During school, supervision is provided and expectations for supervisor and supervisee roles are defined by the school or program. Newly graduated art therapists entering the work world may or may not have a supervisor available to them at their work site and will have to find and negotiate supervision services from a professional. Credentialed art therapists may also find themselves taking on the role of supervisor without formalized training in the role and responsibilities of supervisors. For both parties it is important to define the rights and responsibilities that are involved in the supervision relationship.
An excellent source of information regarding supervision rights and responsibilities may be found in Fundamentals of Supervision. Many forms for both supervisees and supervisors are provided to help support supervisor and supervisee dialogues about expectations and guidelines. A “Supervisee’s Bill of Rights” and a “Supervision Agreement” form, based on the Bill of Rights, are two such forms provided. Within the Supervisee’s Bill of Rights, the nature of the supervisory relationship is described. For example, the role of the supervisor is said to facilitate “professional growth of the supervisee through: monitoring client welfare, encouraging compliance with legal, ethical, and professional standards, teaching therapeutic skills, providing regular feedback and evaluation, [and] providing professional experiences and opportunities” (Giordana, Altekruse, & Kern, 2000, as cited in Bernard and Goodyear, 2014, p. 313).
Other components of the Bill of Rights address means to identify development of supervision goals and the processes that will be utilized. For example, the supervisee may identify the need to explore countertransference with a particular type of client, and the supervisor may identify that the supervisee will come prepared for supervision by bringing responsive art, or perhaps transcripts of sessions. Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision’s Bernard & Goodyear also assert that establishing defined learning objectives are essential in shaping the direction and content of supervision. Even before entering into a supervision agreement, Bernard & Goodyear recommend that the supervisor disclose essential information regarding credentials, licenses, academic background, and experience.
As a part of this initial introduction, it is important for supervisor and supervisee to discuss their theoretical orientations so that they may assess alignment or interest in the framework of instruction that may be utilized. For example, a supervisor may be trained in and practice art therapy from a psychodynamic framework, yet, the supervisee may want or expect art therapy supervision with a transpersonal or cognitive behavioral emphasis. Similar to the informed consent process in therapy and research, supervisors should clearly communicate their ways of working so that the supervisee understands what will be offered and expected.
Once informed, supervisees can determine if the supervisory relationship will meet their supervision needs. The Art Therapy Credentials Board also provides guidelines in the Code of Professional Practice regarding supervisory responsibilities. According to the Code of Professional Practice, art therapy supervisors foster professional growth through “the use of accurate, current, and scholarly information.” Art therapists who serve as supervisors are also responsible for their supervisees and assure that supervisees do not perform and represent themselves “as competent to perform professional services beyond their education, training, experience, or competence.”
Supervisors are also responsible for the quality of the supervision they provide and the maintenance of their supervision skills. In his or her role as supervisor, a supervisor takes into consideration his or her own skill level and seeks supervision or consultation as needed in order to provide the supervisee with adequate feedback and evaluation. All supervisors need to be aware of the content of the Codes of Professional Practice in order to communicate and support ethical practice of art therapy.
Qualified ATR-BCs who are interested in demonstrating substantial supervision qualifications may apply for a supervisor credential through the ATCB. This credential, Art Therapy Certified Supervisor (ATCS), helps to inform prospective supervisees that their supervisor has met specific criteria for competency in the theories and practices of art therapy supervision. Additionally, ATCSs must apply for recertification during their ATR-BC renewal cycle every five years and meet requirements for continuing education in supervision.
Whether or not a supervisor holds the ATCS credential, he or she must be familiar with state regulations regarding his or her responsibility for supervisees’ client welfare. It is critical to understand that supervisors may be held responsible for a supervisee’s actions that have been identified as malpractice. The Bernard and Goodyear text provides general information and recommendations for preventing and addressing these challenges as well. Proactively, supervisors should alert their malpractice insurance carrier regarding their supervisory responsibilities to assure they have sufficient coverage for these potential occurrences.
Yes, supervisor responsibilities are significant, but, just as significant are the joys of sharing expertise, witnessing the development of new art therapists, and cultivating the growth of the art therapy profession. To all art therapists who mindfully take on the supervisor role, thank you. Keep up the good work!
Barbara-Parker Bell ATR-BC is currently the president of the ATCB and an Associate Professor and the Director of the Art Therapy Program at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida