In my role as a consultant for CPH, an insurance agency that provides professional negligence insurance for mental health professionals, I often consult with supervisors of licensure candidates from across the country when they have issues or concerns related to supervision. Supervisors can be held accountable for the mistakes and acts of their supervisees and held civilly liable for negligent supervision of supervisees if a client is harmed. As a result of these consultations I have compiled the following list of suggestions for supervisors of candidates for licensure or certification.
- Know the rules promulgated by your board or certification body and review them with the supervisee. Make sure all documentation is timely completed and submitted at the front end and throughout the term of the supervision. If you are an off-site supervisor be sure any changes in the supervision agreement or the supervisee’s practice sites are reported to the board if required.
- Keep your supervision credential current and monitor your continuing education compliance. Letting your credential lapse could jeopardize a supervisee’s approval of supervision hours and you could be compelled to refund fees paid to you by the supervisee. Continually improve your knowledge of and competency for supervision through education and consultation with colleagues.
- Thoroughly vet your supervisees. Interview them carefully. Contact instructors, especially practicum and internship supervisors and instructors, for feedback and information. Ask for letters of recommendation. Trust your “gut”.
- Not all graduate programs are the same. Familiarize yourself with the programs your supervision applicants come from. You want strong applicants from strong programs.
- Review case files for every client your supervisee treats even if you are an off-site supervisor. I have had many consults with supervisors who learned after the supervision relationship terminated that deficiencies existed for a supervisee’s client records.
- Check in with the clients treated by the supervisee.Their perception of their therapy may be very different from the supervisee’s. Question them about their satisfaction with the supervisee and the services they have received.
- If you are an off-site supervisor, check in regularly with a supervisee’s employers and employment supervisors. Again, trust but verify.
- When you provide direction to your supervisee expect prompt follow through. Document compliance or the lack thereof in your supervision file. When problems become evident quickly lay out a remediation plan orally and in writing. Monitor compliance and progress closely and document them.
- If a supervisee does not comply with the remediation plan or proves to be a poor provider terminate your supervision.
- Encourage communication from your supervisees when questions or problems arise for them.Make sure your supervisees have easy access to you when their need to communicate arises. Consider setting a specific recurring time for supervision sessions so both you and the supervisee can more easily manage your calendars and availability.
- Make sure you have easy access to your supervisees when you need to communicate with them arises.
- Make sure your supervisees have professional liability insurance coverage and stay insured.Get proof of insurance.
- Make sure you maintain your own professional liability insurance.
- If applicable board rules or ethics codes require you to report violations by licensees or credential holders do not hesitate to do so. Your failure to do so could result in disciplinary action being brought against you.
- Be quick to intervene when you have concerns about a supervisee’s competence to effectively treat a client and if necessary help facilitate the referral to a mental health professional who has the needed competency.
- Make sure you charge adequate fees for your supervision. Fight the “you get what you pay for” mentality that could creep in otherwise. To provide good supervision and do the things I am suggesting is time consuming and a service for which you deserve to be appropriately compensated.
- Only supervise the number of supervisees for whom you can provide quality supervision.
- View supervisees like clients you treat, only hopefully, more stable and better adjusted.They deserve the same professionalism and courtesy as the people you treat. Remember you are a role model for your supervisees whether you like it or not
- To provide quality supervision you must maintain objectivity so consider maintaining the same strict boundaries as you would with a therapy client.
- Keep detailed records for each supervision session including time, date, what was covered and discussed. Don’t forget to cover ethics and document it.
Never forget your accountability and potential liability as a supervisor when things do not go well with a supervisee and the supervision. Being vigilant and active in your role as supervisor and thoroughly documenting your supervision is best practice.
Public Member Director
Tom is a lawyer and mediator in private practice, serves on the full time faculty at Southern Methodist University teaching courses in two graduate programs and has served a previous term as Public Member Director of the ATCB.