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Should I become a Site Supervisor?

By Taqueena Quintana posted 07-20-2019 11:26

Greetings School Counseling Community!

Reflect back to your time as a graduate school counseling student. You may have been very busy juggling the pressures of life, work responsibilities and school. You were focused on becoming adequately trained, seeking employment, and securing a position as a school counselor. Prior to your program completion, you took on the role as practicum/internship student to obtain field experience and get a taste of what was to come. For many of us, our stories are similar in this regard. We become school counselors, move on with our lives and then suddenly, a student comes to us and asks if we could supervise them for their field experience, a role in which many of us may not be necessarily formally trained in. Did your graduate program prepare (or even speak with) you about the possibility of becoming a supervisor someday?

Being a site supervisor comes with many responsibilities and should not be taken lightly. As a site supervisor, you are one of several gatekeepers who help make the decision as to whether or not a supervisee is prepared to work in the field. Because many emerging school counselors do not receive clinical supervision (or clinical supervision training) following their program completion, they often support students based on how they were trained. As a site supervisor, you are a trainer. Think about it: YOU are a trainer. Whatever you provide (or don't provide) in supervising a school counseling student will follow them through their career and impact the HUNDREDS of students on their caseloads. Pretty heavy stuff huh?

I've spoken to numerous school counselors who believe they would make adequate site supervisors because they have a number of years in the field. They believe that because they have worked within the role for some time, they are most capable in training a supervisee. This is not always the case. Read the following to get an understanding of what one school counseling student experienced with a seasoned school counselor (reposted with permission):

Dr. Quintana,

I am an internship student at xxxxxxx and I'm having a difficult time at my site. Last term as a practicum student, I worked in an elementary school and learned a lot about the ASCA National Model and how to develop a comprehensive school program. After changing to a middle school site this semester, I am having challenges with my site supervisor. I thought that with 20 years in school counseling experience, I would be in good hands with my site supervisor. Unfortunately, it is the total opposite. My site supervisor does not follow the ASCA National Model and is not open to considering it in my training. She often makes me spend time filing paperwork, answering phone calls, writing reports and shadowing her during lunch duty and arrival/dismissal procedures. I am worried that I won't have direct experience with students here at my site and I won't be prepared in using current best practices when I secure a school counseling job. I have asked about group, individual and classroom opportunities however she doesn't seem to have much time to show me these things. I would like to talk to my program about it but because she has been linked with the university for a long time (and graduated from here), I'm nervous about mentioning this to my university supervisor. What should I do?

School counselors should engage in ongoing professional development, whether they have a supervisee or not. Additionally, as school counselors, we have an ethical responsibility to stay current in the research and utilize evidenced-based best practices, especially if we are contributing to the field by training an emerging school counselor. Here are a few tips for current and interested school counseling site supervisors: 

1. Becoming a site supervisor is a huge responsibility. If you are not up for the commitment, please, don't take on an supervisee.

2. If you have not been formally trained in clinical supervision but have an interest in becoming a site supervisor, find a face-to-face or virtual training opportunity that offers education in this area. Some universities offer supervision as a course. Some organizations offer it as a workshop.

3. School counselors who were trained prior to the ASCA National Model and are unfamiliar with it can benefit from learning more on how to develop, implement and evaluate a comprehensive school counseling program using the Model. Visit ASCA's website for resources and information, especially if you are considering a supervisee.

4. Supervisees are not assistants and should not be given work because the supervisor does not want to do it. Learn the role of the school counseling supervisee and ensure that they are engaged in meaningful work that will prepare them for the road ahead.

5. Stay abreast on current literature and utilize research-based best practices.

6. Cultural competence is key and is an important factor within the supervisory alliance.

7. Be mindful of boundaries and limitations. In smaller communities, many site supervisors and supervisees may have an already established relationship outside the professional one. Consider how this may impact the supervisory relationship.

8. As a school counselor, you may take on many roles, so time may be a barrier. Advocate for your role as a site supervisor in order to obtain protected time to train and provide supervision sessions for your supervisee.

9. Collaborate and maintain a relationship with the supervisee's university. A stronger partnerships contribute to adequate preparation of the supervisee.

10. Supervisors have supervisors. When in doubt and in need of support, seek supervision or consultation from school counseling colleagues, district-level supervisors and the field.

All in all, training a school counseling supervisee can be a very rewarding experience. In the spirit of leadership, advocacy, collaboration and systemic change, site supervisors are one of the driving forces behind the preparation of future school counselors. It is important that as site supervisors, you are prepared and ready for this important role. In considering this responsibility, ask yourself:

Should you become a site supervisor?

Be Well,

Dr. Quintana