How much should I discuss professional weaknesses or personal issues in supervision? My supervisor expects me to be prepared, but how do I know what to prepare? Will my evaluation be based on my client's progress? These are frequent questions supervisees have when they start their training, said Tamara Buckley, PhD, a presenter at an APAGS session on supervision at APA's 2006 Annual Convention.
Students don't usually learn much about what supervision is and how to take advantage of it before they begin practicum, Buckley explained. They may not understand their role as supervisees, how to satisfy supervisor expectations and how to self-assess their performance, continued Buckley, an assistant professor in educational foundations at Hunter College of the City University of New York. To resolve such concerns, she suggested students:
Be honest with their supervisors. Share your concerns about things that may affect how you do your job. Self-disclosure about professional areas of weakness in supervision helps you learn, said Buckley, adding: "A supervisor is not there to judge you, but to guide you." However, supervisees should only reveal as much about themselves as they feel comfortable, she noted.
Establish expectations up front. Ask your supervisor how he or she likes to work and don't be afraid to ask questions about things you don't understand, says Buckley. Also, throughout your training, be sure to discuss any potential crisis situations, including any legal or ethical problems. Asking for help lets your supervisor know what your skill level is and demonstrates that you are secure enough to seek assistance, she explained.
Ask how you will be evaluated. Determine your supervisor's criteria up front, said Buckley, adding that advisees can get the most out of their evaluation if they can accept constructive criticism and other feedback on their potential for growth. Trainees, she noted, shouldn't sweat it if their evaluation covers their work with a difficult client: "A good supervisor should know the difference between a client's motivation and the supervisee's performance."
But what if your supervisor doesn't know the difference? Or isn't giving you the kind of guidance you need? Buckley advises supervisees to zero in on what the problem is so that you can discuss it with your supervisor, including steps you can both take to remedy the situation. If you can't seem to resolve things with your supervisor, don't hesitate to seek help from faculty or fieldwork coordinators, she urges. Above all, remember to be flexible and to proceed professionally and tactfully, she concluded.
Other session presenters included Leah M. DeSole, PhD, of the New York City Eating Disorders Clinic, who talked about the goals of supervision, and Mai M. Kindaichi, from the Teachers College at Columbia University, who spoke about common problems that students face in supervision.
For more information on making the most of your supervision, read "Making supervision work for you" at http://gradpsych.apags.org/may03/supervision.cfm.