You have finally finished that last paper, terminated with all field placement clients, vowed to keep in touch with field placement supervisors, favorite professors, and graduate school friends. You walked across the stage and you have that degree in hand! You are ready to advocate, intervene, resource, make social change, and make money again doing it!
But wait, there are a few more hurdles. Take that LGSW exam (you can totally do it, it's not that hard, really, take practice exams, you got this!). Now you need clinical practice experience and clinical supervision.
For many new Social Workers, we get our first job as a front line Social Worker in an agency of one kind or another. This can mean Case Manager or Clinical Case Manager or Therapist or Family Support Worker, etc. Typically, the person providing clinical supervision is also our boss. This arrangement is great in that it is convenient, free, and your boss hopefully knows your agency, clients, and world of work really well.
However, an argument could be made that there is a conflict of interest here.
Supervisors may feel pressured by time and resources to be more focused on billing and numbers, rather than client outcomes and your clinical development. This can lead to clinical supervision time being used more as case monitoring.
When clinical supervision time is really case monitoring, then the hour is used to make a report to the supervisor about your work so that the supervisor can monitor the data and make sure that agency goals are being met, that you are doing your job, and any problems can be addressed. This is not clinical supervision. The agency may call it that. They may sign off on clinical supervision hours toward your clinical license, but case monitoring is not developing your skills and it is not preparing you for independent practice.
Another conflict of interest may exist when clinical supervision is provided by someone who is also your boss because you may not feel comfortable disclosing to your boss when you experience counter-transference or other challenges that require vulnerability. There are many great supervisors out there who create a climate of trust and support with the Social Workers who report to them, but this is not always the case.
Here is what good clinical supervision looks like:
As you apply for jobs, be sure to ask about how the agency provides clinical supervision.
Here are some questions to consider asking during your interviews:
Remember, you can seek additional support outside of your agency, as long as your agency signs off on it (there is a form on your Board's website). Social Work is a wonderful, rewarding career with endless possibilities to fit your style, goals, and interests. Seek diversified support and your chances of landing on a career path you love are multiplied.
Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C
As a therapist, mother, daughter, partner, and seeker, I am always on the journey toward a more peaceful, authentic life. I hope to share knowledge, insights, and the ongoing unknowns I find along the path...