that the beginning of the second semester was a good time to write statements about goals for supervision, and then bring these statements together and review what each had written independently.
At the time they initiated this process Ross was concurrently an MFT trainee at the PGI Counseling Center, which provided him with agency experience. He had been supervised at a Camp as well where he had treated incarcerated adolescent males. At this stage in his professional development, he was identifying more clearly what worked well for him in multiple supervisory experiences, and it was an opportune time to review what was effective in their supervisorsupervisee relationship and decide what they could alter, tighten, and improve.
What follows are their
2. To help Ross
establish positive relationships with different types of students.
3. To reduce anxiety
about being evaluated and to increase a sense of personal competence.
4. To support a
solid understanding of ethical and legal issues.
5. To help Ross
apply theoretical constructs to counseling with students.
6. To develop a
supervisory relationship that feels educationally sound.
7. To develop a
supervisory relationship that places client welfare in the forefront.
8. To identify
countertransference issues as they arise.
Ross' Goals for
I want to learn the most challenging parts of a counselor's job and be taught how to deal competently with these issues. When I start fulltime work as a credentialed counselor, I want to know how time is distributed within an "average" day. Is the focus on ensuring that students receive credit toward graduation and directing students toward a college of their choice? Am I mentoring and praising or dealing with behavioral problems and credit deficient students? Am I primarily programming schedules of classes? How broad and diverse is the position of a school counselor? I wonder how hard it would be to go through this training without the support of my peers who share their wisdom in practicum.
Most importantly, one of my goals is to learn from the wisdom and insight of my supervisor so I gain a strong foundation for work as a school counselor. I want to know what expec tations she has of me. I want to achieve a level of competency that makes my supervisor comfortable with my skills, and I want my supervisor to be active in my educational process. I want to hear what competencies I must master to be prepared adequately for full-time work as a school counselor. More than anything, my goal is to gain a strong foundation in the competencies that govern my profession, to learn as much as I can while I am at Sierra Vista, to benefit from the opportunities my supervisor gives me to handle, and to learn all I need in order to perform my job well.
Review of the Goals
Ross stated that it is easier in supervision when there are stated goals "because there is a structure and a game plan for learning. Without structure, it's hard to attain a goal because there is no way to gauge how I am doing."
The motivational drive toward competence is pervasive and colors virtually all supervisory relationships (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992). When contracting with supervisees about goals they wish to accomplish, initial overt requests may be more focused--such as "learning to deepen empathic listening skills" or "becoming more aware of my own need to rescue people from their pain." But the supervisee's unspoken agenda almost always includes the wish for global feedback about overall functioning and the positive regard of the supervisor.
Beginning practicum students, compared to intern-level supervisees, often rate as significant, "Believing that I have sufficient skills as a counselor to be competent in working with clients." The supervisor can contribute to the supervisee's sense of competency and security by offering consistent support and thoughtful feedback. As actual competence develops, the supervisee's felt competence is linked to increasing skill mastery. We all remember the feelings we had when we saw our first clients and how frightening it was if we had to bring an audiotape or videotape to supervision. No one wants to be embarrassed or criticized. Supervisees expect to be judged and, therefore, are inevitably anxious to some degree. Positive supervision occurs when the supervisee's anxiety does not rise to such a high level that the work of supervision is hindered. This occurs when a supervisor is able to balance support (including structure) and challenge.
Several factors contribute to positive supervision. The supervisee is given permission to make mistakes and not to experience them as failures but to learn from them. The supervisor makes it safe to disclose, sometimes even by appropriately self-disclosing, and this, in turn, encourages self-disclosure from the supervisee. Evaluation of the supervisee occurs as a shared process between the supervisor and the supervisee (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992).
After termination of the well-structured supervisory relationship, because supervision is a mentoring process, the relationship typically continues in some form (unlike the therapistclient relationship). It may even deepen into a lifelong friendship. Acker spoke of this complexity when he wrote that the supervisory relationship is a relationship between unequals, the objective of which is equalization (Acker, 1992). This statement speaks to the central, over-arching challenge in supervision: training the supervisee to become "one of us." In the opening phase of supervision, establishing clear, mutually agreed upon goals for the supervisory encounter contributes significantly to the likelihood that this will happen and that a successful teaching-learning alliance is established.
Acker, M. (July, 1992). The Relationship in Clinical Supervision. Paper presented in the B.A.S.P.R. International Conference on Supervision, London, England.
Bernard, J. M. & Goodyear, R. K. (1998, 1992). Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision, 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Meyer, P. (1995). The Supervisory Encounter. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Helen G. Meek, M.A., L.M.F.T., P.P.S. works as a full-time counselor at Sierra Vista Junior High School, Canyon Country, California. She has been licensed as a marriage and family therapist since 1987 and maintains a private practice. She is a CAMFT Certified Supervisor and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. She served on the AAMFT Board of Directors (1994-1996) and the CAMFT Supervision Committee (2000-2003). She has taught in the marriage and family therapy masters programs at Pepperdine University, Phillips Graduate Institute, and California State University at Northridge.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ross Pollack has a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and is a graduate student at Phillips Graduate Institute, Encino, California in the marriage and family therapy masters program, the Pupil Personnel Services program, and the Certified Addictions Counselor program. He believes that multifaceted training will foster a broad base of competencies for a successful professional career in an educational environment. His long-term goals include becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist.