How to get the supervision you want

Aug 15, 2014 by

apple bookIf you haven’t yet matched with a supervisor for your post-graduate internship, this post is for you.

If you plan on being assigned a supervisor as a part of your full-time employment, this post is for you.

If you are unhappy with your relationship with your current supervisor, this post is for you.


This post will help you climb inside your current/future supervisor’s head.

It will give you a competitive edge during interviews.

And, it will go a long way towards cultivating a positive supervisor-supervisee relationship, whether or not you choose your supervisor or are assigned to one.

Given that you’ll most likely be working with your supervisor for 1.5-2 years minimum, it helps to have a good relationship there, don’t you think?

This is especially true if your supervisor also happens to be your boss.

(This was my exact situation during internship.)

So, how to get the supervision you want?

First things first, what to avoid

red flagAvoid warm body supervision. In other words, avoid picking a supervisor who’s little more than a warm body that signs off on hours.

Here are several red flags characteristic of warm body supervisors.

1.) They don’t remember details

2.) They make you do all the work

3.) They’re never around/unavailable

4.) They don’t give you feedback

5.) They’re unethical

Whatever you do, avoid the scenario of warm body supervision.

I’ve written about the costs of poor supervision on your training & professional development here. It’s not a decision to take lightly!

Getting the supervision you want

mirrorI’ve written elsewhere about how to get good supervision.

But today’s topic takes an important angle on the question.

Rather than focusing on what you want, climb inside your prospective supervisor’s head for a minute.

This may seem quite counterintuitive, I know.  Isn’t this article about what you want out of supervision?

But, in order to make yourself a competitive candidate, it really helps to take the perspective of the person you’re wanting to partner with.

What do you imagine a supervisor looks for in a supervisee?

Really consider it for a minute.

You are practicing under this person’s license.

Any mistakes or liability you garner effectively becomes hers.

So it makes sense that your supervisor would want to work with someone ethical, competent.

But beyond that? What would matter to this person?

It doesn’t have to be a guessing game

chess pawnsMaybe you came up with some ideas, but you’d like some more help?

Here’s how to climb inside your prospective supervisor’s head:

Some of us write about this very topic on our website.

(You have reviewed our website, haven’t you?)

You may be able to get a sense of our values by looking at the other interns we’ve partnered with.

It doesn’t hurt to ask us this very question during an interview, though it really helps to have done some of the legwork yourself.

Above all, think about how your own strengths dovetail with our values & goals—be prepared to share your thoughts on this during interview.

If you’re still drawing a blank, consider these factors when evaluating your compatibility & considering your prospective supervisor’s values:

+ what kinds of clients does this supervisor tend to see?  adults, teens, families, couples and/or children?  folks with a particular presenting concern?

+ does this supervisor practice primarily from a particular therapeutic model, or are they more of an integrationist?  If they prefer a particular model, are they open to working with interns who use other models?

+ is this supervisor interested in having interns work in their practice, off-site, or both?  (if applicable)

What if you already have a supervisor?

Even if you already have a supervisor, it’s still useful to climb inside their head for a bit.

This is particularly true if the relationship is strained and you are having trouble.

After all, it’s natural that we consider things from our own perspective—but we can learn a lot by shoe-sharing for a bit and considering the other side of things.

Maybe you had a disagreement with a supervisor over how best to keep your records. Or you really want to see this particular client but your supervisor has reservations and plans to refer them out.

Try to consider it from the supervisor’s perspective for a moment. Ask yourself these two questions:

1.) What are they trying to accomplish?

2.) What would they like more of from you?

When in doubt, ask. And try to be open to whatever you hear.

(You may not agree with all of it, but openness to feedback is a trait that most supervisors value.)

Be an exemplary supervisee

That’s my last piece of advice.  Be an exemplary supervisee.

It won’t guarantee you excellent supervision.  But it certainly gives you a better chance than most.

If you are conscientious, open to learning & feedback, ethical, thoughtful, and hard-working, you’ll be a much more attractive candidate to an in-demand supervisor.

So, work on bringing your very best to the table.

Good luck!

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