Academic journal article TCA Journal

Contributions of Supervisees: A Strength-Based Element of Supervision

Academic journal article TCA Journal

Contributions of Supervisees: A Strength-Based Element of Supervision

Article excerpt

Professional literature on supervision of the practicum and internship has a variety of foci. This article explores an element of supervision that honors the contributions made by the supervisee to the site as a way to foster an increased sense of efficacy in the supervisee. Possible contributions such as free labor, a positive attitude, recent content knowledge, and a fresh ethical perspective are discussed.

Counseling programs require clinical experiences with real clientele as a part of training curricula. These experiences usually occur toward the end of a graduate program in courses with names such as Practicum and Internship. Although some graduate programs use on-site clinics to train and supervise their students, many use community agencies, schools, and hospitals as off-site training centers. As students move from the safe world of the classroom to the real world demands of a practitioner, anxiety and feelings of inferiority are commonplace.

The current literature on this transition follows two main threads: the common developmental issues faced by internship students, such as anxiety and lack of competence; and specific tasks and responsibilities that students in these sites must attend to in order to be successful. Developmental literature focuses on the stages of a typical student's progress through clinical instruction (Blocher, 1983; Loganbill, Hardy, & Delworth, 1982; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987) with the emphasis on appropriate supervisee behavior and methods of supervisory facilitation through the stages. Developmental theories posit specific developmental issues and stages of supervisees and the relevant supervisory techniques appropriate for each stage.

The second theme of the literature focuses on the attainment of specific tasks, skills, and abilities of students to progress through the coursework (Archer & Peake, 1984; Borders & Leddick, 1987. Supervision styles and goals center around these tasks, and the role of the supervisor is to evaluate the supervisees based on criteria related to the students' performance with clients and their professional interactions with colleagues and supervisors. Although the role of evaluator is only one role of the supervisor, many of the activities that take place during the coursework and on site are evaluative in nature. The role of evaluator typically elicits anxiety on the part of the supervisee, and much of the literature on supervisory skills address the means to alleviate and use such anxiety in a creative manner (Gill, 2001; Liddle, 1986)

Both lines of professional research suggest that much of the focus of this initial clinical experience emphasizes the novice aspect of the student's position, and developmental theory literature supports the supervisor taking a more didactic role in the beginning stages of supervision. As one student commented about her practicum experience, "I felt like I needed to be a sponge. Like I didn't know anything, but needed to know everything. As a sponge, I didn't feel I could trust myself or all the learning I had just completed. I mainly listened to my supervisor and tried to do what they told me to do." Another student commented, "I felt like a total consumer. I relied very heavily on my site supervisor. I even took on her theoretical approach, because I didn't feel competent enough in exploring my own." If students feel as incompetent and anxious as the literature suggests, could there be ways to facilitate supervisee growth other than taking on the role of the expert in supervision? Could supervisors not enhance traditional supervisory methods with a strength-based approach akin to the perspective honored by the counseling profession's approach to work with clients? Focusing on the supervisee's contributions to the supervision process and the internship site is one example of a strength-based supervision approach. This article explores some possible contributions of supervisees in the practicum or internship experience. …

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