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Important Issues in Supervision

by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

Serving in the role of supervisor can be complicated, with a host of related issues that are important to address. This article identifies legal, ethical and administrative considerations to help you approach supervision of psychologists-in-training in an organized manner. The final section contains a list of helpful resources.

Legal Issues

Whether you are supervising practicum students, interns or postdoctoral clinicians accumulating hours for licensure, supervision requirements vary by state. Check with your state board of psychology and your state, provincial, or territorial psychological association for details related to topics such as:
  • supervisor qualifications and competencies

  • minimum amount of supervisor-supervisee contact--for example, number of hours per week, total number of hours

  • number of supervisees allowed

  • format of supervision — for example, individual vs. group, face-to-face vs. phone or e-mail, etc.

  • clinical record keeping required of the supervisee, including what information should be included in the client record, and how long records should be maintained. Further, it is important that all parties understand who ultimately controls the record — for example, a facility, agency or the supervising psychologist.

  • documentation of supervisory activities, such as discussion of client progress and changes in treatment plan

  • employment status — for example, is the supervisor required to be employed by the agency/practice, can trainees pay for outside supervision?

  • supervisor availability to clients, such as through a face-to-face meeting early in the process of working with the client

  • amount of direct service provision vs. research

A written contract between supervisor and supervisee is important for establishing the duties and responsibilities of the respective parties. Keep clearly in mind that the ultimate responsibility for patient care rests with the supervisor.

Ethical Issues

A variety of ethical issues are relevant to the supervision of trainees. Become familiar with the applicable ethical standards in the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, including, but not limited to:
  • Boundaries of Competence (2.01)

  • Delegation of Work to Others (2.05)

  • Exploitative Relationships (3.08)

  • Recording (4.03)

  • Accuracy in Reports to Payers and Funding Sources (6.06)

  • Design of Education and Training Programs (7.01)

  • Student Disclosure of Personal Information (7.04)

  • Assessing Student and Supervisee Performance (7.06)

  • Sexual Relationships With Students and Supervisees (7.07)

  • Publication Credit (8.12)

  • Assessment by Unqualified Persons (9.07)

  • Informed Consent to Therapy (10.01 (c))

Administrative Issues

Along with the clinical aspects of supervision come a variety of administrative issues. Planning ahead can help increase your comfort level as a supervisor, while providing your supervisees with the organization and structure to facilitate their professional development.

Decide in advance how you will address the following:
  • Creating and communicating a job description

  • Providing an orientation to your practice, as well as workplace policies and procedures

  • Scheduling

  • Providing didactic trainings and readings on relevant topics

  • Establishing and monitoring training goals

  • Documenting work and completing paperwork

  • Conducting performance evaluations, giving feedback and addressing performance issues

Helpful Resources

If you are going to provide supervision to psychologists-in-training, it is important to take steps to ensure your competence in this area. Attend continuing education workshops, read relevant books and articles, and gain experience while obtaining appropriate consultation from another psychologist skilled in supervision.

Several resources and suggested readings for developing your knowledge base are listed below:

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) — free access to the ASPPB Handbook of Licensure and Certification

APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) — APPIC Training Resources

Alonzo, A. (1985). The Quiet Profession: Supervisors of Psychotherapy. New York: Macmillan. Available from

Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (2003). Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision (3rd Ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 

Falendar, C. & Shafranske, E (2004). Clinical Supervision: A Competency-Based Approach. Washington, D.C.: APA. 

Frawley-O’Dea, M. G., & Sarnat, J. E. (2001). The Supervisory Relationship: A Contemporary Psychodynamic Approach. New York: The Guilford Press.

Watkins, C. E. (Ed.). (1997). Handbook of Psychotherapy Supervision. New York: Wiley.


Date created: 2004