From the President: Clinical Supervision: Back to the Future Good news for supervisors: New resources are on their way to help you navigate your work with supervisees. From the President
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From the President  |   April 01, 2014
From the President: Clinical Supervision: Back to the Future
Author Notes
  • Elizabeth McCrea, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a clinical professor emerita of the Department of Speech and Language Sciences at Indiana University. She continues her work in clinical education with the externship program at Nova Southeastern University. ■mccreae@indiana.edu
    Elizabeth McCrea, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a clinical professor emerita of the Department of Speech and Language Sciences at Indiana University. She continues her work in clinical education with the externship program at Nova Southeastern University. ■mccreae@indiana.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / From the President
From the President   |   April 01, 2014
From the President: Clinical Supervision: Back to the Future
The ASHA Leader, April 2014, Vol. 19, 6-8. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.19042014.6
The ASHA Leader, April 2014, Vol. 19, 6-8. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.19042014.6

“Speech-language pathologists and audiologists have been involved in supervision since the beginning of the profession. Indeed, supervision seems to have been the one component that has affected everyone in the profession at some time.”

—ASHA Committee on Supervision in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, 1978

Because supervision has been and continues to be required by the professions, its importance to the integrity of the services that we provide to patients/clients and their families seems to be implicit in the requirement. In fact, in 1984 in his book “Delivery of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Services,” Richard Flower said, “Supervision may well be the oldest, most traditional approach to quality assurance.” Despite the fact that supervision is required during the clinical education of students, there has been little formal or consistent preparation of supervisors within communication sciences and disorders—despite periodic calls for such preparation beyond occasional continuing education offerings.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a heightened interest in the nature of supervision in the professions. From this interest and the work and research completed in response to it, communication sciences and disorders leaders made several important contributions to the understanding of supervision. In 1988, Jean L. Anderson—in her book “The Supervisory Process in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology”—recognized that there was a variety of both formal or personal approaches to supervision in and out of the discipline; however, she coalesced and formalized them in the following definition of supervision in speech-language pathology and audiology that appears on page 8 of the book:
“Supervision is a process that consists of a variety of patterns of behavior, the appropriateness of which depends upon the needs, competencies, expectations, and philosophies of the supervisor and the supervisee and the specifics of the situation (task, client, setting, and other variables). The goals of the supervisory process are the professional growth and development of the supervisee and the supervisor, which it is assumed will result ultimately in optimal service to clients.”
The definition recognized the array of variables inherent in every supervisory interaction and, for the first time, recognized that supervision should contribute not only to the quality of service provided to patients/clients but also to the enhanced professional maturity of both the supervisee and supervisor.
The variables contained in the definition speak to the complexity of supervisory interactions. Any one of these variables may affect the dynamics of the process, requiring modification of supervisor and supervisee interaction style or strategy. Most fundamentally, supervisory interactions are influenced by the clinical knowledge and skill of the supervisor and the supervisee. In addition, supervisees (and supervisors, too) increasingly bring diverse cultures, languages, perspectives and learning styles to the relationship. And the settings in which the supervisor and supervisee work are equally diverse in terms of expectations, patient/client/family complexity, pace of work and experience with interprofessional practice.
Appropriate supervision needs to take into account all of these variables and may require adaptation of a typical supervisory approach as well as the implementation of a variety of supervisory behaviors and strategies to reach its full potential.
The past 35 years have seen a variety of resource and policy documents for supervisors to support their practice. During this same period—and related to the complexity of the process—ASHA first recognized supervision as a distinct area of professional practice and one that requires special training. These documents are available online at www.asha.org/policy.
The recognition of the complexity of the supervisory process and the implications of this complexity on the success of supervisory experiences has renewed interest in preparation models for the supervisory process. In 2012 the ASHA Board of Directors appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on Supervision to consider the need for formal training for professionals providing clinical supervision. The board approved the committee’s report in January. As part of its work, the committee went back and built upon the science of clinical supervision and upon the work of earlier committees on supervision.
The committee preserved the essential elements of the supervisory process fundamental to all supervisory interactions. In addition, the committee brought the thinking about supervision practice into the future by considering the differing demands of practice for audiology and speech-language pathology as well as the differing demands of distinctive groups of supervisees (for example, graduate students, clinical fellows, fourth-year AuD students, certified members transitioning between service delivery models/settings, SLPAs). Importantly, the committee recommended “…the development and implementation of comprehensive and systematic training in supervision.”
It is too early to know exactly how this training will be designed and made available; however, the very good news is that ASHA is committed to developing resources to enhance the training of supervisors. These resources will support supervisors’ practice and facilitate their navigation of the complexities of the supervisory process with increasingly diverse students and across challenging work settings.
All of this thought and effort certainly will benefit both clinical supervisors and supervisees as they build productive experiences together—but even more important, it has the potential to benefit their patients and clients as well. Both of these outcomes are worth the effort!
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April 2014
Volume 19, Issue 4