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3 Tips for Establishing Supervisory Expectations

A range of studies show that the quality of a supervisory relationship in the formative stages of a supervisee’s professional development has a long-lasting effect on them. Depending on the quality of that relationship it can either stunt or enhance the supervisee’s growth. By establishing expectations at the on-set of supervision it can eliminate or reduce confusion and increase the chances of supervisee being successful in achieving their goals and as such will set the foundation for an effective supervisor-supervisee relationship.

Consider these tips when establishing expectations at the onset of your supervisory experience:

1. Get to know your supervisee. Schedule a time for 1:1 meeting at the onset of your supervisory relationship. Take the time to learn about the supervisee’s previous work experience, their learning style, how they like to receive feedback and what their professional goals are. It is amazing some of the things that you will get to know about a person that will allow you to a positive supervisor-supervisee experience. I learned this when I provided praise to a clinician publicly. What I thought would be a nice way to recognize this particular clinician, turned out to be mortifying to her! I quickly learned that for her, she preferred a written note or a quick e-mail. Had I taken the time to get to know her and her preferences, I would have avoided making her feel uncomfortable.

2. Define the supervisory process. Discuss what supervision will look like, including how feedback will be provided, how often you will be meeting and what the purpose of those meetings will be. Identify an agreeable meeting time and stick to it. There is nothing worse than not having a clear picture of the supervisory process. Without it you may find that your meetings are not productive or even worse that there are surprises and not in a good way. I remember feeling frustrated as to why a particular therapist was not improving in the areas that I had provided feedback on. After much self-reflection, I realized that the feedback I was providing was not working because of the way that I was providing. My feedback did not match her learning style. Once I adjusted my feedback, the clinician made significant change.

3. Clarify expectations. Both the supervisor and supervisee will have their own pre-determined expectations of each other. It is important to discuss these expectations at the on-set in order to identify if the expectations are realistic, and to clarify any misconceptions. Clear expectations are king and lead to healthy and thriving supervisory relationships.

The supervisor-supervisee relationship is a dynamic relationship allowing two professionals to share their professional and personal expertise and experience while supporting and educating. It is a relationship which is based on trust, openness, understanding and effective communication. Taking the time to establish expectations from the start, you are ensuring the success of that relationship.


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