ERIC Identifier: ED372341
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Hart, Gordon M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Strategies and Methods of Effective Supervision. ERIC Digest.
A variety of strategies and methods are available to supervisors for use with
counselors whom they supervise. This summary is designed to acquaint supervisors
with techniques for enhancing the counseling behavior of their supervisees while
also considering individual learning characteristics as depicted by the
supervisee's developmental level.
To improve a supervisee's skills in working with clients, some form of
assessment must be done while counseling is taking place (rather than with
clients who have terminated). Using strategies that examine a supervisee's
counseling behavior with current clients allows a supervisor to correct any
error in assessment, diagnosis, or treatment of the client, and thus increases
the probability of a successful outcome.
METHODS OF IMPROVING CLINICAL (COUNSELING)
Whether the supervisor's purpose is to improve a supervisee's
skills or to ensure accuracy, actual counselor-client interaction must be
examined (Hart, 1982). Although the traditional method of counselor self-report
is often used, this form of data-gathering is notoriously inaccurate. The more
reliable forms of data-gathering are review of a client's case history; review
of results of current psychodiagnostic testing, including a structured interview
(such as a mental status exam); and, particularly, examination of the
counselor-client sessions via methods such as audiotape, videotape, and
observation through a one-way mirror or sitting in the sessions (Borders & Leddick, 1987).
Of the methods for reviewing counselor-client sessions, the use of live
supervision (observation via television or one-way mirror) provides an
opportunity to give a supervisee immediate corrective feedback about a
particular counseling technique and to see how well the counselor can carry out
a suggested strategy. Live supervision is effective for learning new techniques,
learning new modalities (e.g., family counseling), and gaining skills with types
of clients with whom the counselor is unfamiliar (West, Bubenzer, Pinsoneault,
& Holeman, 1993). A live supervision strategy can be supplemented by review
of a session immediately following the session or delayed a day or more.
Supervision conducted immediately following a counseling session or delayed a
day or two could use an audiotape or videotape of the counseling session or use
non-recorded observation through a one-way mirror or television system.
Supervisors are advised to review audio or videotapes of a supervisee's
counseling session prior to the supervision session in order to plan a strategy
of intervention. The supervisee also should review the tape to prepare questions
and discussion topics.
In immediate and delayed supervision sessions, the supervisor should focus on
what the supervisee wanted to do with the client, what he/she said or did, and
what he/she would like to do in future counseling sessions. Regardless of when
the review of the counseling session is conducted (live, immediate, or delayed),
the supervisor will have examined an actual work sample of the supervisee and no
longer must rely solely on self-report. This examination is likely to aid in the
supervisor's credibility in reporting on a supervisee's competence to school or
agency administrators regarding retention or promotion, to state licensing
officials, or to courts, should that be necessary.
Although group and peer
supervision are powerful approaches (Hart, 1982), individual supervision is
likely to be the main form of reviewing supervisee performance (Bernard &
Goodyear, 1992). When using individual supervision, a supervisor must consider
most carefully the developmental level of the supervisee (Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987). Specifically, how skilled is the supervisee in general and
specifically with the type of client in question, how anxious is the supervisee
when reviewing his/her work, and what is the supervisee's learning style?
Although these factors may vary somewhat independently, it is likely that less
skilled counselors will be somewhat anxious. Additionally, developmental level
has been conceptualized as cognitive or conceptual level and has been associated
with challenging a supervisee to grasp increasingly more sophisticated concepts.
With novice supervisees, a high degree of support and a low amount of
challenge or confrontation is advisable (Howard, Nance, & Myers, 1986). When
learning style is considered, a micro-training approach focusing on specific
skills might be used, demonstrated by the supervisor, and then practiced in the
supervision session by the supervisee in a role-play. However, some novice or
anxious supervisees learn best by a macro approach; that is, having a clear
overview of the goals of the session, expected role of the counselor, client
typology, and specific client characteristics such as race, gender, culture,
socioeconomic status, family background, and personality characteristics. For
these supervisees, use of written case study materials or an IPR (Interpersonal
Process Recall) approach (Kagan 1980) might be better than a micro-training
With more competent supervisees, the focus may be placed on more advanced
skills or on more complex client issues. Either a micro or macro approach may be
used. Using videotape is suggested for these supervisees, as they are more
likely to be able to assimilate the larger amount of data provided by videotape
compared to that provided by audiotapes, which are suggested for use with less
With more skilled and more confident supervisees, exploration of issues
usually found to be threatening also may be examined. Such issues include
relationship of theoretical orientation to technique employed, personal style,
counselor feelings about the client, and learning new and innovative techniques
or modalities (individual, group, or family counseling).
Developmentally, a supervisor should expect that supervisees progress to more
independent functioning whereby supervisees pick the clients and client issues
which they wish to review as well as the personal issues or client dynamics they
wish to examine. Audio or videotape segments can be selected for review rather
than listening to entire tapes. At this more advanced stage of supervision, the
supervisor may feel more like a colleague or a consultant than a teacher, which
allows the supervisor to share more examples of his/her own counseling
experience conveyed either through self report or via audiotapes (Hart, 1982).
With more skilled and confident supervisees, collaboration such as co-leading a
group or co-counseling with a family can be conducted. Although such
collaboration strategies have been advocated for novice counselors, maximum
benefit more likely may be achieved by supervisees who are more confident in
their skills and who have developed basic skills sufficiently to be able to
perceive and learn the complex skills that a supervisor is likely to use when
working with a group or family.
Supervision for the clinical/counseling functions
of counselors in schools and agencies should focus on actual work samples. Using
a micro-training versus a more macro approach should depend on what works best
for a particular supervisee, along with the supervisee's level of skill and
Bernard, J. M. & Goodyear, R. K. (1992).
Fundamentals of clinical supervision. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Borders, L. D., & Leddick, G. R. (1987). Handbook of counseling
supervision. Alexandria, VA: Association for Counselor Education and
Hart, G. M. (1982). The process of clinical supervision. Baltimore:
University Park Press.
Howard, G. S., Nance, D. W., & Myers, P. (1986). Adaptive counseling and
therapy: An integrative, eclectic, model. The Counseling Psychologist, 14,
Kagan, N. (1980). Influencing human interaction - eighteen years with IPR. In
A.K. Hess (Ed.), Psychotherapy supervision: Theory, research and practice (pp.
262-283). New York: Wiley.
Stoltenberg, C. D., & Delworth, U. (1987). Supervising counselors and
therapists: A developmental perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
West, J. D., Bubenzer, D. L., Pinosneault, T., & Holeman, V. (1993).
Three supervision modalities for training marital and family counselors.
Counselor Education and Supervision, 33, 127-138.