What do you look for in a clinical supervisor?

When looking for a clinical supervisor I would recommend thinking about the following:

  • What qualification and experience does the supervisor have?
  • Will the supervisor encourage and support you to engage and grapple with defensible ethical decision-making?
  • Is there need for a supervisor with specialist knowledge, for example, working with gender, sexual or relationship diverse clients/supervisees, racial/cultural differences, or children and young people?
  • Is the supervisor willing to do their own learning (in their own time) about areas of difference or marginalisation which impact you and/or your clients? Do you anticipate having to educate the supervisor before you can discuss what you need to?
  • Do you envisage a helpful mix of containment, exploration, knowledge for you?
  • What is the style of the supervisor? Do they work more in a collaborative, informative, passive or integrative way? Does the supervisor prefer working with trainees, qualified or experienced therapists? How does that fit with your requirements?
  • How do you respond to questioning, empathy, authority? Are you able to discuss how you experience supervision? What might make you feel defensive? Do you feel able to bring all parts of you into supervision?

How do you assess if you are getting enough of your needs met?

If the arrangement doesn’t feel helpful, what would it need to look like to make it more helpful? What would it need to look like to know it’s time to change supervisors?

In each supervision experience I ask myself if I feel I’m getting my needs met in my supervision irrespective of how long we’ve been meeting. This translates into how I work with my supervisees also.

We have regular moments where I ask the supervisee if they feel able to ask for more or less of something. Many supervisees find it difficult to ask for certain needs to be met so it can be an area of personal growth to learn how to ask and negotiate in what is hopefully a safe environment.

I invite supervisees to say what feels helpful and unhelpful and have open discussion about what we can change in order to get their developing needs met. I encourage supervisees to reflect on where any anxiety or ambivalence might be coming from so we can collaboratively assess our working relationship.

Many therapists, once qualified, have more than one supervisor and reap the benefits of this. Where needed I will recommend the supervisee engages with specialist additional supervision for working with gender, sexual or relationship diverse clients/supervisees, racial/cultural differences, or children and young people.