Since I’ve held my LPC-Supervisor license, a concern I have come across from other associates is “Things aren’t going well with my supervisor and I don’t know what to do.” Unfortunately, this is usually heard after they have nervously reached out to me to receive some information and direction. As common as the situation is, this is a very uncommon topic to be discussed. It appears to hold taboo-type feelings for fear of somehow making their situation worse, fear of “burning bridges,” and/or genuine worry and anxiety of not knowing how to secure another supervisor. This blog will speak to actionable steps and how to facilitate a transitional process.

Considerations to change supervision is sometimes based on situational issues- this is ideal. For example, the associate decides to amicably leave an employment site where the supervisor is, have decided to move to a different city and want their supervisor to be local, or the supervisor has decided to pursue their own professional goals and is stepping away from their supervisor role. As mentioned, this is usually the easiest dynamic to navigate because both parties understand, agree and are on board with the decision for the associate to find a new supervisor.

The reality, however, is the election to change supervisors is often not as amicable. Many associates seek to change their supervisor only after realizing the sub par quality of supervision received in comparison to their colleagues’. In many situations supervisors are kind, but lack the challenging, informed, and inspiring supervision styles many associates want. Supervisors may lack organization and planning, therefore placing supervision on the back seat to other responsibilities, even forgetting supervision meetings all together!

More complex issues such as a conflict of interest, fear of losing employment (ie: private practice owner is also the supervisor), or a general fear the supervisor may not complete proper paperwork to document hours completed are also common issues. (Hint- LPC associates have rights outlined in our Board rules and ethics. Click here for more info on that). If any of these sounds like your situation, no worries.

Here are 6 actionable steps on how to either change the dynamic with your current supervisor or seek a new one:

  1. First things first, staff with trusted colleagues. Express your concerns in a confidential and respectful manner to get a better understanding of the true dynamic behind the disconnect with your supervisor. Perhaps you have kept in contact with an old professor or still have contact with colleagues going through supervision. Ask them for feedback on potential blindspots and be willing to apply the constructive criticism offered.
  2. Second, talk to your supervisor about your situation. Have you expressed concern of the dynamic and suggested ways to change? Have you addressed the issue head-on? In doing so, be sure you are documenting each session and content material accordingly. Give it a little time afterwards to see if a change occurs.
  3. Third, if your supervisor remains unchanged, appears unwilling to take your concerns seriously and/or you are still concerned you are not getting a quality of care supervision expected, begin searching for a completely new supervisor. If you’re not sure how to start or which questions to ask, find more information about how to start here.
  4. Fourth, begin interviewing other potential supervisors. It’s important to be honest and transparent about the current situation. Now that you know what you don’t want, be specific on the things that you do want within the supervision relationship. For example, if your supervisor is chronically late or cancels supervision sessions without notice, let the future supervisor know timeliness, punctuality and commitment are important to you. Perhaps you don’t feel confident in your ethics and know this is an underdeveloped area, let your supervisor know this. If you feel underdeveloped as a clinician in terms of diagnosing come on recording, treatment plans and such, let them know. It will be important for them to know the experience you’ve had thus far and areas of limitations as a result of the subpar quality of supervision. Although this should go without saying, it’s important not to assume your future supervisor knows exactly where to pick up.
  5. Fifth, review the paperwork necessary for the change to occur. While the hope is your current and future supervisor will guide you through the process, this may not be the case. Ultimately, it’s all of your responsibility, but may fall more on you to ensure the proper documentation is completed and submitted to the board to make the supervision transition.
  6. And finally, speak to your current supervisor after hiring your new supervisor and decide on a post date with your future supervisor to begin supervision. Your current supervisor will be responsible for completing the number of hours completed under their supervision to date. They have 30 days to give you this document (read more about the supervision expectations here).

With these 5 steps, the hope is not to lose any of the hours during the “in between” stage of shifting from your current supervisor to your future supervisor. Change is not always ideal, but most often is necessary. It’s important to feel fulfilled and properly supported throughout your supervision experience. Whether you are paying for supervision or it is a perk off for the employment, quality is imperative. The quality of supervision you receive over the next 18 months to five years is it in comparable to the time you will receive at any other stage of your career.