Using Supervision Contracts

Sign up for our 2017 MAMFT In-Home Therapy Symposium on October 20 in Holyoke. This blog post is written by presenter Jeremiah Gibson, LMFT.

It’s the end of hiring season, the three month period that my agency, South Bay (and, I presume, a lot of other agencies) primarily uses to replenish their workforce with recently graduated therapists. I’m reflecting on when I moved to New England seven years ago. New hire training looked completely different in 2010.

My supervisor, Angela, was the first social worker I professionally worked with. Our first supervision experiences were akin to an exchange student (me, in this metaphor) learning a new culture and language. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t speak my native language, systems, and she struggled to teach me her primary languages, CBT and the medical model. During my three years in Brockton, Angela became one of my favorite colleagues at South Bay, but we struggled for the first few months.

Today, I’m starting with a new therapist—a young woman who recently graduated, and (I assume) is overwhelmed by trying to see 20-25 clients in a week, meeting the administrative requirements of our agency, and recognizing the nuances of therapy that weren’t taught in graduate school. I’ve begun supervision with four new therapists like her in the last month. Seven years ago, I was in her position.

Supervisors are often the first relationships that new therapists create. A positive, empathic supervisor can create a salve, a safe haven for post graduates surviving the pace and the grind of agency work. A negative, demanding, or aloof supervisor can expedite a therapist’s exit process.

 

Supervision is inherently hierarchical; I teach, train, guide, and direct my supervisees to provide the highest quality of care for their clients. The primary challenge for supervisors is providing the appropriate balance between direction and collaboration. We want our supervisees to trust us so they’ll bring their most challenging cases and be open to exploring self-of-therapist issues. We also need to be able to call out ineffective and unethical practices. Too often, I’ve observed too much of one and not enough of the other.

During the In-Home Family Therapy Symposium, on Friday, October 20th in Holyoke, Maria Zygmont and I will work with dozens of agency supervisors on achieving balance between direction and collaboration. I will specifically discuss the importance of supervision contracts, which define structure and clear expectations for the supervision relationship. Regardless of the paperwork that your agency may provide, I suggest that supervision contracts provide:

  • Goals: What do you hope to achieve as a supervisor? What skills do you hope that your supervisee has in 6 months? A year?
  • Information about you and your specific supervision practices. What theories do you primarily practice? What structure of supervision can your supervisee expect (i.e. process consultation, live supervision)
  • Risks and benefits of supervision: What makes supervision an important part of the development of a therapist? How do we describe the need to explore isomorphic self-of-therapist issues while also differentiating supervision from therapy?
  • Evaluation processes: What does success for each supervision session look like? What is the process for calling out ineffective and unethical processes?
  • Supervisor’s Responsibilities: What administrative and training processes can you specifically can you provide for your supervisee? How accessible do you want to make yourself?
  • Supervisee’s Responsibilities: What does a supervisee need to bring to each supervision meeting? What might a supervisee need to do in between supervision meetings?

If you supervise therapists at an agency, I hope that you’ll sign up for the supervisor track of the In-Home Family Therapy Symposium.

And if you are interested in becoming a supervisor and are three years post-licensure, I highly suggest reaching out to an agency near you and asking if they need help with licensure supervision. Please let us know if you need help connecting with an agency by emailing us at info@mamft.org.

 

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