Clinical supervision is a profession with its own theories, practices, and standards. There are several definitions of supervision. According to Technical Assistance Publication (TAP) 21-A, Competencies for Substance Abuse Treatment Clinical Supervisors, clinical supervision is a social influence process that occurs over time, in which the supervisor participates with supervisors to ensure quality of clinical care. Effective supervisors observe, mentor, coach, evaluate, inspire, and create an atmosphere that promotes self-motivation, learning, and professional development. They build teams, create cohesion, resolve conflict, and shape agency culture while attending to ethical and diversity issues in all aspects of the process. Such supervision is key to both quality improvement and the successful implementation of consensus- and evidence-based practices. Clinical supervision was only recently acknowledged as a discrete process with its own concepts and approaches. A clinical supervisor:
- Supervises the client, counselor, and organization.
- Has a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure quality client care, professional development for counselors, and maintenance of program policies and procedures.
Functions of a Clinical Supervisor
- Be an advocate for the agency, counselor, and client.
- Serve as the primary link between the administration and front line staff, interpreting and monitoring compliance with agency goals, policies, and procedures.
- Communicate staff and client needs to administrators.
Central to the supervisor’s function is the alliance between the supervisor and supervisor. Within the supervisory relationship, the supervisor’s four roles are:
Teacher: Assist with the development of counseling knowledge and skills by identifying learning needs, determining counselor self-awareness, and transmitting knowledge for practical use and professional growth.
Consultant: Provide case consultation and review, monitor performance, counsel the counselor regarding job performance, and assess counselors. The supervisor provides alternative case conceptualizations, oversight of counselor work to achieve mutually agreed-on goals, and professional gatekeeping for the organization and discipline (e.g., recognizing and addressing counselor impairment).
Coach: Provide morale building, assess strengths and needs, suggest varying clinical approaches, model, cheerlead, and prevent burnout. This function is critical for entry-level counselors.
Mentor/Role Model: Mentor and teach the supervisor through role modeling, facilitate the counselor’s overall professional development, and train the next generation of supervisors.
For more detailed information, see TIP 52, Part 1, Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor, Chapter 1, pages 3–4.
CADTP offers certifications for the Clinical Supervisor. Check out the requirements on the Career Page.
Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor
This manual presents guidelines for clinical supervision in the substance use disorder treatment field. It covers supervision methods and models, cultural competence, ethical and legal issues, and performance monitoring. The manual also includes an implementation guide for program administrators. Access the literature review.
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Quick Guide for Clinical Supervisors
This guide offers tips for clinical supervisors in the substance use disorder treatment field. It covers the functions of a clinical supervisor and highlights stages of professional development for counselors and clinical supervisors.
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