Clinical Supervision

Are you a counselling or mental health professional seeking clinical supervision to enrich your clinical work?

I work with counselling and mental health practitioners, primarily social workers (RSWs, RCSWs) and other counselling professionals (RCCs, CCCs and RPCs).

Counsellors may reach out for clinical supervision, sometimes also known as external supervision, for a variety of reasons including:

  • Clinical skill building
  • Case consultation, including formulation/assessment and planning
  • Seeking support, empathy and a non-judgmental space
  • Developing fresh perspectives
  • Integrating theory and practice
  • Reducing professional isolation, and increasing collegiality, particularly for mental health professionals in private practice settings or professional settings where limited/non-existent support exists for clinical supervision
  • Stuckness with a client, clinical power struggles
  • Addressing confidentiality issues and ethical dilemmas
  • Enhancing self awareness and the ability to self-reflect on clinical work
  • Reducing burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization
  • Seeking clinical rejuvenation or encouragement
  • Professional identity and role development
  • Clinical underinvolvement or overinvolvement
  • Guidance, support or skill development during or after a professional college or association complaint procedure / discipline process
  • Anonymity of a private practice setting, particularly to encourage clinical honesty
  • Increasing self-care
  • Fulfilling continuing education / professional development requirements
  • Navigating toxic workplace environments, politics
  • To obtain continuing professional development (CPD) hours

Understanding Supervision

One of the most challenging aspects of clinical supervision may be in its definition. We all know what clinical supervision is, right? I’ve noticed, over the years, that it’s commonly assumed that as clinicians, we’re all talking about the same thing, but are we? Clinical supervision often suffers from a distinct lack of clarity around what it is, its purpose, how supervision sessions are structured and what strategies are used.

Previous experiences as a supervisee, in various contexts, were like walking into an unmarked landscape, unsure where my steps would take me. This may not be the worst experience–given that we all benefit from learning how to live with ambiguity, which may even help us cultivate curiosity and delight in the unknown–but in a clinical supervision context, I believe we can do better.

Process / Method

Powell (1988) defines clinical supervision, in part, as “a disciplined, tutorial process wherein principles are transformed into practice skills.” Adding to this, there is no “one size fits all” approach to supervision: the focus is tailored to the unique learning needs and clinical experience that each supervision client brings to the room.

As such, before a clinical supervision session, I ask clinicians to fill out a quick form which helps to clarify purpose, goals / learning needs. Completing the form beforehand also represents an opportunity to reflect on one’s purpose and aspirations for the session and as such, is an extension of the all-important ability to self-reflect, so essential to our work.

In collaboration with you, the following methods may be used:

  • Audio, video or clinical note review
  • Role playing
  • Process recording, particularly for beginning therapists
  • Case consultation, planning, solution-building
  • Journalling
  • Understanding transference and countertransference
  • Linking theory with practice
  • Identifying community and/or therapeutic resources to enhance the care you provide your clients

Note: any case consultation involving discussion of specific identifying information requires signed consent from your client(s).

Sessions always conclude with a written plan for next steps in between sessions. Practical application outside of supervision, in my view, greatly enhances the benefit people receive from supervision. Last, I ask you to evaluate my performance as a clinical supervisor each and every session, again, with a brief written form.

What Supervision Is Not

I believe that essential to understanding what clinical supervision is is the understanding of what clinical supervision is not.

In my practice, supervision is not:

  • Chatting informally about client situations – while this has value this is best accomplished with co-workers or colleagues, at no cost to you.
  • Counselling – I do not provide counselling or psychotherapy to supervision clients. I may ask you to reflect on countertransference or internal responses, but only as it pertains to your clinical work and only if you wish to do so. Keeping the boundaries as clear as possible helps us keep the focus on supervision, the service you have retained me for. If you are seeking counselling, I regularly meet with counselling professionals who are seeking therapy but are not supervision clients.
  • A Complaints Department – While a certain amount of letting off steam, or easing in is often normal at the beginning of the session, this is not the focus of our work together.
  • Private Practice Coaching – I do not provide business coaching or advice to counsellors and therapists in private practice. A Google search lists options of Vancouver-area counsellors and business coaches who work with counselling professionals to strengthen and effectively market their practice.

My Supervision Philosophy

My philosophy is that the bedrock of effective clinical supervision is a climate of trust and emotional safety. If we are fearing judgment and recrimination, how can we be honest about what is truly going on clinically? How then can we have the clinical conversations that are necessary for us to be as effective as we can be?

A judgement-free zone does not mean that I will not offer critique – but it is always done with the utmost respect. Our focus is the clinical work, not your personhood or your identity as a counsellor.

My approach, like all aspects of my clinical practice, is collaborative. Inherent in collaboration is an openness in session to provide mutual feedback and dialogue. Further, I do not impose an agenda; I work with you to find the solutions, resources and options that best fit your reasons for attending supervision.

While I will present ideas, offer suggestions, help you examine possible implications and assist in understanding clinical scenarios from various viewpoints, I do not give specific advice regarding your client’s situation. It is not ethical or responsible to do so when I have not met your client(s). We may however identify a variety clinical options or paths; you make choices based on your knowledge of your client.

I believe in clinical supervision from the inside out.  I consult with my clinical supervisor monthly and also participate in regular peer supervision.

Therapeutic Approaches That Guide My Practice

Speaking a similar ‘language’ is important and insures that we are examining clinical scenarios in a way that makes sense to you. While there will likely not be a perfect in the therapies that guide our individual practices, some common ground is important. I work from the following perspectives:

Further, I use Stotenberg’s integrated developmental model to guide my supervision practice, understanding that the learning needs of beginning practitioners differ from experienced clinicians’, as do counsellors who are “in between.”

Supervision Parameters and Policies

Session Length and Cost

Sessions are 50 minutes and $120. 75-minute sessions ($150) are available upon request.

Format

Mostly in-person clinical supervision for Vancouver-area counsellors in my downtown Vancouver office. Phone supervision is also available to mental health professionals in all parts of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Yukon; I do not provide clinical supervision by Skype. Please see my phone counselling page for information and parameters for working together over the phone. Regrets, supervision is only available for therapists working with adult populations. I am not able to provide clinical supervision for therapists working exclusively with children and youth/counsellors seeking support for specific child and youth-related clinical situations.

Frequency

Ultimately determined by you. Beginning therapists may choose to meet more frequently, particularly if they have limited support in their current work setting.

Confidentiality

The usual rules of confidentiality apply. I have a responsibility to maintain your confidentiality, as well as that of your client, except in situations involving the risk to yourself or other (including a child or elder) or if clinical notes are subpoenaed to court.

If you are seeking consultation regarding a clinical situation that includes identifying information, please ensure that you have provided a release signed by your client, authorizing discussion in supervision. I will attach this to the file. It is always recommended that you keep information to only that which is clinically relevant. This helps to retain focus and lessens the possibility of a confidentiality breech.

Payment

For in-person supervision, payment is due either before or after the session, your choice. If you are receiving clinical supervision by phone, I ask that you prepay online any time before your session.

Cash, cheque or credit card at the time of the session. PayPal or Interac e-transfers are also accepted and must be made anytime before the start of the session. Please choose between an Interac e-transfer or PayPal for phone sessions. Kindly refer to my Fees/Funding page for more information.

Receipts are issued for all payments; the service is described as “50-minute clinical supervision session.”

Intake

Please contact me directly if you are interested in working with me in clinical supervision capacity.  I have a separate intake process for clinical supervision clients than for my general counselling waiting list. Currently there is no waiting list for clinical supervision. 

Practicum Students

If you are a counselling or social work student seeking a practicum / field placement, please note that I am unable to accept students at this time, due to time and office space restrictions.

About Me

A clinical social worker by training, I have been practicing counselling and psychotherapy since I graduated in 1998 with my Master of Social Work degree (MSW), from the University of Toronto. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a certificate in Family Studies, both from Simon Fraser University. Additionally, I completed the Field Instructor Training Certificate at the UBC School of Social Work and Family Studies in 2000.

More recently, I completed Innovative Practices in Clinical Supervision, a course at the Justice Institute of BC and Running on Empty, a workshop on compassion fatigue for mental health practitioners, both in 2014. In 2010 I credentialed as a registered clinical social worker (RCSW).

In my early career, I worked extensively in non-profit agencies and at the Master’s level, I have experience in inpatient and outpatient mental health settings and in the employee assistance sector. I founded Willow Tree Counselling in 2009, which has been my sole source of employment since its inception.

My passion has been counselling and psychotherapy from the start and I take active steps in my leisure and personal life to maintain joy for this work and avoid burnout. I am deeply grateful to my teacher, partner and friends who have persistently encouraged me in my meditation practice and shown me the Way.

Professionally, working with a diverse clientele has been key in keeping work fresh and engaging. I have extensive experience helping with:

Please be in touch if you have questions or would like to meet with me for a 15-minute consultation. I welcome the opportunity to work with you.