Clinical Supervision 101

Counseling Supervision 101: What is it?

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.

Back in school, I was one of those overachieving planners who was 3 steps ahead of everything. Not necessarily with coursework (I love the classic “study last minute while waiting in the hallway right before the exam” strategy), but with “The Big Picture.” For example, when I was touring undergraduate schools in high school, I always asked about their graduate programs, because I knew I would need a master’s degree to become a therapist.

Once I got into grad school, I was always asking my advisor about state licensure requirements, to make sure I was getting everything I needed for my education to translate into my job. And aiming for two licenses (LPC and LMFT), I had to be even more proactive about making sure I was going to hit both licensure requirements, because it turns out they’re pretty different.

Pro tip: Most graduate counseling programs are not focusing on their state requirements for licensure. Always touch base with your advisor and ask about whether you’re on track for your desired state’s licensure requirements, not just graduation requirements! Or befriend a practicing therapist or supervisor with your future license(s) in the state you want to live – I promise it’ll save you a ton of confusion and stress down the road.

When I started my counseling internship, and graduation was on the horizon (8 months away…), I started to get ready for my licensure application. When reviewing the application, I realized that the state requires a supervisor’s signature on your professional disclosure statement, before you even have the license for them to supervise! The standards in Michigan have changed since then, and you don’t need a supervisor to actually sign the disclosure now, but you still need to find a supervisor and figure out what that relationship will entail. And there’s pressure to do it fast, so you can get licensed and start making money…

Before getting into the details of how to find “the right supervisor”, this article will cover the basics of therapist supervision and its requirements. Since I’m located in Kalamazoo, and licensed and trained in Michigan, 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.

Let’s start from square one…

What is Counseling Supervision?

Clinical supervision is a state requirement to fulfill to qualify for full licensure, and ultimately where someone fully licensed holds you accountable for the care you provide your clients.

Supervision is a place to improve your clinical skills, and discuss anything counseling job related: your workplace, your clients, decision-making, ethical/legal concerns, and business logistics, like policies or payments.

Supervisors are often required to sign off on insurance payments for limited licensed clinicians, along with notes or evaluations, thus taking on the liability of the work their supervisee does.

Now let’s get into the specifics of supervision and your potential options when picking a supervisor.

Supervisor Qualifications

Every state and license has different qualifications for becoming an LLC, or LLMFT supervisor.

For example, in Michigan an LLC (LLPC) supervisor (without a doctorate) needs 30 CEUs of supervision training after 2 years of licensed practice. Michigan also has a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) credential for those who specialize in substance abuse. A more national qualification is an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) credential, which isn’t required in Michigan but is in some other states, and has higher supervision qualification standards. AAMFT also has an “Approved Supervisor Designation” for LMFTs who have gone through AAMFT’s specific training.

At the very least, you should find a supervisor who has the licensing you’re working toward, and meets the state standards for supervision training/experience.


Supervision may be possible in-person and/or virtually. Location requirements may vary by state and what the supervisor is willing to sign off on. For example, Michigan caps virtual supervision for LLCs (LLPCs) at 25%, but for LLMFTs there’s no designation between virtual vs in-person. If you’re open to virtual supervision, that might open up more supervisor options for you and be easier to fit into your schedule.

In-person supervisors can be onsite at your workplace, or offsite and unaffiliated with your job. Onsite might be more convenient, but might come with some dual role potential.

Supervision Costs

When supervisors are onsite as a part of your job, they are often “free” in that their services are already calculated into your work pay.

This is extremely helpful to have when starting out, because you’re likely just out of grad school and strapped for cash. It also saves you the time and energy of finding a qualified supervisor, because the workplace did that for you.

Other supervisors may be offsite and probably independent from your job. These supervisors are typically not paid for by your job, so you’ll have to pay for their services yourself. This typically costs $50-150/hour, maybe even more depending on the supervisor’s experience and training. The pricing of this is intended to cover the high liability of supervision, where their legal risks are even higher than yours, and their availability to help you with high risk cases in and outside of supervision sessions.

Individual vs Group Supervision

These modes of supervision are pretty self-explanatory, but supervision is allowed to happen individually or in groups of 2 or more supervisees. Some licenses only allow a certain number of hours to be group supervision, but others don’t specify between the two. Just like with virtual hours, you’ll want to clarify with your supervisor what they’d be willing to sign for on your work experience form.

Individual supervision is extremely valuable in that it gives you high quality, dedicated time to discuss your work and clients with your supervisor uninterrupted by others. Group supervision is valuable in that you get to hear about a lot of other cases, learn about situations you might not have asked about on your own, and collaborate with more clinicians.

Styles of Supervision

No matter the supervision models that someone follows, there are some basic supervision styles you will come across.

Supervisors might act as teachers, therapists, or consultants; great supervisors are a mix of all three, and adapt based on individual supervisee needs.

Supervisors have different levels of how involved they are during supervision, with some being really direct and active, and others being hands-off and passive.

Supervisors also have a style regarding their level of self-disclosure about their own cases: some use up the session with their own cases, others use their clients as examples and learning opportunities, and some don’t really have any clients to talk about.

There are many styles of supervision, some are better fits for supervisees than others. It’s important to discuss with a potential supervisor what they see their role as being, and how they like to run supervision.

Supervisor’s Work Experience

It might be important that your supervisor have counseling specializations and a workplace history that lines up with your own clinical position or interests.

Not all supervisors in Michigan are required to have experience working with clients outside of school, so if you want a supervisor with real-life experience that relates to your career goals and interests, ask them about their work history.

Supervisors will likely provide more insightful and meaningful supervision for populations they have more experience with, and ethically should caveat when a population they lack experience with is outside of their scope.

Relationship with Your Supervisor

No matter where you get supervision, the most important part of it is actually your relationship with your counseling supervisor.

Not to say you’re best friends, that would be a dual relationship you should avoid, but that you “click” and feel really comfortable with them. Some of this will be tied to their supervision style, but some of it is just based on personal connection.

Get these helpful articles in your inbox.