How To Choose a Clinical Supervisor

[Friends: It’s probably obvious by the title, but this article will likely only be of interest to mental health practitioners looking to find a clinical supervisor.]

I have been thinking a lot about this topic since upgrading my training as a clinical supervisor. And I’ve also been thinking that finding a clinical supervisor is not an easy task—how do we know who would be the right fit? And, because clinical supervisors are often also counsellors, what constitutes the “right fit” when we acknowledge that clinical supervision is not counselling? This can be hard to discern because most of the information on the internet about therapeutic fit is geared to people who are seeking a therapist.

I’m stating the obvious here, but most therapists will have had clinical supervision at some point in their careers including in possibly very different contexts: in agency work, at a health authority, through a group practice, or through hiring a clinical supervisor to consult with about their private practice.

I’ll be talking about the latter, here, just because private practice has been my reality for the past 15 years, first as a counsellor and psychotherapist and later, as a private clinical supervisor. There are two key aspects particular to receiving privately contracted clinical supervision for one’s own private practice:

  • Private practitioners can most typically exercise choice when selecting a clinical supervisor (supervisors are generally assigned in public practice)
  • The suggestions related to choice that this article will cover, may not be available to you if you are working in a different context where choice is limited, or impossible.

So, without further adieu, here are some factors and questions to keep in mind when selecting a clinical supervisor:

Professional Discipline

Typically: social work, clinical counsellor or psychology. Commonly supervisees will choose a supervisor who matches their professional discipline but this is not always the case. For example, my clinical supervisor’s discipline is psychology even though I am a clinical social worker, and while I work mostly with social workers, I have also had the honour of working with many clinical counsellors.


Most commonly, a master’s degree or a PhD. Rare, but very cool: the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree. Some professional bodies offer a clinical supervision credential.

Specialty Training

Does the potential supervisor have specialized training in providing clinical supervision? What is it (course, certificate) and when? How often do they participate in professional development?


This is a complex category with many aspects:

  • How much clinical experience does the supervisor have as a mental health practitioner prior to becoming a supervisor? (While some may disagree with me, my preference is 8-10+ years).
  • Before becoming a supervisor, what settings and with what populations did they work with?
  • Does the supervisor still provide counselling and psychotherapy independent of supervision? With what populations do they work with? Is having a supervisor who still works in the field important to you?
  • How many years experience does the supervisor have providing clinical supervision? How often do they provide clinical supervision as part of their practice?
  • How closely does your work experience match theirs? It’s common to look for some overlap if you are looking for guidance in a particular areas of practice.

Code of Ethics/Standards of Practice

  • What code of ethics and standards of practice does the supervisor follow?
  • Do you follow the same code/standards of practice? If not, how will you negotiate this?

Theoretical Orientation

  • What therapies inform your supervisor’s practice? Is there overlap with yours?

I generally recommend at least some overlap, to promote mutual understanding and meaningful discourse. And, it can also be interesting to work with a supervisor who uses therapies that you don’t or that you’re less familiar with, as this can help supervisees see things from different angles, and provide additional opportunities for growth.

Philosophy and World View

  • What is the supervisees approach to supervision, and equally important, what is their counselling philosophy? How well does it align with yours?

I feel very strongly about this point and believe that unless there is alignment, trust in the supervisor’s clinical recommendations and your comfort in the supervisor relationship will suffer.

Areas of Interest

  • Are there shared clinical interests?

Sometimes supervisees are seeking to consult with supervisors that have in-depth knowledge in certain areas, particularly areas where they would like to grow their practice. Alternatively, it can also be interesting to work with supervisors that have clinical foci that you have not yet explored.

Speciality You’re Seeking

  • Related to the above, is there a therapeutic modality, skillset or client population that you want to learn more from your supervisor about?

Modes of Practice

  • If your supervisor is practicing psychotherapy, are they strictly a 1:1 practitioner? Do they offer relationship or family counselling? Or group therapy? What modes of practice do you offer?
  • Are you looking for a supervisor that can match with you or help you become proficient in another mode of therapy delivery?

Method of Delivery

  • Are you looking to meet with your potential clinical supervisor in-person, online or by phone? Or something flexible?
  • Will what the supervisor offers work for you?


  • What is your budget and can you afford their rate?
  • Is the supervisor’s rate commensurate with their experience?

Urgent Consultations

  • What is the supervisor’s policy around urgent consultations?
  • How available are they if you are experiencing a clinical emergency?
  • It is important to have clarity around the protocol if something concerning were to arise: what steps do you need to take to connect with your supervisor? What is the expected time frame for a response? If the supervisor’s response window exceeds what you need, what is the alternative plan?

Expectations Around Frequency

  • Are you looking to meet regularly or sporadically? What time interval works for you?

One of the challenges with sporadic contact is that your supervisor’s ability to fully support you could be limited: they may not know you too well and as such, their suggestions may not be as tailor-made as one might expect with regular supervision sessions.


  • What are your goals for clinical supervision and how would the supervisor support you with them?
  • Is there a process for reviewing and revising them, as needed?

Support, Feedback and Structure

  • What does support mean to you? How does your supervisor define support? Is this a match
  • How much feedback are you looking for from your supervisor? Supervisors range from giving very little feedback to detailed feedback – what are your needs?
  • There is also a range amongst supervisors when it comes to how a supervision session is structured. Do you like a lot of structure or would you prefer to keep things more open-ended? Is this a match with the supervisor’s style?

Collegial Recommendations

  • Do any of your trusted colleagues have a recommendation for a clinical supervisor?
  • What was helpful about the supervision they received?


Seeing your identities reflected in your clinical supervisor can be powerful: race, gender, sexual identity, disability, body shape and more. Is this important to you?


  • Do you like your potential supervisor? Do you feel that you could get along well?
  • Would you feel comfortable opening up with them about clinical vulnerabilities?

Waiting Lists

  • If the supervisor has a waiting list, is this an issue for you?

Some people are happy to wait, if they feel that they have found the right supervisor match, while others want to get started right away.

Your Guts

I can’t say enough about this one! What is your intuitive sense? Sit with it and see whether an answer arises for you.

I wish you the best in finding your supervisor match!