Philosophy of Counselor Supervision

Sonja A. Sutherland, PhD, LPC, NCC, CPCS

Assistant Professor of Counseling, Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Professional Counselors Supervisor

 

Years of work in the field has informed the belief that the helping profession is most effective through collaborative approaches to treatment, whether in residential / acute, in-home, community outpatient or private practice mental health settings.  Observation over time has shown that individual counselors bring different dynamics, expertise, approaches, and strengths to collaborative treatment. Using a strengths-based, Solution-Focused approach to supervision has been effective in engaging these dynamics and developing these strengths within clinicians at varying stages, while guiding them in identifying their roles and contributions to the overall strength of a clinical team (whether as part of an internal agency team or as part of an externally composed, community-based multi-disciplinary team). To this end, what I seek to offer/do as a supervisor includes, but is not limited to:

  • encourage Solution-Focused, out of the box thinking and creativity in clinical approaches, within the parameters of ethical, evidenced-based, and client-centered practice
  • encourage ongoing thought around development of theoretical orientation and, understanding of how it influences clinical case conceptualization and approach to treatment
  • encourage implementation within the clinical setting with openness to appropriate guidance and feedback (surrounding both overall clinical practice and clinical documentation)
  • hold clinicians accountable for intentional growth and development
  • individualize approaches to supervision utilizing an Integrated Developmental Model through which to listen, observe and assess varying levels of professional expertise, alongside differing levels of professional development needs for clinicians
  • listen and observe towards providing supervision that balances clinicians’ needs for clinical direction, with needs for personal development (emotional, mental health – separate from professional) as impacts the provision of clinical services and overall growth as clinicians and human beings. This can sometimes include:
    • a Cognitive approach to assessment of self-defeating or distorted thinking patterns and behaviors (i.e. thoughts about self, competence, irrational thinking) that can negatively influence clinicians’ case conceptualizations and implementation of work with clients. Interpersonal Process Recall is sometimes used as a technique for increasing self-awareness within the clinical setting and reducing anxiety.
    • a Psychodynamic approach to encouraging insight surrounding the role of clinicians’ externally-based personal experiences and feelings that arise in therapeutic relationships with clients and can serve to block client insight and growth. An additional goal is an understanding of the connections between mental, emotional and physical health, and quality of services provided.
  • encourage improved skills needed for interaction within high risk, chaotic and challenging agency settings, through the development of a systems mindset (Interactional Model) that can be translated both within the therapeutic relationship as well as agency relationships.

The broaching of spirituality by clients has been a catalyst for clinicians’ bringing the issue of spirituality and religious integration to the clinical supervision setting. The supervisory relationship is the primary place in which counselors can feel freedom to explore their own personal beliefs and determine how these beliefs inform and impact their theoretical stance on human motivation and healing. Additionally, I believe the incorporation of spiritual and religious issues is a natural part of a holistic approach to the overall health of clinicians. Encouraging spiritual exploration allows them space to become comfortable in do so, towards increasing their comfort levels and flexibility for helping their clients to do the same. The working out of their personal integration of psychological and spiritual experience is critical to their ability to assist others in doing so.

 

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