How External Clinical Supervision Fosters Clinician Resilience and Career Growth

Published on April 17, 2023
Written by Carla Smith, PhD, LCSW, LMFT

Clinical supervision is complicated. And all the rigamarole surrounding it makes us more likely to overlook what an amazing present it is. 

It really is a gift to have an experienced therapist who is committed to helping them to create the foundation that they will build the rest of their career upon. 

Potential employers are easily discouraged by the regulatory requirements, time investment, paperwork, and expense. They miss out on the energy and devotion fresh-out-of-grad-school clinicians can bring to their organization. They remind those of us who are trudging through the day-to-day why we’re here. Why we do this.

But there’s a reason why clinical supervision is a requirement for pre-licensed therapists. Can you imagine trying to wade through heavy caseloads, treatment center protocols, and all the ethical principles you studied in books without someone experienced to take you by the hand and show you how to manage it all? 

What if you could have the benefit of that shiny-new clinician energy and desire to learn, the joy of seeing them mature in their craft, but yet have someone else handle the actual supervision, including the sessions and the red tape?

That’s external clinical supervision and it brings a host of unique benefits for associate therapists and for the organizations that employ them. 

Clinical supervision is not only required, it’s crucial for developing skilled therapists.

Clinical supervision is essential for new therapists as they ease into their careers and begin working with clients. 

As therapists, we know that people deal with huge transitions better when they have a social network of support. Sink or swim doesn’t work. Mentoring and guidance are more effective options.

Your associate therapists benefit from as much camaraderie and support as they can get from their work colleagues and managers. You help them learn the ropes of your organization. 

When you don’t have internal clinical supervisors to work with your pre-licensed therapists, you may think it’s best to avoid employing associate clinicians. But external clinical supervision offers benefits that might not have occurred to you.

Why is External Clinical Supervision Beneficial?

Let’s explore the various benefits of external supervision in detail: 

Clinical supervision…

What external clinical supervision adds

Creates a professional development plan

An in-house clinical supervisor might hesitate to highlight career options outside of the organization and an associate might feel awkward bringing up their vision for their future.

An external clinical supervisor works with your associate therapist to paint a picture of their entire career and what they need to get there—including if they can reach those goals within your organization.

Identifies areas for growth and development

External supervisors address areas for improvement so that the clinician improves in their work skills without the added aspect of a boss/associate dynamic.

Provides ongoing professional development

A clinician needs to grow in their expertise. External clinical supervision can help them identify the best routes to gain those skills. Their growth benefits their clients and your organization.

Imparts additional support and training around specific skills, backgrounds, populations, or other specializations. 

Your organization or community might not have someone with that expertise. External clinical supervision provides broader options and training.

Guides a new clinician in how to manage caseloads, complete paperwork, and navigate the relationships and dynamics of their workplace.

With external clinical supervision, your associate therapists are free to talk about problems or struggles at work and gain an outside perspective on workplace dynamics, expectations, and boundaries.

Benefits of External Supervision for Resilience

Managing Stress and Burnout 

External clinical supervision provides clinicians with a safe space to process their emotions and experiences. Clinicians manage stress and burnout, which is how a therapist becomes resilient. 

Supporting Emotional and Psychological Well-Being 

External clinical supervision provides an open space for clinicians to reflect on their experiences and feelings in a supportive environment without being connected to those experiences. 

Establishing Healthy Work Boundaries 

Clinicians often work with clients who have complex and challenging mental health issues. They need to develop strategies for managing these difficult cases and learn how to set boundaries with clients so that they establish the patterns that create successful client relationships throughout their careers.

External Clinical Supervision Provides Creative Options for Developing Career Growth for Your Clinicians

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

A useful question from a clinical supervisor, an uncomfortable one from a boss or interviewer. The stakes are different. When the same person fills both roles, that complicates things.

An external clinical supervisor works with the associate to create a career plan, highlight skills they need to develop to achieve those goals, and while all of this sounds like they might be steering away your trainee from your organization, they also provide valuable insights into how counseling entities work, so your associate clinician can envision a future that includes reaching their career goals within your organization.

These opportunities improve clinician retention, and in a mental health worker shortage, retention is a very good thing.

Work with Motivo Health for Your External Clinical Supervision Needs

External clinical supervision offers many benefits for mental health organizations and clinicians. It can help support ongoing professional development, foster career growth and resilience, and support clinicians’ emotional and psychological well-being. 

If you are a mental health organization leader, consider incorporating external supervision into your organization’s practices. Especially to support your clinicians’ ongoing growth and development. Remember, prioritizing self-care and seeking support as needed is crucial for all mental health professionals. 

Learn more about how Motivo can ensure high-quality supervision for your organization today.

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