Academic journal article TCA Journal

Exemplary Supervision Practices: Retrospective Observations of Experienced Counselor

Academic journal article TCA Journal

Exemplary Supervision Practices: Retrospective Observations of Experienced Counselor

Article excerpt

This article features results of a qualitative inquiry conducted to obtain veteran counselors' analyses of supervision they experienced as exemplary and conducive to professional growth. The supervisory relationships emerged as an essential core of exemplary supervision manifest through supervisors' preparation, participation, demonstration, and stimulation.

Professional literature features substantial evidence of attempts to isolate and quantify elements of supervision that most effectively contribute to professional development. These entries often reflect observations and data drawn from trainees in academic settings (Fisher, 1989; Ronnestad & Skovholt, 1993; Usher & Borders, 1983). Indeed, academic settings provide excellent opportunities for research concerning development of counseling skills. However, discussions regarding the wisdom and insight acquired as trainees become experienced professionals appear to be rather sparse in the professional literature. It is assumed that critical data of this type warrant consideration.

Based on that assumption, a comprehensive inquiry was initiated to amass collective insight and wisdom from a pool of veteran counselors, with a focus on their experiences as supervisees (Magnuson, Wilcoxon, & Norem, 2000). This article features an examination of 11 veteran counselors' discussions of supervision they assessed as most productive and effective.

A BRIEF REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Many skills and attitudes associated with effective counseling have been attributed to proficient supervision (Borders, 1994; Carifio & Hess, 1987). However, essential skills required for effective supervision extend beyond those required to be effective as a counselor (Bernard & Goodyear, 1998; Borders, 1994; Dye & Borders, 1990). Although authors generally agree that a variety of approaches to supervision can be productive, they have sought to identify transcending qualities and actions of exemplary supervisors (Borders, 1994; Carifio & Hess, 1987). Examples of such necessary elements include: (a) support (Carifio & Hess, 1987; Proctor, 1994), (b) respect (Borders, 1994; Carifio & Hess, 1987), (c) empathic understanding (Proctor, 1994; Worthen & McNeill, 1996), (d) flexibility (Carifio & Hess, 1987), (e) appropriate self-disclosure (Carifio & Hess, 1987), and (f) availability (Allen, Szollos, & Williams, 1986). Other authors have suggested that informed insight and successful counseling experience are prerequisites for skillfully supervising other counselors (Carifio & Hess, 1987), and that competent supervisors respect the importance of their own professional and personal growth (Borders, 1994).

In addition to these general attributes, practices associated with effective supervision have been identified. For example, effective supervisors draw from a repertoire of supervisory interventions and roles as they discern and respond to the needs presented by supervisees (Borders, 1994; Carifio & Hess, 1987). Exemplary supervisors provide appropriate levels of structure to the supervisory relationship and process (Carifio & Hess, 1987; Proctor, 1994). They give direct, clear feedback (Allen et al., 1986; Carifio & Hess, 1987). They also respond to feedback from their supervisees (Allen et al., 1986; Proctor, 1994). Effective supervisors demonstrate investment in supervisees' professional growth by observing their work and providing instruction related to conceptualization, interventions, and approaches (Allen et al., 1986).

When examining the value of exemplary practices in supervision, researchers have focused on data reflecting short term benefits and liabilities. A missing aspect of supervision inquiry concerns the more long time benefits identified through experience and wisdom acquired as one becomes a seasoned practitioner. Consequently, in this study, researchers sought to gain additional insight regarding long term benefits of supervision as perceived by experienced counselors. …

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