“What type of supervision will I receive at this training site?”

How many times have you asked this question during your interviews for practicum, pre-doctoral internship, or post-doctoral training sites? I recall my own apprehension about my clinical supervisors over the last few years.

My Experience With Supervisors

I had the opportunity to experience wonderful clinical supervisors who provided excellent supervision. I attribute my professional and personal development as a clinical psychologist to the clinical supervisors I worked with during my graduate school training.

In addition, my clinical supervisors challenged me to continue to pursue my professional goals in times of self-doubt, encouraged me during times of crisis with clients, and helped me navigate the daily twists and turns of being a trainee. I would have to say that my clinical supervisors had solid reputations at my clinical training sites. They had reputations that preceded them among previous trainees.

I admit that I did my own background research on potential supervisors before I did my interviews at various training sites. I remember one interview where I had the possibility of having over three supervisors for different rotations. Each clinical supervisor had their own style, expectations, and training programs for each particular site.

I know that trainees have a variety of experiences at different sites. However, as a future trainee, the opportunity to choose an excellent supervisor can be a rewarding experience.

Choosing the “Super” Supervisor

The choice of an excellent clinical supervisor can elevate anxiety levels. Whether you’re a graduate student or postgraduate clinician, the end of your graduate school training is now in view. At this point in your education, you want to glean the best hands-on clinical training and experience, and a competent clinical supervisor to help navigate the challenges of working with clients will be critical to your professional development as a clinician.

According to Kaslow, Falender, & Grus [1], the supervisory relationship has many functions, which include goal setting, facilitating a context that supports reflection, exploration, and learning. An excellent supervisor will provide high levels of empathy, respect, and openness. Their high levels of knowledge and experience make great supervisors a valuable resource. In addition, they will be able to weave teaching, goal-setting, and feedback techniques into their supervisory interactions.

Here are five important steps to consider for your choice of an excellent supervisor:

1. Research Your Training Site

It is important to prepare for your practicum, internship, or postgraduate training with careful research of your training site. Assess for comprehensive training programs. Ensure that your training site is current on competency benchmarks in training for your specific field. For example, the APA provides a helpful resource that explains the necessary competency benchmarks in training [2].

2. Talk With & Learn About the Staff

During your interviews at different training sites, you will have the opportunity to ask potential clinical supervisors about the training program, clinical supervision style, expectations of trainees, and research interest.

For example, trainees often have concerns about how to navigate a crisis situation with difficult clients. Clear guidance for navigating the crisis, timely debriefing, and accessibility to a clinical supervisor are important to trainees for effective supervision [3]. Learn about the staff, read staff bios, and talk with previous trainees to learn about their experiences with clinical supervision.

3. Know Your Options

Before you begin your clinical training program, find out if you have the option to request a specific clinical supervisor. Often training sites provide only one supervisor for several trainees. Be prepared to learn how to work within these guidelines at your training site.

4. Set Goals

Establish professional and personal goals for clinical supervision. The first meeting with your clinical supervisor will set the tone for your training experience. An excellent supervisor will ensure that a trainee will be fit for practice, make sure they will be able to practice safe and effective therapy, help them with self-care, and develop professional educational strategies that build evidence-based practice [4].

5. Character Does Matter

Effective clinical supervision encourages supervisee development, facilitates the supervisory relationship, protects the client, and enhances client and supervisee outcomes [5]. An excellent clinical supervisor may have a variety of key characteristics. However, the core makeup of an excellent supervisor is one who exhibits integrity, honesty, and transparency.


If you do your research, ask the tough questions, know your options at potential training sites, and set achievable professional and personal goals for your training experience, you have a very strong chance of finding an excellent supervisor that fits you well. Ensure that your potential clinical supervisor will challenge and encourage you to reach your potential during your training year.

Remember to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this potential clinical supervisor be a person of integrity?
  • Will they be honest and transparent?
  • Can this clinical supervisor facilitate a supervisory relationship that will enhance client and trainee outcomes?

Enjoy the final steps of your training journey and remember – one day you may be a clinical supervisor yourself!



[1] Kaslow, N. J., Falender, C. A., & Grus, C. L. (2012). Valuing and practicing competency-based supervision: A transformational leadership perspective. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(1), 47-54. doi:10.1037/a0026704.[2] A Practical Guidebook for the Competency Benchmarks. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2016.[3] Dupre, M., Echterling, L.G., Meixner, C., Anderson, R., & Kielty, M. (2014). Supervision experiences of professional counselors providing crisis counseling. Counselor Education and Supervision. 53(2), 82-96. doi: 10.1002/j. 1556-6978.2014/00050.x.[4] O’Donovan, A., Halford, W.K., & Walters, B. (2011). Towards best practice supervision of clinical psychology trainees. Australian Psychologist, 46(2), 101-112. doi:10.111/j.1742-95544.2011.00033.x.[5] Falender, C.A., & Shafranske, E.P. (2014). Clinical Supervision: The state of the art. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 70(11), 1030-1041. doi:10.1002/jclp.22124.

Valencia Wiggins, PhD, LPC
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