Training Graduate Students to Be Clinical Supervisors: A Survey of Canadian Professional Psychology Programmes

By Hadjistavropoulos, Heather; Kehler, Melissa et al. | Canadian Psychology, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Training Graduate Students to Be Clinical Supervisors: A Survey of Canadian Professional Psychology Programmes


Hadjistavropoulos, Heather, Kehler, Melissa, Hadjistavropoulos, Thomas, Canadian Psychology


Recognising the need for training in clinical supervision, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) requires that accredited professional psychology programmes offer graduate students training in supervision. To fill a gap in the existing supervision literature, we surveyed training directors (or designates) of CPA accredited clinical and counselling programmes to understand how this training standard is currently being met in the area of clinical supervision. Responses were obtained from 20 of 28 programmes (7 1 .4% response rate). Approximately 50% of respondents indicated that their programmes required some coursework related to clinical supervision, with wide variability, however, in the number of hours of coursework provided to students (range 3 to 39). Most courses included lectures and group discussion, but also often provided students with practical experience in clinical supervision provision. Only 25% of programmes required a practicum in which students gained experience in clinically supervising other students, although an additional 40% of programmes offered an elective practicum in which students gained some training in clinical supervision. Most programmes (-71%) identified strategies for improving training in clinical supervision (e.g., improving course work, requiring practical experience), but also identified challenges to offering clinical supervision training (e.g., availability of skilled supervisors, insufficient time to devote to supervision, student competency). Based on the findings, we offer some recommendations for how training in clinical supervision could be improved in Canadian professional psychology programmes as well as describe some important directions for future research in this area.

Keywords: clinical supervision training, Canadian professional psychology programmes, survey

Clinical supervision in psychology is recognised as a multifaceted task that requires specific knowledge and skills to both train the supervisee and monitor the supervisee's practise (Falender et al., 2004). That is, clinical supervisors need to provide training so supervisees enhance their skills. Supervisors are also ethically and legally responsible for the actions of supervisees and for preventing harm that may come from an incompetent or impaired supervisee (Campbell, 2006).

Illustrating the importance given to clinical supervision, statistics provided by the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) reveal that most students in 2006/2007 obtained over 1550 hours of supervised clinical experience prior to the predoctoral internship (CPA, 2009a). Additional supervised clinical hours are also obtained during the one year predoctoral internship (CPA, 2002), and many provincial regulatory bodies have postdegree clinical supervision requirements (Council of Provincial Associations of Psychology Database, 2005).

Review of the literature shows that, while not all research finds that clinical supervision results in better patient care (e.g., Steingelber, Patterson, Cliffe, & LeGoullon, 1984), there is literature, albeit with some design limitations, that can be used to support the emphasis placed on clinical supervision. As an example, recent findings suggest that clinical supervision may assist therapists in managing the working alliance with clients and result in better client outcomes (Bambling, King, Raue, Schweitzer, & Lambert, 2006). Clients treated for depression, for example, rated the working alliance with their therapist as stronger when their therapist received clinical supervision compared to when their therapist did not (Bambling et al., 2006). In the same study, it was concluded that clients also showed greater improvement in depression when seen by supervised as compared to nonsupervised therapists. The findings from this study, however, are also open to alternative interpretations given design limitations. All supervised therapists had a pretreatment meeting with their supervisors that focused on alliance management principles; it is possible that it was this pretreatment meeting rather than ongoing clinical supervision that resulted in the differences between supervised and nonsupervised therapist.

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