3 Ways to Elevate Counseling Supervision

Are you a gatekeeper in the counseling profession? 

This mantle of “gatekeeper” weighs heavily on many supervisors. And that weight grows heavier with research like the 2002 study that found that 10% of counselors-in-training weren’t suitable for the profession. 

While counselor gatekeeping requires structural changes, there are tools that can help individual supervisors independently improve their counseling supervision. These tools address some of the major issues: assessing counseling skills, providing adequate feedback, and setting expectations.   

Download your free counseling skills rubric.

Here are three tools you can wield that improve counseling supervision:

Counseling Supervision

1. A Comprehensive Counseling Skills Rubric

The Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision admits that it’s hard to identify and measure specific skills. And in a recent study published in 2017, three counseling professors at the University of South Dakota found that the most common problem with professional competence (PPC) supervisors’ witnessed was “inadequate clinical skills.” 

So for supervisors struggling with evaluating clinical skills, use a comprehensive rubric. 

It was almost impossible in the past to find a reliable rubric for counseling skills. In fact, before 2011 you couldn’t find a well-researched and tested rubric. But in 2015, Dr. Stephen Flynn and Dr. Danica Hays solved this problem by developing a Comprehensive Counseling Skills Rubric. 

The rubric is intended for training graduate-level mental health professionals. And after carefully testing this rubric and publishing their results, it can be an excellent resource for improving counseling supervision. 

Video-Based Assessment of Counseling Supervision

2. A Video-Based Assessment Tool

Giving feedback is one of the primary responsibilities of a supervisor, but feedback continues to be a weakness in counseling supervision. In fact, a study going back to the late 90s illustrated that counseling feedback was a problem, and today it’s still a hot topic. 

While there are a lot of approaches to improving counseling supervision feedback, you should consider a video-based assessment tool. After all, you’re probably already recording counselor-in-training sessions. So why not use a software that saves you time and helps you give more specific and contextual feedback to students?

The right video-based assessment tool can save you time by syncing feedback and video together. With software like GoReact, all the feedback you give (written, verbal, or video) is directly in the video with a linking timecode. Naturally, these syncing aids supervisors in providing counselors-in-training with more contextual feedback. 

Software like GoReact can also alleviate problems with self-efficacy and feedback. Supervisors—especially younger supervisors—may lack the confidence to give negative criticism. But knowing that students can easily click on a link to see video evidence of any feedback can put a novice supervisor’s mind at ease. 

Supervisor-Supervisee Contract for Counseling

3. A Thorough Supervisor-Supervisee Contract

Finally, so many problems in counseling supervision derive from conflicting or unclear expectations. Whether your program requires a supervisor-supervisee contract or not, it’s a great idea to create one. This basic tool is an essential method for setting expectations for counseling supervision. 

What should it look like? 

Well, a successful contract will vary depending on the supervisor, the supervisee, the program, and state and federal laws. So there isn’t a download out there that will solve all your problems. But a supervisor-supervisee contract should include these important points outlined in The Basics of Supervision for Counselors

    • Purpose, goals, and objectives
    • Context of services
    • Method of evaluation
    • Duties and responsibilities of supervisor and supervisee
    • Procedural considerations
    • Supervisor’s scope of practice
    • Defined roles for supervisee and supervisor 

If you’re looking for a great example and more detailed ideas about your contract, check out the example and tables outlined in Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions. 

As far as best practices go, once you have a draft, seek legal counsel to review the basics of the contract. Also, remember to discuss the contract during the first interview with any potential supervisees. 

While the counseling profession continues to work on the structural changes to improve gatekeeping, supervisors can leverage tools and techniques now. After all, a more systematic skill-assessment method, superior feedback, and clear expectations is a step in the right direction. It saves you time, eases stress and anxiety, improves your feedback, and ultimately strengthens the supervisor-supervisee relationship. 

The rubric is intended for training graduate-level mental health professionals. If you’re interested in learning more about the counseling skills rubric, read A Comprehensive Counseling Skills Rubric for Educators and Supervisors [Download]

Comprehensive Counseling Skills Rubric

Gaubatz and Vera. “Do Formalized Gatekeeping Procedures Increase Programs’ Follow-up with Deficient Trainees?” Counseling Education and Supervision. 
Bernard and Goodyear. Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision. Pearson. 
Lambie, Swank, Witta. “An Exploratory Investigation of the Counseling Competencies Scale: A Measure of Counseling Skills, Dispositions, and Behaviors.Counselor Education and Supervision.
Flynn and Hayes. “The Development and Validation of the Comprehensive Counseling Skills Rubric”. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation.
Brown-Rice, Jorgensen, and Olson. “Clinical Supervisors’ Knowledge of Supervisees with Problems of Professional Competency.The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision.
Ladany et al. “Psychotherapy Supervisor Ethical Practices: Adherence to Guidelines, the Supervisory Working Alliance, and Supervise Satisfaction.The Counseling Psychologist. 
Green. “Skills Training and Self-Esteem: Educational and Clinical Perspectives on Giving Feedback to Clinical Trainees.Behavior Change. 
The Basics of Supervision for School Counselors. Indiana University of Pennsylvania. 
Homrich and Henderson. Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions. American Counseling Association.



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