Clinical Supervision for Counsellors and Psychotherapists

Clinical Supervision for Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

Clinical supervision is a requirement for all accredited therapists as well as those working towards accreditation and students who are working with clients as part of their training in counselling, psychotherapy and other therapy training models. There are various requirements for different accrediting bodies (IACP and IAHIP for example). However, regardless of these requirements, therapists fundamentally need to receive supervision and engage in the supervisory process.

What is clinical supervision?

In short, clinical supervision is a formal contract, which is carried out when a therapist meets with a qualified supervisor to discuss their work. The supervisor is also a therapist who has completed further training in clinical supervision. Supervision is for the therapist to talk about, reflect on and explore their work, as well as their on-going professional development. Supervision can also be seen as a form of education and guidance. Where required, supervision can be directive but only under very specific circumstances when there are issues, for example, of immediate risk or harm.

Why is clinical supervision necessary?

Supervision is necessary to provide opportunity for the therapist to ensure that they are meeting the needs of those they are working with, as well their own professional needs. It allows therapists to talk about various aspects of their work so that an objective person can hear it, provide feedback on it, question it where required, and finally affirm it.

This also serves the clients, as it is fundamentally their needs which are paramount in the supervision process. Supervision does not exist to find fault in the work of any therapist but to ensure that the therapist is fully aware of themselves and the impact that their work has on them.

Therapists can be affected by their work and the risk of burnout is always a strong consideration in self-care. Some work can be traumatic for therapists, some can even find that their work becomes more difficult as personal changes or issues arise in their lives. If therapists are not fully aware of the impact on them, it could limit their ability to provide for their client.

Supervision ensures that the possibilities of burnout, for example, can be flagged. Take an example of a therapist who, on a regular basis in supervision, talks about feeling wiped or exhausted by the end of the working week. They might benefit from their supervisor asking about their self-care and how and when they take time off. It may also be of benefit to discuss personal issues on the clear understanding that supervision is very different to personal therapy.

Clinical Supervision for those in training.

This is a very important area and it is a requirement for all students undertaking studies in therapy models where they are meeting with clients. There are different requirements and systems in place for different courses but the critical thing is that students are meeting regularly and consistently with a supervisor.

It is in this form of supervision that the work may be more directive than with a therapist who is fully accredited and working for many years. Many students value the opportunity to be in a more directive working environment with their supervisors to ensure that they are capturing the various ways of working with clients and developing their skills and abilities.

Consideration of clinical supervision for clients.

This is an important area and something for clients to be aware of. Clients are encouraged to ask potential therapists about their training, experience, viewpoints and accreditation/registration. Many do not also realise that another valuable question is to ask if the therapist regularly meets with a supervisor who is also accredited with a recognised body (though therapist and supervisor do not have to be members of the same bodies due to agreements between some groups).


To conclude, supervision is an ongoing process which provides for therapists and their supervisor to share a supportive and affirming space when the therapist is professionally nurtured and energised. It provides education for those who are beginning their career, as well as keeping therapists regardless of experience up to date with new developments. It provides time and space to consider self-care. It ensures that’s the work of therapists is being discussed and enhanced. Finally, it allows for the work with clients to be monitored to ensure they are receiving the best possible service.

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