Clinical Supervision

Mary is a Social Work Supervisor, Approved by the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners to Supervise All Levels of Social Workers

What is Clinical Supervision?
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a professional who is recognized by the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners (TXBSWE) to perform mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment without the oversight of an agency or another qualified individual. In order to achieve this recognition, a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) must first practice the art and science of Clinical Social Work for a minimum of 3,000 hours under the guidance of a Board-approved Supervisor. This process requires over 2 years of education and mentoring that occurs during regular meetings between the Supervisor and LMSW. During these critical training sessions, and throughout the entire supervision period, the Supervisor oversees the practices of the Master Social Worker, providing guidance and direction in the LMSW’s professional development. This mentorship is often considered the most important aspect of the process of becoming a of a fully qualified professional.

The Role of the Supervisor
A Clinical Supervisor has numerous responsibilities in taking on this role. There is a responsibility to the profession to ensure that the wisdom and knowledge developed by generations of Social Workers is passed on to those entering the field, while keeping up with the latest revelations of science and best practices in the field of Social Work and mental health treatment. Supervisors have a responsibility to the TXBSWE and to the general public to ensure high quality training in all aspects of client care and professional development, to ensure those who will hold the title of Clinical Social Worker are fully prepared and qualified. Then there is a responsibility to the Social Worker being supervised, who deserves a mentoring experience specifically tailored to their unique talents, developmental needs, and personality as they gain the knowledge, skills and abilities required to become the best clinician they can possibly be. Supervision is where the art of our profession is best developed and practiced. Finally, Supervisors have  a responsibility to the clients served by the Social Worker in Supervision. Ultimately it is the Supervisor’s responsibility to make sure each client gets the respect, care, and  high quality treatment they deserve and require, in accordance with the ethics of our profession and the laws and rules of the State of Texas.

The Role of the LMSW in Clinical Supervision
An LMSW has already completed a Baccalaureate degree in Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice, or some closely related field, and subsequently completed a Master’s Degree in Social Work including over 1,000 hours of practice in delivery of Social Work services in an internship capacity. They have also passed a state examination, and/or undergone a Board review of their education and practice experience, as well as background check and work history review. And now, the ‘real’ education can begin!
While I refer to it as the ‘real’ education partially in jest, this is where the rubber meets the road as far as the Social Worker’s development as a clinician. While there is a great deal of learning to be done throughout a social work career, the supervision period offers the opportunity for a Social Worker to climb what is, perhaps, the steepest portion of the growth and learning curve. It is exciting and challenging and sometimes even frightening. Most of all, it can be incredibly rewarding. The role of the LMSW in supervision is to rise up to meet the challenge on many levels.

A Note To the LMSW Entering Supervision
Before starting the supervision period, you’ve learned of a number of ways things can go wrong: instances of ethical breaches, systemic failure, missed clinical opportunities, legal/ethical dilemmas, etc. You’ve practiced in a more sheltered environment, doing field work in graduate school, and perhaps through agency employment. During the supervision period, you’ll start practicing without a net — or almost without a net. You can count on your supervisor for regular case consultations, providing direction, imparting knowledge, offering encouragement, and redirection if you are heading down a dangerous path. Yet your Supervisor isn’t in your head with you. Supervisors can only offer guidance with your input and transparency. Seeking out your own learning experiences, sharing new ideas, doing homework and independent study, following guidelines – and sometimes questioning them, are all part of your responsibility.

There is a parallel process between supervision and therapy. Just as your client’s overall progress is determined much by what she does outside of the therapy session, so is your progress determined by how much you put into your supervision experience. Self-care and knowing the limits of your capabilities, while choosing to expand them, are of utmost importance during this rich and critical stage of your professional development. You have a responsibility to yourself, your clients, your Supervisor, the State and the profession to cultivate your professional practice to the best of your ability. The experience you seek and the habits you learn now will set the tone for the career that lies ahead of you.

A Good Fit
A good fit between Social Worker and Supervisor is similar in importance to a good fit between client and therapist in determining the process and outcome of your Supervision experience. Supervision is a marathon, not a sprint!  While you may be tempted to start out by determining your estimated completion date, you will soon become absorbed in the process — more concerned about the next client or supervision session than the completion date.

My best advice to you is to take a bit of extra time in selecting a Supervisor who you feel is a good fit for you. Interview at least two or three Supervisors to get a feel for their styles, and to ensure that their areas of expertise are well aligned with your areas of interest. If you want to gain experience in working with adults who are struggling with mood disorders, you may not want to start supervision with someone who primarily works with children on the Autism Spectrum (or vice versa)!

Work with someone who you feel comfortable with. Do you require a supervisor with great organization skills? Let that be known. Would you like to work with someone who is very direct and on point, or someone who can deliver feedback with a gentle and supportive tongue? Would you like to be part of a community of supervisees, or would you prefer more individual attention? This is the time to take your needs into account and take your time to find a Supervisor you can respect and trust. If all goes well, you will be working closely with this person for years.

Mary provides individual and group supervision to enthusiastic, compassionate and dedicated LMSWs who are ready to perform (almost) without a net. Call 512-701-7378 or email Mary with the form below, if you are interested in learning more about contracting with her for Clinical Supervision.

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