What is Clinical Supervision?

Clinical Supervision is a process that ensures that service users receive the best possible care from a mental health professional. It’s good practice to receive clinical Supervision.

Clinical Supervision is a structured process of supporting, educating, and evaluating a mental health professional’s work by an appropriately trained and qualified supervisor. Typically, the clinical supervisor is more experienced than someone receiving Supervision, but this is not always the case.

Peer supervision by someone with similar experience is also common and inevitable after someone has practised over many years. This said, Clinical Supervision should always be provided by a mental health professional who has reached a level of expertise. Clinical Supervision takes place regularly, typically weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.

A clinical supervisor has a multifaceted role. They focus on supporting the supervisee’s professional goals, managing their workload, and looking at personal development, offering support and counselling when needed.

In clinical psychology, this process includes teaching new concepts by educating on psychological theory and evidence-based. Also, the Clinical Supervisor is supporting supervisees to apply these in their work with clients and encouraging them to evaluate their outcomes through observation and self-reflection.

The process of assessing the effectiveness and usefulness of Clinical is typically discussed thoroughly and agreed mutually between the supervisor and supervisee. Clinical self-reflection and the development of professional curiosity plays a critical part in the evaluative process. A supervisee, for example, may share their thoughts on their progress and explore successes and challenges that might have impacted their clinical work.

In turn, the supervisor shares their observations and makes suggestions on successes, barriers and how to develop the supervisee’s competencies further but also with reference to specific client difficulties.

Typically, in Clinical Supervision, the supervisee doesn’t share the full name of their clients, and a level of discretion is exercised so that the identity of the clients is protected, to the extent that it doesn’t impact the usefulness and effectiveness of the Clinical Supervision process. In any case, the Clinical Supervisor is bound by the same confidentiality and code of conduct as the supervisee.

What is the structure of Clinical Supervision?

Clinical supervision sessions usually last for an hour, although this can be longer when group/peer supervision are considered and typically follow a particular structure.

The structure of supervision sessions can vary depending on the academic orientation of the Supervisor and the Supervisee, but they usually include:

  • Work management (e.g., workload, objectives, planning, compulsory training, professional development).
  • Discussion of clinical cases (including evaluation of interventions) and psychological processes (conscious and unconscious, such as transference and countertransference) that may be affecting the therapy process.
  • Space for personal reflection, including mental and physical well-being in and outside the workplace.
  • Consideration on how the supervisee’s personal circumstances may affect the therapeutic process and, if so, how those can be mitigated.

Depending on the supervisee’s needs, time spent discussing each component can vary between sessions and would be mutually agreed upon at the start of the Supervision.

What types of Clinical Supervision are there?

There are several types of Supervision. These include:

  • Individual – one to one space with supervisor
  • Group or peer supervision – this can be facilitated by a supervisor or peer-led (no supervisor present); it allows participants to learn from each other’s experience
  • Internal – Supervision is facilitated by a supervisor from within the organisation
  • External – Supervision is facilitated by a supervisor from outside the organisation to offer an objective view of therapeutic processes
  • Distant – remote Supervision conducted via telephone or video calls

What are the key aspects of Clinical Supervision?

According to a report published in 2019 by Newcastle University for the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), effective clinical and peer supervision is based on the following characteristics:

  • Presence of mutual trust and respect.
  • Having a choice of the supervisor with regard to finding a personal match, cultural needs and expertise.
  • Supervisors and supervisees have a shared understanding of the purpose of the supervisory sessions, which are based on an agreed contract.
  • Having a focus on providing staff support, the sharing/enhancing of knowledge and skills to support professional development and improving service delivery.
  • Supervision should be regular and planned based on the needs of the supervisee. Additional, ad-hoc Supervision should be provided when necessary to ensure the welfare of the supervisee and clients.
  • The Supervisory models used need to be founded on the needs of the individual. This may include one to one, group (peer supervision), internal or external, distance (including the use of technology) or a mix.
  • When the employer offers clinical Supervision, they should create protected time for the Supervision to take place and provide a private space to facilitate the supervisory session.
  • Regular training and feedback to be provided to the supervisors. For example, from structured feedback by the supervisee.
  • Supervision to be delivered using a flexible timetable, ensuring all mental health professionals have access to the sessions, regardless of working patterns.
  • Supervision can be delivered by several supervisors or by those who are trained to manage the overlapping responsibility as both line manager and supervisor.

Is clinical Supervision necessary?

Yes, Clinical Supervision is considered an essential part of most mental health jobs in the UK, and it is a critical component in clinical psychology practice. Receiving Clinical Supervision may be a requirement for registration with some professional bodies.

Ultimately, Clinical Supervision is a critical component of good Clinical Governance aiming to protect the service users and improve the knowledge and skills of the practitioners, ensuring that the service provided is safe, efficient, and effective.