Supervision of Counselors Term Paper

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What is clinical supervision? The answer to that question would seem fairly obvious to a layperson; however, there are many differing professional and theoretical notions of just what clinical supervision is and how it should be implemented. In order to understand the complexities of the concept of "clinical supervision" and to come to some practical understandings regarding how clinical supervision should be used in counseling a discussion of its potential conceptualizations is important.

After reviewing the conceptualizations of the term "supervision" and applying them in a definitional context Milne (2007) came to the conclusion that clinical supervision is a relationship -- based educational training situation that is work -- focused and manages, supports, and evaluates the work of the supervisee(s). The supervisor relies on several main interventions that are comprised of corrective feedback, teaching, and corroborative goal setting. Supervision's objectives are: 1) normative (quality control), restorative (encourage emotional processing), and formative (facilitating the competence of the supervisee). It would be nice if the notion of clinical supervision for counseling students was that straightforward and easy to conceptualize; however, it is not quite that straightforward. Nonetheless, adding some ideas from some earlier conceptualizations of counseling supervision can help expand this definition.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Goodyear and Bernard (1998) described clinical supervision in counseling as an intervention provided by a senior member of the profession to a junior member (or junior members). This intervention is a relationship that extends over a period of time, is evaluative, enhances the professional functioning of the junior member or members, monitors the quality of the supervisee's professional services, and at the same time the supervisor serves as a sort of gatekeeper for new members entering a particular profession. Haynes, Cory, and Moulton (2003) stated that the primary goal of clinical supervision is to create an environment in which the supervisee is able to gain the needed experience and knowledge to become an independent practicing professional. An interesting observation by Haynes et al. is that clinical supervision is "artful" (p. 3) indicating that the specific expectations and rules of the supervisor are left open to interpretation depending on the context, the paradigm, etc. This is an interesting conceptualization because it leaves the interpretation of just what clinical supervision should be open to the supervisor and the particular context and supervisee(s) one is working with. However, in the same way that counseling and psychotherapy do subscribe to general principles we should expect the process of clinical supervision to also have general principles that can be successfully "tweaked" for specific contexts. With that in mind consider the notion of Powell and Brodsky (2004) who conceptualized clinical supervision as a disciplined tutorial process that takes general principles and transforms them into practical applications. According to this view there are four overlapping areas of focus in clinical supervision that consist of an administration aspect, and evaluative aspect, a clinical aspect, and a supportive aspect. Following up on this conceptualization there are several important distinctions to be made:

1. Clinical supervision emphasizes the improvement of counseling skills in the supervisee, whereas administrative supervision focuses on the performance and procedural aspects of the agency (e.g., complying with procedures and using correct documentation).

2. Clinical supervision develops the effectiveness of the supervisee through positive changes in the supervisee's skills, knowledge, and attitudes.

3. The supervisor/supervisee relationship is not a counseling or treatment relationship and the supervisor only intervenes to improve the supervisor's performance.

4. Given the above the supervisor takes on the role as a mentor and representative of the agency in which the relationship takes place.

5. Quality supervision is based on a relationship that emphasizes this type of authority, involves clear expectations for everyone, and is based on the notion of accountability.

Because clinical supervision is based on theoretical principles and not invariant factual criteria there are a number of different models of clinical supervision in existence. For instance, there are a number of psychotherapy -- based supervision models that conform to the specific psychotherapy paradigm of the supervisor such as psychodynamic supervision models, client centered supervision models, etc.; however, perhaps these models could be viewed as being limited by the restrictions of their own particular paradigm (Stoltenberg, 2008). Dow, Hart, and Nance, (2009) conceptualized the development of the style of the supervisor as an internal model that starts with the assumptions and theoretical orientations of the supervisor, moves on to the style and focus regarding counseling/psychotherapy that the supervisor uses or believes important, and then moves into specific supervisory techniques. Moreover, we could also surmise that different supervisees are in different stages of development and will need different approaches to their supervision depending on their stage of professional development. Given that notion, it is the opinion of this writer that the developmental models of counseling supervision offer a more complete guideline for clinical supervisors than the psychotherapy -- based supervision models offer.

Developmental models of supervision began to gain in popularity with Littrell, Lee-Borden, and Lorenz's (1979) description. These models focus on the change or development that supervisees undergo from their initial experiences and as they begin to get experience and to gain more confidence in their skills to advanced counseling students. Because this process occurs over a period of time, the developmental models of supervision assume that supervisees go through various stages of development in the same way that children mature or even clients in psychotherapy or counseling go through a developmental progression. According to Bernard and Goodyear (2009) the developmental models of supervision typically view the development of supervisees in one of three types of stages: 1) models that emphasize linear developmental stages, in much the same way as human physical growth develops in a linear fashion; 2) models that emphasize a conflict resolution approach to development in a rather stepwise manner, and; 3) lifespan developmental models. Integrated developmental models of supervision attempt to tie in these three developmental concepts into a more holistic model of clinical supervision (e.g., Stoltenberg, 1981; Haynes et al., 2003). The particular state of development that the supervisee is in helps to guide the supervisor regarding what types of skills/techniques should be focused on and the methodology and interaction style that the supervisor should use to assist the supervisee to develop. The integrated developmental models of supervision generally describe three levels of development in counseling students (these levels are often described as either levels, stages, or by similar designations; for purposes of simplicity this paper will simply describe them as Stage I, Stage II, and Stage III):

1. An initial stage of development (Stage I) where the supervisee is inexperienced and at the entry -- level position. Stoltenberg, McNeill, and Delworth (1998) describe the young supervisees as being high in anxiety, high in their motivation to perform, and yet at the same time very apprehensive about being evaluated. At this stage of development the supervisor will typically concentrate on such things as basic skills training, engaging in role -- playing exercises with the supervisee, trying to directly interpret the dynamics of the counseling relationship, and will focus on instructional readings that are general in nature to help the supervisee. At this point in the development of the supervisee the supervisor will also have to very closely monitor both the budding counselor and the clients that the counselor is working with.

2. In the mid- -- level of supervision (Stage II) supervisees may start to fluctuate in their levels of confidence and motivation and may attribute their own personal characteristics to the outcome of counseling sessions. In this phase supervisors continue to emphasize role-playing (but to a lesser extent than at Stage I) and concentrate on the dynamics and conflicts that occur as a result of the counseling sessions. Supervisees also begin to get a broader range of clients to work with in order to enhance their overall skill.

3. At Stage III the supervisees are much more stable and developed in terms of their motivation, empathy, and in the development of the therapeutic self and the everyday self. Here the supervisor helps them to continue to strive for this integration and to provide objective feedback/opinion as opposed to direct intervention.

As supervisees progress the supervisor is challenged to utilize approaches that are in line with the development of the supervisees. Since there are no standardized criteria to decide whether supervisee is in Stage I or Stage II it becomes the property of the supervisor to ascertain where the supervisee is and how to best help them progress. Certainly one would think that it is quite easy to ascertain the developmental level of beginning counselors; however, this may not always be the case. Even some beginning counselors will probably have higher levels of developmental maturity than others. The use of the wrong strategy on a particular level could result in complications for the development of the supervisee. Offering Stage I supervisees complete autonomy concerning how they handle their clients might lead to the intensification of the anxiety level in that particular supervisee or even worse could result… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Supervision of Counselors.  (2014, April 15).  Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

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"Supervision of Counselors."  15 April 2014.  Web.  30 September 2020. <>.

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"Supervision of Counselors."  April 15, 2014.  Accessed September 30, 2020.