Even when we’re entry-level, fresh out of grad school, we usually want to ensure we’re doing everything in our power to give our clients the best resources. How can we know if we’re giving our clients the best care if we maybe don’t have the best resources and guidance as clinicians?
The first supervisor I had in an agency took me to the outlet mall to pick something up that she needed for her son’s birthday during our supervision: we chatted in the car. She showed movies during group therapy for our mandated clients and read novels in the corner. Just because something or someone seems “legitimate,” the way an agency job seems legitimate, doesn’t mean it’s good.
When I started private practice, I paid out of pocket for a supervisor. That weekly hour was dedicated wholly by someone whose clinical work I admired. She wasn’t afraid to get in there with me, challenge me, unspool things with me. She was a great teacher and leader, and she wasn’t my boss. I felt like I could be candid when I felt scared or clueless without worrying about negatively impacting my job security. Because nothing says “I care about my clients” more than not being able to get guidance to do what’s best for them if asking for that guidance might mean you’re out of a job.
Not only do I think an entry-level clinician can get great supervision a consultation if they seek it out themselves, I believe there are instances where the supervision is superior. Like how a private practice clinician may provide better care because they set their practice up in a sustainable way that prevents burnout, a private supervisor can be picky about who they take on how much they work. I want you to be picky about who you choose as well.
Also, an essential part of your development as a clinician is what clients you’re working with. Sometimes if you’re in a group practice, you have a bit more say in who you see than you would in an agency. You have total autonomy in your own practice.
I could make a case for how supportive counseling for clients I worked with diagnosed with Schizophrenia benefited my clinical development, but it’s a stretch. The truth is, I learned some best practices and spent time so I could serve some of my clients from that time. I did my job as well as I could. Had that same amount of time a energy been dedicated to honing my niche skills, I’d be using them today and probably be more effective. Now, all of this comes from a ton of privilege- including hindsight. I needed a job, and I found one. There’s no shame or regret in that.
I was in a position where I could keep living my broke grad school lifestyle toafford out-of-pocket supervision later. I worked two jobs to make it work. If I’d had health conditions, kids, or parents to care for, that might not have been an option. So know that what I’m talking about that may or may not be accessible for everybody. If agency supervision is what you have now and it’s not what you hoped, read books relevant to what you want to do. Join a peer consult group. Do group supervision at a lower hourly rate with a supervisor you trust.
Get creative. Get scrappy. You can have what you want, and I’m guessing/hoping we all want to be great at what we do. If you need help, you can check out our free training How to Fill Your Practice Without Being Salesy or Spending Money You Don’t Have