Professional counsellors and psychotherapists undertake rigorous education and training at the graduate level to foster development of conceptual knowledge, process or intervention strategies and skills, and what Bernard and Goodyear (2004) referred to as personalization skills that promote appropriate and effective use of the self of the therapist (e.g., personality, cultural background, interpersonal style) in working with clients. It is this combination of awareness, sensitivity, knowledge, and skills that serves as the foundation for caring, confident, and competent professional counselling and psychotherapy practice. Whether undertaken during the period of formal study or subsequent to graduation, clinical supervision supports the continued professional growth and development of counselling and psychotherapy practitioners across the career span.
However, until quite recently, there was little in the way of formal and systematic didactic and experiential training of clinical supervisors in the counselling and psychotherapy profession. This is particularly true for master’s level practitioners, who represent the majority of counsellors and psychotherapists in Canada. There appears to have been an assumption that a combination of graduate training in counselling and psychotherapy and a handful of years of subsequent professional practice in the field represents sufficient preparation for the role of clinical supervisor. Presumably, engagement in clinical supervision as a supervisee during the period of graduate studies (and perhaps also during post-degree supervision for registration or licensure) concurrently offers a social learning model for the apprehension of clinical supervision concepts and skills. However, this learning-through-exposure model fails to consider that the primary focus of a supervisee is on successful development and demonstration of counselling and psychotherapy concepts and skills versus those associated with clinical supervision. And, if supervisees subsequently opt to adopt or adapt clinical supervisory practices from former clinical supervisors, there is no assurance that they will engage in evidence-supported best practice. Watkins (1997), editor of the Handbook of Psychotherapy Supervision, was troubled by the discrepancy between the rigorous academic preparation of helping professionals and the lack of training of their clinical supervisors. He protested that “something does not compute” (p. 604).
The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) has been attuned to the clinical supervision zeitgeist from a pan-Canadian perspective and to the misalignment between heightened interest in this specialization and the paucity of resources and learning opportunities available to Canadian practitioners. CCPA has responded by establishing the Canadian Certified Counsellor- Supervisor (CCC-S) credential, publishing a clinical supervision handbook, launching an online graduate course in clinical supervision, and introducing a multi-authored text on clinical supervision in 2016.
In recognition of the challenge of operationalizing definitions of “qualified” and “competent,” CCPA initiated a study that commenced with an examination of the literature on supervisor competence in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Co-chairs Blythe Shepard and Beth Robinson, along with Working Group members John Driscoll, Liette Goyer, Mark MacAulay, Anne Marshall, Simon Nuttgens, and David Paré conducted this review of the literature; consulted with American experts, Drs Carol Falender and Janine Bernard; and interviewed experienced Canadian clinical supervisors who represent diverse geographical and employment settings. The next step will be to administer a pan-Canadian survey on clinical supervision in late 2016. The primary objective of this study is to establish a national competency framework to support the continued growth and development of clinical supervision practice in Canada.
This framework will establish a collective understanding of what constitutes qualified and competent clinical supervision and will generate myriad practical applications. For example, the competencies could be used to inform supervisor self-assessment and professional growth plans. The implementation of the framework could empower supervisees to engage in self-advocacy related to personal and professional learning and growth needs. Identification of competencies will promote collaborative exploration of supervisory goals, relationship, process, and evaluation in dyadic, triadic, and group supervision contexts. A national competency framework aligns with organizational learning culture and promotes psychologically healthy supervisory relationships at the individual, group, and organizational levels. Delineation of competencies can guide clinical supervision course development within and external to postsecondary institutions. The competency framework will support CCPA’s Canadian Certified Counsellor-Supervisor (CCC-S) designation and could potentially serve as a resource for regulatory bodies in their assessment of candidates. The framework will establish a foundation for greater accountability and contribute to the sustainability of clinical supervision as a specialty area of practice under the umbrella of the counselling and psychotherapy profession.