Becoming and Being a Clinical Supervisor

For many of us, the natural progression of the therapist’s career is to become a clinical supervisor. This is not a decision that should be taken lightly though. In my opinion, becoming a supervisor is not a step up from being a therapist, it is not an “upgrade” status from the therapist status. It is an important profession in its own right.

Of course, you need all the clinical experience of being a therapist to be an effective supervisor, but supervision is a very different job too.

As a clinical supervisor, I find myself needing to take on multiple roles: an ethical assessor, an educator, a professional guide, a colleague to help with brainstorming, an emotional support, to name but a few.

Within those different roles, the primary job of a supervisor is to help therapists offer the best, ethical treatment to their clients and to safeguard clients from malpractice. It means that all supervisory conversations are in the service of clients and that those conversations go beyond the tick box of clever methods and interventions.  

For a therapist to be ethical and in good practice, they need to be able to reflect on theories and to adapt those theories to meet their unique clients’ needs. It takes flexibility and creativity, important skills that both supervisors and therapists need to have. Therapists also need to be open to discuss their blind spots, a place that the supervisor can point to if the therapist isn’t aware. These tricky and difficult conversations can only occur if both the therapist and their supervisor co-create a safe space. Indeed, effective supervision relies on the relationship between the therapist and supervisor, just like effective therapy relies on the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and their client.

The primary job of a supervisor is to help therapists offer the best, ethical treatment to their clients and to safeguard clients from malpractice.

The supervisory space that I co-create with my supervisees is one where the tough and honest conversations can happen, inviting supervisees to reflect on their chosen interventions, to discuss mistakes in order to learn from them, to repair relational ruptures, to have the courage to stay congruent, and to increase compassion and unconditional positive regard when needed. It is a place where no stones are left unturned, examining our work in detail. Why? Because I believe there is no greater privilege in this world than to help people who struggle, our clients.

A therapist is ethical and in good practice when they look after themselves too. The supervisory space is also for the therapist’s wellbeing. As a clinical supervisor, I think it is important that I get to know my supervisees personally, what their lives look like, how to manage their work/life balance, what personal challenges they’re facing, without supervision becoming a therapy session, because… why not? It doesn’t make sense to me to be economical with our interpersonal skills with our supervisees. It is the bedrock of our profession after all. Helping therapists with identifying their needs for their future development is also a nourishing supervisory conversation to have. All in all, I want my supervisees to be very successful in their career because it has always been a joy for me to be in our profession.

I believe it is important for supervisors not to be afraid or threatened by their supervisees’ success. I feel the opposite. My heart is filled with happiness when my supervisees do well. Occasionally, I even enjoy a good laugh with my supervisees because our work is hard, we support many people who have immense struggles, we give our very best to our work, so, once in a while, it is good to laugh together.

So, what do you think? Do you want to become a clinical supervisor? Do you want to learn the supervisor’s job, a whole new job, for the service of your colleagues’ clients, and of service to our profession? Are you ready?

If so, come and join us on the CICS Diploma in Clinical Supervision and it will be our joy to help you shine in this profession.

Blog Post written by:
Silva Neves
Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Diploma Director and Lead Tutor