10 Questions to Ask a Potential Clinical Supervisor

10 Questions to Ask a Potential Counseling Supervisor

In Therapy by Amanda Frey

Kalamazoo Therapy Group offers LLC (previously LLPC) and LLMFT supervision. Please contact us to learn more about supervision with us or one of our very trusted colleagues in Kalamazoo/Portage.

In my career, I’ve heard a lot of great things about supervisors, and a lot of horrible things about supervisors.

I’m an LLMFT and LLC (LLPC) supervisor who only works with clinicians who have to pay for their own supervision, meaning they have a different workplace than me, and they might not see me for their full 2 years of limited licensing. I’ve had people just consult about Michigan licensure codes, pick me from the start and stick around for years, as an add-on to their free supervision, or to finish up some straggler hours.

Being a “freelance supervisor” has given me a unique perspective on the many routes of supervision, and a lot of lessons to learn about how to pick a supervisor.

If you’re in the market for a clinical supervisor, here are 10 questions I recommend you ask, and why, to make sure you’re finding the best fit.

But per usual, I’m licensed and trained in Michigan, so that’s the viewpoint I’ll use. However, every state has different licensing criteria, so make sure you look up your state’s specific requirements/regulations.

1. What’s your work experience?

If you’re going to pick your supervisor, it’s probably a good idea to pick one who can model what you want your career to look like.

For example: Do they have hands-on experience with the population you aspire to specialize in? Have they worked in a setting similar to your job?

If you want to specialize in sex therapy, finding a supervisor who primarily does substance abuse counseling might not be a great fit, and vice versa. If you’re in a private practice and your supervisor has only worked for agencies, that might make it difficult for them to relate to your job logistics and finances.

A counseling supervisor will never check every experience box to perfectly line up with their supervisee, but having some of the larger ones checked could make a big difference in how much you get out of supervision.

2. What do you enjoy about supervision?

I’m a firm believer that people should love what they do. When you ask people what they like about their jobs, what they say (or don’t say) explains a lot.

Some people supervise for the money, others supervise because they love helping people grow, some are filling the void between teaching and practice, and others want more control and influence. Feel out the supervisor’s answer to see if the energy and authenticity they bring to the table is in line with what you’re looking for.

3. What do you see your role being as a supervisor?

This one might feel similar to the last, but it’s checking on their style of supervision, and their goals as a supervisor. At their core, supervisors are gatekeepers to make sure that therapists are ethical and competent before practicing on their own.

However, almost every horror story about a therapist abusing their power, or crossing boundaries with clients, came after they finished their supervision. Not every supervisor feels the weight of what it means to “sign-off” on their supervisees’ hours. I would imagine those supervisors would report that their role is to help bill insurance and run meetings, but I’m not sure. Regardless, this is another question helping you figure out what to expect from the supervisor, and to feel out whether their values line up with what you’re looking for from clinical supervision.

4. What are your policies on accruing and tracking hours?

Different licenses require different hours, and you need to know what your supervisor will and won’t sign off on. Some supervisors keep their own log of people’s hours, others let you keep track on your own. Some are sticklers for the exact amount you need, others are more loose and focus on your skills and competence more than the clock.

If you’re getting supervision for multiple licenses from the same person, figure out how they will count the hours. Will one hour accrue for both licenses, or will you need double the hours because it’s two licenses? I have had supervisees scammed out of many hours because a supervisor was unclear and made up the policy as they went. If things feel uncertain or fishy, get the info in writing.

5. What are your policies around individual vs group supervision?

Different licenses have different requirements for individual and group supervision hours, potentially capping group supervision. Some supervisors follow those guidelines to a T, while others are more relaxed and don’t count as close. However, even with licenses that don’t distinguish between those hours, a supervisor might require a certain amount of each as a part of their supervision process. For example: Someone might require at least one individual session per month, but the rest can be in a group.

6. Do you offer virtual supervision?

My advice is to always ask about virtual supervision, even if you prefer in-person. It gives you more flexibility and options with your schedule, but also with your choice of supervisors. However, some supervisors don’t offer virtual supervision, or they have a limit on the number of virtual hours they’ll count (sometimes due to the license requirements).

Check on the supervisor’s virtual options and policies before committing, especially if you think that will make a difference over time. Driving 30 minutes one-way for supervision adds up, and a year out you might wish you found someone with virtual flexibility.

7. Is there work assigned outside of supervision?

Thought you were done with school? Not with certain supervisors!

Sometimes supervisors will assign readings or to create case conceptualizations outside of supervision. These can be really helpful for some and “clicks” with how their brain works, but they can also be very draining and time consuming for others, potentially distracting your energy away from your clients.

Reflect on what you think will help you learn and what you want to get out of supervision, and then check on whether that lines up with what’s asked of you outside of the supervision sessions.

8. How do you evaluate your supervisees and yourself, if at all?

Supervision evaluations are totally optional in Michigan, and as far as I know most supervisors don’t do any sort of formal evaluations. Most will just do informal check-ins if something becomes concerning to them.

However, some supervisors might have more formal evaluations, whether it be based on observing a supervisee working firsthand, as some kind of scheduled review, or as an exit interview. Supervisors might even have supervisees give feedback about the supervision itself, but that’s even less common than evaluating a supervisee.

Presence or absence of evaluations might make a difference to you, or it just might be something you should know as part of what you’re signing up for.

9. What kind of supervisees do you like to take on?

It’s a little scary because it’s kind of about you, not the supervisor, but it’s really smart to know the kind of supervisee they enjoy working with, so you know if you’ll potentially fit the bill.

If they answer this question describing your worst nightmare, your opposite, or the kind of people you don’t want to work with… probably a bad sign.

If you’re not who they’re looking for, they’re going to struggle more working with you, and you’ll get less out of supervision. But if you’re in the ballpark of the type of person/clinician they enjoy supervising, then you’re probably in the right place.

10. Do you have a supervision policy or agreement I can have a copy of?

This one is tough, because supervisors aren’t required to have anything written about their policies or procedures in Michigan. In fact, the only thing supervisors actually have to do in Michigan is sign off on the hours they provided a supervisee. And even that is blurry because I’ve been told that the state won’t actually interfere if a supervisor is withholding hours.

A high quality supervisor should have some kind of policy or document (such as a Supervision Professional Disclosure) that they go over with new supervisees that everyone signs. A document like this is mutually beneficial, because both of you have a papertrail for expectations and agreements around supervision.

Supervision provided through your workplace should also have documentation about that relationship and its requirements. If your potential supervisor or site doesn’t have anything in writing about the supervision agreement, proceed with some caution. It won’t necessarily be a problem, but that’s potentially a lot of time and money to invest in your license without something in writing about the expectations.

Wow, turns out 10 questions can really add up!

Since that’s a lot to go over with someone, I encourage people to request a free meeting, which acts like a mutual interview, with potential therapist supervisors. Then the supervisor has more of a chance to offer their supervision information, and you have time to ask about anything you still aren’t sure about.

Even if you’re interviewing at a workplace where supervision is built-in, I strongly recommend meeting with the onsite supervisor as part of the interview process, to help you further assess whether the job is what you’re looking for.

The most important part of finding a supervisor is finding someone you can trust and where you think your supervision goals can be met.

Some of that is a gut feeling, but hopefully these questions get you stepping in the right direction, and help you learn the supervision expectations and logistics that might otherwise be skipped over.

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