Since I began posting my monthly newsletter on the internet, I have attained a much wider circulation, including newly licensed and about to be licensed counselors. [My monthly newsletter only comes out about once a quarter, but I am determined to make it a monthly
resource, so I persist in calling it my monthly newsletter.]
But this post is about supervision. Counselors already understand this process, having survived it, currently enduring it, or anxiously anticipating it. The following paragraphs are written with the client in mind. I suspect that we, as counselors, often overestimate the level of knowledge on the part of the client about the counseling process. So, counselors, you can skip to the newsletters, or the posts written with the supervisor in mind.
Supervision is part of the legally required process of transitioning from a barely trained
counselor recently graduated from a two year (or longer) Master’s program in counseling,
to full licensure that allows a counselor to practice counseling independently. The process may be comparable to an internship or a residency that physicians have to go through in order to practice medicine independently. The various state requirements that I have heard about range from 1000 hours of client contact up to 4000 hours of client contact. If a counselor spends 20 hours a week* counseling clients, for 50 weeks, they will complete 1000 hours. So the expectations of the time a new counselor should spend working under the oversight of a specially trained experienced counselor can be determined by the number of hours required for full licensure: One year equals a thousand hours of counseling performed under supervision, two years equals two thousand, three years equals three thousand. But some states also allow credit for the work that accompanies
counseling, sometimes referred to as indirect hours. The state that required the 4000 hours allowed credit for all the time spent on the job. So, working 40 hours a week, for 50 weeks, results in 2000 hours of direct and indirect counseling, making a 4000 hour requirement equivalent to two years of supervised counseling.
*[For many years 20 hours of direct client counseling has been considered equivalent to full time work. This is partly due to the emotional toll exacted from the counselor by immersing self into the life and problems of another human being. But it is also due to the many other responsibilities that go with counseling, such as researching problems and treatments, planning treatment programs, writing letters for court, coordinating therapy with other counselors, answering the phone, answering emails, documenting treatment, billing for services, etc. So a counselor performing 20 hours of direct client counseling usually has at least another 10 hours of associated work on behalf of that client, plus work needed to maintain the counseling practice. The total can easily surpass a 40 hour work week. But in recent years the expectation of a full time counselor has become 25 hours of direct client contact, which usually results in a work week in excess of 40 hours.]
States also vary in the licensure allowed to new counselors. Some states will award a practice license, that allows the counselor to perform all of the services of a fully licensed
counselor, but under regular supervision. Some states limit the services that a new counselor can perform, or require that counselor to practice under the supervisor’s license. It can get complicated, as any counselor knows who began work in one state and then transferred to another state. Even fully licensed, experienced counselors can have trouble securing a license to practice when moving from one state to another.
So what does this mean for the client of a counselor under supervision? The most basic function of supervision is to protect the public from mistakes that a counselor may make early in their career. “Do no harm” is the first principle of counseling. Supervision
helps a counselor to protect the well-being of their clients. Supervision is also a resource for new counselors to use to provide the best services to their clients. Frequently supervision is conducted in groups of up to five counselors. In these groups a new counselor can present the basic problem of a difficult case, and have five trained people work towards a helpful treatment plan.
Some clients worry about confidentiality when their counselor is under supervision. In all of my groups I require that any information that might reveal the identity of a client be removed before a case is presented to the group. All of the counselors are required by their ethical code to protect the confidentiality of a client. We take this responsibility
very seriously. Individual supervision, when just one counselor and one supervisor are together, may have different rules. In states where the counselor works under the supervisor’s license, the supervisor may have complete access to a client’s case file. In those states, the counselor must receive permission, in writing, from the client to
share personal information with the supervisor. In Arkansas, where I practice, new counselors work under their own license. I do not allow the counselors whom I supervise to share any information with me that might lead to identifying their client. I don’t need
to know a client’s name to be able to help the counselor provide a high level of professional service and protection.
Supervision may sound threatening to a client. Counselors often see it as a necessary evil. But supervision is designed to help protect the public. It also helps the counselor to develop into a mature therapist much faster than if the counselor were practicing
independently. And it is useful to keep a counselor from burning out early in their career. It is a good thing.
Finding a Supervisor
I recently sent an email to a counselor who is in the process of licensing in Arkansas. She has been corresponding with me concerning the process of finding a supervisor. Some of the suggestions that I offered to her may be of use to others. So I am expanding on my suggestions and making them the heart of this month’s post.
The state counseling board should have a list of approved supervisors, or the state
requirements for a counselor to supervise. In some states a counselor has to have special training to be a supervisor. A counselor may have to pass a test or achieve some form of national certification to be a supervisor. But some states merely require that a counselor have a certain number of years in the profession, or meet a minimum number of hours of counseling with clients. In Arkansas, where I supervise, we are required to be fully licensed for at least three years, undergo special training in supervision, and pass an oral exam before the Board of Examiners in Counseling. The Board’s website lists all of the approved supervisors in the state.
I recommend that you interview potential supervisors in person before you make a
decision. The way that we handle ourselves in a face to face meeting is usually consistent with the way we conduct supervision. You should seek out a supervisor who has some knowledge of the population, presenting problems, and counseling environment that you will be involved with. You might also seek a supervisor who is familiar with the theory and methods of counseling that you intend to use.
You should also ask questions about theory of supervision, methods of supervision,
logistics, expectations of attending group versus individual supervision, and the possibility of distance or tech assisted supervision. And I would want to know why a person is willing to be a supervisor (most counselors are not willing to). Oh, and ask about money. There is a wide range of fees charged for supervision.
Sometimes your employer will provide supervision as a benefit of employment. And sometimes an employer will reimburse you for your supervision expenses. If you have to pay for your own supervision, keep receipts. Supervision is a cost of doing business for a
new counselor, and may be tax deductible.
Your supervisor will greatly affect your early years of counseling, and may permanently influence your style of counseling. Choose with care.
By Alan Pogue, Ph.D.
A newsletter for the use of LACs and LAMFTs in Arkansas.
Next Board of Examiners meeting: October 7 & 8 at the Arkansas State Capitol.
The BOEC is continuing to update their website.
Check it out at:
I have heard that ACA in North Little Rock is short staffed and in need of counselors, LACs, LPCs, LAMFTs, or LMFTs.
While roaming about the Youth Homes website: http://www.youthhome.org/
I noticed that they are looking for a residential treatment counselor.
Youth Home, Inc., Attn: Personnel
20400 Colonel Glenn Road
Little Rock, Arkansas 72210
Job Line: 501.821.5500 ext. 316
Methodist Family Health is looking for an assessment and referral counselor. License is not needed. Apply by September 28. Contact:
Methodist Family Health
1600 Aldersgate Road
Little Rock, AR 72205
ArCA Annual Conference, November 16-18, in Hot Springs. Go to:
http://www.arcounseling.org/ for information. I try to attend at least one day of ArCA every year. If you attend all 3 days, you can get about 21 hours of CEUs. It is an excellent networking conference. This is the state division of the American Counseling Association.
I have a group meeting at 5 pm on Mondays for 1.5 hours.
Most weeks I have a group meeting at either 12:30 or 1:30 on Wednesdays, for 1.5 – 2.0 hours.
About once a month I have a group meeting on Friday mornings, child care available.
Please let me know if you expect to be able to attend.
Jenny Register is now fully licensed (LPC).
Sherry and I traveled to China during the first two weeks of September, along with
other Marriage and Family Therapists as part of a People to People delegation. We met with Psychotherapists in China who are trying to translate Western forms of therapy into methods that work with the Chinese culture. It was a fascinating trip. Their entire society is being changed as a result of the One Child policy. The basic family structure in China now consists of 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and one child. The Chinese Psychotherapists refer to the child in this family structure as “The Little Emperor.” The children reared in this type of family are both highly stressed and very spoiled.
Beijing is very Westernized. Most of the important signs around town are in both Chinese and English. It was very easy to navigate. Many Chinese speak some English. We considered this trip to be a once in a lifetime trip, but now we plan to return someday. The highpoints were our trip to climb the Great Wall, and shopping at a Super Walmart in Guiyang.