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Supervision Best Practices

This is provided for informational purposes by experts within the field of psychology.

The Board thanks and acknowledges Rodney Goodyear, Ph.D., Carol Falender, Ph.D., CPA Division II, Mary Lee Nelson, Ph.D., and others who contributed to the development of this document.


First and foremost, all SPE should best be conducted pursuant to the best practices and accepted standards that have been developed over time by the American Psychological Association, the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), and the California Psychology Internship Council (CAPIC).

Prior to the Commencement of SPE:

The following issues should be discussed between the supervisor and the trainee. (A written agreement between supervisor and trainee could include these details and more, as determined by the participants):

  1. Specific expectations regarding time commitments
    • The supervised work will begin (date) and will continue through (date)
    • Expected number of hours the trainee is to work per week
    • Number of hours of supervision during that period and on what schedule
  2. How client assignments are to be made
  3. Expected models or conventions of intervention
  4. How reimbursement for services is to occur, including amounts
  5. Space and other resources that are to be made available to the trainee
  6. Details of arrangements for malpractice insurance
  7. Goals of supervised experience
    • Supervisor's
    • Trainee's
  8. The format of supervision (e.g., case notes; audio or videotape; live supervision, etc.) and the supervisor's interactional style
  9. Expected role of trainee in supervision sessions (e.g., Will the supervisor take a teaching role? Will the supervisor address counter transference, etc.?)
  10. Contingency plans in case of emergency
    • How will trainee reach supervisor?
    • Procedures to follow in responding to an emergency
  11. Supervisor's preferences regarding record keeping
  12. Performance evaluation
    • Frequency
    • Evaluation criteria
    • Format of evaluation

Best Supervision Practices Include:

  1. Clear role induction at the outset
    • Expected roles and behaviors of both supervisor and trainee
  2. Maintenance of clear professional boundaries (e.g., does not use the trainee as a confidant or involve the trainee in conflicted dynamics within the setting)
  3. Provision of clear feedback, both positive and negative, about the trainee's performance
  4. Most supervision theorists believe that some level of conflict is inevitable in supervision as in any relationship. Therefore, the supervisor should:
    • Discuss conflict when it occurs
    • Take responsibility for his/her role in the conflict that arises
    • Seek consultation if the conflict reaches an impasse (because supervision is a hierarchical relationship, the ultimate responsibility for this resides with the supervisor)
  5. Respect for human diversity and individual differences that may exist between the supervisor and trainee. The supervisor makes it clear to the trainee that discussions of such differences are safe and appropriate.

Quality Supervision is NOT:

  1. Placing the delivery of services above the trainee's professional needs
  2. The supervisor using supervisory sessions as an opportunity to talk primarily about his or her own cases or him/herself

Trainees Should Always Remember:

The supervisor may be liable for any of the trainee's actions during the supervised experience. Therefore, it is the trainee's responsibility to keep the supervisor as fully informed as possible about the trainee's work with clients and about their client's responses.

If the trainee is experiencing discomfort about any aspect of the supervision experience, it is the trainee's responsibility to address the discomfort directly with the supervisor.