Choosing a Social Work Licensing Supervisor
by Ashley Albertson Bush, MSW, LISW-S
So you’ve decided you’d like to pursue you’re clinical licensure. The first step in what will likely be a 1-2 year journey is to find a Supervisor who can work with you. Depending on where you live finding a Supervisor with the appropriate credentials can be challenging. Once you find a Supervisor you think you may want to work with there are several questions you should consider asking them.
What is Their Background/Experience?
Outside of having the appropriate supervisory credential something you will want to consider is the experience of your potential supervisor. If you are someone who is interested in pursuing a career mainly in private practice meeting with a Social Worker who has twenty years of exclusive Medical Social Work experience may not be the best fit. Not that that individual is not a good Social Worker, but one of the roles of a Supervisor is to assist with mentoring and career development advice. It will be hard if your Supervisors’ experience is so drastically different from your own to provide you with the mentoring you may be looking for. However, if you decide to continue supervision with an individual whose experience is far outside your own all parties should be aware of those difference and discuss a plan for how they will address cases where the supervisor feels they feel are outside their scope of practice.
How Frequently Can They Meet With You?
In general, the frequency of supervision sessions is usually once a week however, some states allow up to two supervision hours a week. You will want to ask a perspective Supervisor if they will be able to meet with you at your desired frequency whether that is once a week, twice a week, or once a month. If this perspective Supervisor for example, has a busy private practice and can only offer you sessions at a limited frequency and you wish to complete your supervision hours in a timely manner then it may not be a good fit as you will likely be dissatisfied with the experience.
Another related question is if your perspective Supervisor would consider holding some sessions with you via Skype or Facetime. Some states allow this form of face to face supervision which can help if you and your Supervisor have busy schedules, or if you live in a more rural area where locating a Supervisor with the necessary credentials can be more difficult.
Do Your Personalities Mesh?
Plain and simple, pursuing supervision is a time commitment for both you and your Supervisor. Depending on the state you live in you’re likely to meet with your Supervisor somewhere from 100-200 hours over the course of a 1-2 year timeframe. That is a lot of time to spend with someone you don’t like. So, during your initial session you and your supervisor should assess whether or not your personalities are a good match. One additional reason to consider if the potential Supervisor is a good match is to remember they will likely remain a reference for you for many years into the future. Therefore, you want to maintain a good professional relationship with that person, which could be hard if your personalities don’t agree.
How Much do They Charge?
This can be one of the biggest barriers to Social Workers looking to pursue their clinical credential. If you are not able to receive supervision through your workplace you will have to consider how much you are able to afford to pay a potential Supervisor. You and any potential Supervisor should be very clear about the cost of their services and if there are any opportunities for reduced pricing (such as group sessions). If cost is a limiting factor you may wish to consider meeting with less frequency, true this will prolong the course of supervision, but it will make the cost more palatable. Additionally, you and your Supervisor will want to outline when payment is due. Most require payment at the time of the session, however other Supervisors may have different expectations.
Do They Have a Supervision Contract?
You and your potential Supervisor should treat this like any other professional relationship. Some Supervisors have very explicit contracts they expect their supervisees to adhere to, and others have more of a verbal agreement. Regardless, you will want to be clear what they expect of you. An example of a questions to ask to ensure understanding in this space would be: What should I bring to supervision sessions? Another question you will want to be clear about is if they would like to be able to contact your employer in the event that concerns arise. While I have not personally had to do this for any supervisees, I know that other Supervisors feel that if concerns arise they may have an ethical obligation to notify employers of their concerns.
How Do They Keep Their Records?
While the state I practice in (Ohio) places the burden of record keeping on the Supervisee, you will also want to determine if your potential Supervisor also keeps any records of the sessions for themselves and if so, how will they store them. As always, client privacy is of utmost importance so if your Supervisor is not a part of your agency you will want to know how they store information and ensure client confidentiality. It is also important to note that it’s always possible that you could lose your own documentation of your sessions. If that were to happen your Supervisors’ records would be vital in replacing any lost or damaged documents regarding your sessions. Lastly, most states reserve the right to audit the records of your supervision sessions. In this very unlikely event your Supervisors records could be necessary to support your own supervision documentation.
In conclusion, finding a Supervisor can be a challenging task, especially if you live in an area where Social Workers with supervisory credentials are limited. However, taking the time to ensure that the Supervisor you are working with is a good fit can go a long way to ensuring actual completion of your supervision hours and your professional development. For more information about supervision requirements please contact your state licensing board as well as your state NASW branch.