10 Things Therapist Trainees Should Consider to When Preparing for Supervision

What is Counseling Supervision?

Counseling Supervision is the supervision of clinical counseling by a qualified supervisor. This process is designed to provide quality professional services while protecting the public and ensuring ethical practice. Supervisors are responsible for assessing and evaluating therapists' work, providing feedback, and monitoring their ongoing development. Therapists may enter into a formal contract with supervisors that outlines their roles and responsibilities in detail. Supervision is a crucial part of the counseling process. It is an opportunity for therapists to reflect on their work and get feedback from supervisors. Supervision should cover topics such as the counselor's understanding of their client, the counselor's use of therapeutic approaches, and how well they are meeting the needs of clients.

How Does Supervision Impact Therapist Trainees? 

Therapist trainees and students often feel uninformed when it comes to working with supervisors. Working with supervisors can be challenging for new therapists, as sometimes it is unknown what to expect. While the ideal supervisor will support, guide, and teach new therapists important skills to enhance the quality of care and treatment for their clients, much responsibility is given to the student or trainee to express their wants and needs regarding their skill development. Unfortunately, many trainees are not prepared for this task. This can lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment when there is not a uniform alliance within students' and trainees' supervision process. However, there are many resources available to trainees and students that can help prepare them for this type of work.

Here we will outline for you 10 things you should consider bringing to your supervision meetings for productivity:


"It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question."-Eugene Jonesco

1). Bring Questions: The trainee should prepare a list of questions to ask the supervisor. This list should be based on the objectives of the supervision session. For example, if one of the objectives is to improve the supervisee's skills in self-reflection, then a question that might be included in this list is 'How can I improve my ability to join with clients for client retention?' The list should flow with your goals set forth between you and your supervisor which is usually discussed upon signing your supervision contract. Referring back to these goals could help to formulate a planned list for each supervision meeting.


"A goal without a timeline is just a dream."-Robert Herjavec

2). Bring Your Supervision Goal/Plan: Each trainee should have a goal or supervision plan that is designed to help you improve your skills during your supervision process. Setting supervision goals is highly suggested, as you and your supervisor would want to monitor your progress over time with set skills. Effective and proper monitoring is the key to success in supervision and provides an in-depth view of where you are in your supervision process, as you increase your clinical competency. Having your goals, on on-hand, during supervision could help formulate discussions for constructive feedback and areas for growth. In return, you are well prepared for supervision evaluation, which would provide scores and explanations to record your progress, strengths, and weaknesses.


"It takes less time to do things right than to explain why you did it wrong."

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3). Bring Ethical Dilemmas to Discuss: Ethics is a huge part of counseling and often the most difficult concepts to digest for beginner and intermediate level trainees. Without guidance, trainees can struggle to navigate ethical dilemmas with clients such as boundaries, confidentiality, policies, and so forth. Clients have different morals and ethical levels which can be a huge challenge for therapists- particularly when conversations with clients are warranted. Still, ethics can be interpreted on a case-by-case basis. It will be important to decipher ethical issues that may arise with each client on your caseload and discuss them with your supervisor. What types of ethics do you struggle to recognize? What types of ethics do you struggle to discuss?

4). Bring a Supervision Note for Documentation: A supervision note is a very important document for therapists, as it can be used in court proceedings, as well as by any other professional who may need to review the counselor’s work. The supervisory notes should include at a minimum: 1. A brief description of a case to review, 2. The counselor’s theoretical approach to the case, 3. The focus and goals of treatment, 4. Assessment data and significant milestones in client progress or changes in behavior or attitude, 5. Counselor observations, thoughts, and feelings about client progress/change, 6. Thoughts on challenges faced with this client and how they were remediated through modalities.

0225988001651511661.jpg"There is no secret to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work,  and learning from failure ." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

5). Bring Your Code of Ethics: Therapists are in a unique position where they have to keep the best interest of their clients in mind while at the same time, they have to maintaining their own personal integrity. Knowing where you stand with ethics at all times will be important to develop master-level skills and critical thinking about your cases. For example, The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is a professional organization for marriage and family therapists. The AAMFT Code of Ethics is a code of ethics that applies to all members of the association. The code includes guidelines for ethical behavior, such as avoiding dual relationships, maintaining confidentiality, respecting diversity, and avoiding sexual misconduct. Reviewing and discussing these frequently with your supervisor will avoid legal liabilities and risks pertaining to your cases.


6). Bring Case Notes: Therapists are in a unique position to provide supervision notes for documentation. Counseling case notes are a necessary document for therapists to maintain and share with supervisors. Since case notes are also used to provide a summary of the therapy sessions and what was discussed, it provides a record of the therapeutic process between the therapist and the client. Case notes also help them in developing future treatments for the patient. The therapist should make sure that they maintain these records in order to avoid any ethical violations or legal issues. With guidance and careful review from your supervisor, you will be able to develop writing skills to help you identify and summarize your cases in a timely but ethical manner.


"I try not to steal from myself but the  modalities create similarities."

-Joni Mitchell

7). Bring a Description of Your Modality: In general, modalities are a type of psychotherapy that is used to help people change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. As a trainee, it will be important to know what modality is being used with your clients to ensure that you are using the appropriate stance towards treating their issues. In addition, you would want to consult with your supervisor to ensure that you are operating within a scope of practice that is highly advanced or could pose issues within your client-to-therapist relationship. In supervision, being able to articulate “how” you came to choose your modality and examples of how it is being used with your client is vital for your development. Your supervisor should be able to provide support in understanding approaches to implementing your chosen modality or alternatives.

8). Bring Your Supervision Hours Log: Therapists are required to maintain a log of their supervision hours. Whether seeking supervision for continuing education, state licensure, or other means, it will be important to keep track of your supervision hours. The accumulation of your hours, documented by a supervision hour log, will help you and your supervisor to plan ahead and practice record-keeping of your time in supervision.

0872599001651511328.jpg"Students can hit any target that they know about and that stands still for them."

-Rick Stiggins

9). Bring Your Assessment: One of the most challenging perceptual skills for therapists is to develop a clear and thorough assessment of their clients. The initial assessment of a client helps to identify presenting issues and other factors that play a role in the formation of the client's problems. In this way, therapists can carefully identify the primary diagnosis for ongoing treatment and a treatment plan that will allow therapists to know if their counseling is effective or not to create change in their clients’ lives. Keeping an assessment, on on-hand, could help to pinpoint gaps that may not have been addressed during sessions. Furthermore, reviewing your assessment could help collaborate with supervisors to gain more insight into your case conceptualization.

0979986001651511504.jpg"Experience tells you what to do; confidence tells you how to do it."

-Stan Smith

10). Bring Confidence: No matter what level of skill development, confidence is one of the most important professional qualities of a counselor. Confidence enables therapists to feel more comfortable and confident when they are supervising their clients. In most instances, doing your own research prior to your supervision meetings could help to identify issues with your understanding of your case conceptualization, your clients' needs, and their diagnosis. Self-education and early preparation are the keys to building confidence in your abilities, outside of supervision.


Though supervision is an overwhelming process, you can never be too prepared for supervision as a developing therapist. Understand, that supervision is a crucial part of your training and can leave an impact on your professional journey. How will you begin to reflect on your work to ensure that you are getting the most out of supervision? How will you begin to organize and plan to make a habit of the tips discussed in this article?


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