The state of Florida requires that all mental health professional registered interns, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Mental Health Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists and Psychologists must have several years of post-licensed practice and complete a 16-hour course on supervision in order to be determined a “Qualified Supervisor”. The course as described in Florida State Chapter 491 is expected to be didactic, live and interactional, not a home-study or book and test based learning experience. In fact, there are very specific guidelines for the course one must take. Below, are the state’s basic requirements of content that must be included in supervision courses and my approach to these requirements to the course curriculum.
First, the course is expected to present information on major models of supervision. Interestingly, this trainer found little to no professional literature reviewing models of supervision to help the trainers to present a concise summary of supervisory theories has been found to date. So this trainer, with her colleague Mary Jo Klingel, LCSW developed a method of helping the participants to use their knowledge of practice theories, values, performance expectations and other factors to guide participants thoughts about supervisory interventions. As a result of the exploration of models of supervision, the participants of the training are able to develop their own personal model of supervision, another objective required by the state.
Another objective of the course is to help the participants explore the “co-evolving relationship dynamics between the therapist-client dyad, and the triad of supervisor-therapist-client relationships”. New therapists are helped to understand the dynamics of their relationship with their clients. This is often accomplished with the supervisor’s guidance and support while exploring the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee.
The training course also allows participants to explore distinctive issues that arise in supervision. Some examples of issues that our participants have explored include: strategies for resolving conflicts before they become complaints, documentation of supervisory sessions, contracting with the supervisee, transference and counter-transference.
The Qualified Supervisor’s courses incorporate either as a separate section or as thread weaving through the two days of study contextual variables such as culture, gender, ethnicity, power and economics. Potential Qualified Supervisors must also become familiar with ethical, legal and regulatory issues in supervision. We have explored at length the moral/ethical obligations related to “duty-to-warn” versus the absence of a legal obligation in Florida to make such a warning. Many discussions have revolved around potential liability as well as responsibility of the supervisor for the omission or commission of wrong acts by the supervisee. While the Florida 491 Board has never disciplined a Qualified Supervisor as a result of vicarious liability, the possibility of that action does exist and should be
Finally, participants are helped to understand the role and necessity of evaluative practices during the time of supervision. The supervisory process is one step in the nurturing of new clinical professionals. Evaluation of performance and professionalism need not be harsh or overly critical. However, the supervisor has an obligation to his or her profession to ensure that individuals who become licensed are properly prepared and competent for the work they have chosen to do.
Supervision can be an exciting and mutually rewarding process when approached in the proper way. Keep in mind, that you are furthering your education for the betterment of you as a therapist and the betterment of the lives of your patients and colleagues. New theories and information are consistently becoming available, allowing these courses and your experience to remain fresh and stimulating.
If you are already a supervisor and feel like your work has become a bit stale or concerns about liability have arisen consider taking our Practice Friendly Supervision course as a refresher or attend one of our Continuing Supervision workshops.