9 Traits of an Effective Clinical Supervisor

Traits of an Effective Clinical Supervisor #clinicalsupervision

Clinical Supervision is a key component in social worker and therapist training. Not all clinical supervisors are created equally. If your supervisor is employed by the agency where you work, you may not have any choice in your clinical supervisor. However, if you are hiring your own clinical supervisor, you will want to find someone who is not only competent and experienced, but has these traits of an effective clinical supervisor.

  1. Strengths based – this is hallmark of social work practice and should used in supervision as well as with clients. You and your supervisor should assess and acknowledge your strengths so they can be used to the max. You shouldn’t leave supervision feeling badly about yourself or your work.
  2. Consistent – your clinical supervisor should meet with you on a regular basis (generally, at least once per week). Honestly, I’m a bit appalled by how many supervisees tell me previous supervisors didn’t meet with them regularly.
  3. Encouraging – a clinical supervisor should be an excellent listener and validate and encourage your experiences. Sometimes an administrative supervisor don’t have the bandwidth to really sit and listen. I find a clinical supervisor provides encouragement that can be lacking otherwise.
  4. Accountable – a clinical supervisor is both accountable for his/her own actions and decisions and should hold you accountable for yours.
  5. Provides constructive feedback – a clinical supervisor is required to provide regular feedback to supervisees. Feedback provides important information for you about your job performance, strengths, and areas for growth.
  6. Responsive – when you have a client in crisis, you want to know your supervisor will be responsive to your questions and needs.
  7. Strong ethics – your supervisor should educate and model appropriate ethics.
  8. Clear boundaries – again, your supervisor should model appropriate professional boundaries. S/he isn’t your friend, should share personal information appropriately, etc.
  9. Provides practical answers – a supervisor should have the knowledge and experience to answer your questions and give meaningful suggestions and directions.

How does your clinical supervisor measure up? I hope you’ve identified many of the traits of an effective clinical supervisor in your own supervisor. And if you are a supervisor, this list can be a great place to start your own self-assessment.

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Sharon Martin has a passion for clinical supervision, mentoring new social workers, blogging, and reading all things social work related. She is a California Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years in the field. Sharon has worked extensively in Bay Area non-profits and successfully runs a private counseling practice in San Jose. Sharon writes regularly for PsychCentral and the Good Men Project. She's also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism.

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