What to consider when choosing a supervisor
If you have just started as a private practitioner, you will probably be thinking about where you can get appropriate supervision for your work. It is not only essential to have supervision to maintain your registration and to offer the best possible service to your clients, but also to assist you in developing the skills needed to work in private practice including managing a business.
No matter how experienced you are as a practitioner, you will benefit from private practice supervision as you will be faced with issues that are specific to private practice such as how to manage taking payments for your work, even when a client DNA’s is their appointment!
Furthermore, each year brings new challenges to the business of running a private practice that is helpful to discuss in supervision. Recent examples include GDPR, Brexit, and the pandemic.
As such, it's important to think carefully about who you want to supervise you and the choices surrounding it.
Your supervisor should be someone you can trust, personally and professionally. You'll not only be revealing yourself and how you practice, but you'll also be looking to them for constructive, credible, and timely support.
The most fundamental part of supervision and an important factor to prioritise when choosing a supervisor is the personal relationship you have with them. In 2019 a summary review of studies on The Characteristics of Effective Clinical and Peer Supervision in the Workplace (HCPC) found that the key factor of effective clinical supervision in the workplace is the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee.
When choosing a supervisor, it is useful to focus on looking for an experienced private practitioner in a similar field to yours. They will be able to offer you the relevant expertise such as managing the business side of your practice, how to carry out admin tasks, and the way you handle your clients in your calendar. They will know all the tips and tricks that have helped them develop and excel in their own business and can target specific areas of private practice that you may not receive from an NHS based supervisor. Here are a few things to consider when making your choice of a supervisor.
Finding and maintaining a trustworthy and safe relationship with another private practitioner is important and will help you achieve the best supervision available. Unlike in public health care, you will need to choose someone who has and is going through a similar experience to you, working privately with a business mindset, that can also support you and your ‘brand’.
You want to be able to confide in the person you chose so look for a professional who you believe you can share your personal challenges, whilst trusting that they will support and listen to you. A good relationship comes from respect for each other and strong listening skills, so this way you can receive accurate and relevant advice.
A supervisor's job is to help you develop, improve, and manage your issues and difficulties, so make sure you're not embarrassed or uncomfortable sharing details with them, so you can have a good working relationship.
It is also beneficial if you choose someone who has expertise in your therapeutic model of choice. This means they can support the development of your therapeutic skills in that model and that they can provide relevant insight into potential future obstacles in your work. They are more likely to have faced similar challenges and learning experiences, so you are then more likely to feel more supported, as their advice will feel more credible.
Where did they work before? How many years' experience do they have working independently? If you are looking for a supervisor to help you with business management, practice management and knowledge of relevant resources for information in your profession, then someone who has spent the majority of their career working as part of a multidisciplinary team in a public health care environment may not be the best fit.
Think about if they are established enough in the private practice setting, and able to give you the streamlined and specific support you need.
Ask questions and figure out if their past and present goals are of a similar direction to yours and whether they aware and involved with the current private therapist network, and up to date with the developments being made in private practice and the changing research, regulations and adjustments being made.
It can also be useful for you to separate your clients' needs and the model you use to treat them and chose a different supervisor to match. For example, you could have a handful of clients that you treat with CBT and another handful with systemic family therapy.
What will you talk about? How long will the session last? Decide with your supervisor how the sessions will be planned out, or if they will be less structured.
Consider if you want to ask them questions and seek their guidance in the time you have together, or if you'd rather have them read your latest reports or watch recordings of your practice and provide constructive feedback.
You could also create an agreement or contract, scheduling ‘special topics’ sessions for each time that you meet. Keep in mind that clear communication and organisation are essential throughout the supervision, and ensures that sessions are professional and productive.
Can you afford them? Usually, the more experienced the supervisor the higher the supervision rate. However, you may be able to make the cost more manageable by meeting them less often. Choosing to see a more experienced mentor less frequently, (say once a month) may cost the same as seeing a slightly less experienced practitioner more often (every two weeks). This may also suit you better if you have a smaller caseload, or if you tend to see clients every fortnight as opposed to weekly.
There is some research evidence to suggest that regular weekly or fortnightly supervision can be more helpful but this may depend on how confident you feel about your private work, especially when you are starting out. Perhaps you could start by meeting regularly and then cut down as you begin to feel more confident. You could always ask to have an option for extra ad-hoc sessions when it feels necessary.
Either way it is important to think carefully in advance and decide what works best for you financially and professionally.
Where you meet your supervisor is well worth considering. Will you meet in their house, their clinic, or will they come to you? You want to be somewhere that is comfortable enough to talk freely about confidential aspects of your clinical work and your business, so think about what area is an appropriate setting for that.
Will you be able to take the time to travel to meet them? If you prefer to meet your supervisor in person at least occasionally, it is important to think about how you can do this and how long it will take. Time can become scarce when running a busy private practice, so make sure you choose a supervisor that doesn’t work too far away and that you can get to easily by your preferred mode of transport.
You do not even have to meet face to face with a supervisor. Remote sessions now allow us to talk with anyone anytime, so meetings can work just as well over Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Having an online supervisor also allows for more flexibility, knowing that who you chose does not have to be limited to your city or county, but can chose someone you respect that you would maybe never have been able to meet in person.
Even if you chose the perfect supervisor on paper, no one is exempt from the issues that arise in supervision. Your supervisor could be late to meetings, become unreliable, or fail to keep you adequately informed. You also may disagree with their approach or advice in the sessions.
Every practitioner has a different working style, and you may feel they are too formal or not professional enough which could have an effect on the results of your sessions. If they are not prepared ahead of time or disorganised, it may inhibit your professional progress as the time you have together could be wasted.
Now it's time to choose...
Choosing the right supervisor can be difficult. There are many things that contribute to successful supervision as listed above, however, having a trustworthy relationship with someone, who works in private practice, in a similar specific field of therapy, who can provide you with timely and constructive feedback, will offer you the best support necessary in developing your career as a private practitioner.
We offer supervision and networking for any private psychologists or CBT therapists at surrey therapy practice. Our lead practitioners Dr Emilie Cassell and Dr Louise Oliver offer supervision to help those in private practice. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit the Join our practice page our website www.surreytherapypractice.com to become an associate.