When done well, clinical supervision is key to the thriving and future success of up-and-coming practitioners. Under the wings of a trusted,
knowledgeable and competent supervisor, a novice
therapist’s intellectual understanding transforms into real-life interventions that can profoundly affect others’ lives
for the better.
But the gold standard of supervision is too often
unmet in psychology, in large part because supervisors
tend to view the role as a given, supervision experts say.
While there is a fairly strong knowledge base in the area,
supervisors tend to think the skill is something learned
“A pervasive attitude has been, ‘If you were supervised,
you can supervise — what’s the problem?’” says
Pepperdine University adjunct professor Carol Falender,
PhD, who with Edward Shafranske, PhD, wrote the 2008
book “Casebook for Clinical Supervision: A Competency-Based Approach.” She’s concerned this attitude has
resulted in a devaluation of the need to ensure supervisor
A new set of guidelines aims to give psychology
supervisors guidance grounded in research and
experience. Earlier this year, an APA task force headed by
Falender completed two years of work on a document
that defines and fleshes out the parameters of good
supervision, including a strong, trusting supervisory
relationship and sound, modern assessment and feedback
methods, among others. The guidelines were adopted as
policy by APA’s Council of Representatives in August.
“Until now, there has been no national policy or
guidance to help psychologists understand the best ways
to implement high-quality supervision,” says APA Deputy
Executive Director for Education Catherine Grus, PhD,
who was the APA staff liaison to the guidelines task force.
“That’s what this document does.”
A unique set of skills
Seeds for the guidelines were planted at a 2002 conference
on competencies in professional psychology organized by
the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship
Centers and co-sponsored by APA and other organizations.
There, psychology educators mapped out eight core areas
for students to grasp to become good practitioners. One of
these was supervision, detailed in a 2004 article by Falender
and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. It stated
that professional development — including supervision —
should be a lifelong, cumulative process that pays strong
attention to diversity and takes into account legal and
ethical issues, personal and professional factors, and self-and peer-assessment.
The guidelines pick up on these points, organizing
them in seven domains that task force members agree are
necessary to becoming a good supervisor. They include
competence in supervision itself, as well as in diversity
issues, the supervisory relationship, professionalism,
assessment, evaluation and feedback, and ethical, legal and
Practitioners also should be knowledgeable of the
literature on supervisory incompetence, which includes
to make clinical supervision a more evidence-based
and codified part of psychology training.
BY TORI DEANGELIS