The AFCA Guide to Supervision

Supervision in counselling refers to the process whereby a Counsellor relates to a more senior practitioner to discuss issues related to their practice.
It is an apprenticeship system if you like, but unlike most apprenticeships which have an end date, in counselling, the supervisee never arrives at the at a point that they don’t continue to need this protection.
All Counsellors whether they are just starting out or extremely experienced need to be involved in a supervision experience as they continue to practice. This is to safeguard both the Counsellor and the clients that they work with.
Supervision is a mandatory requirement of most professional human service organisations and should be written into any contracts where a Counsellor is employed. Counsellors in private practice are required to organize their own supervision or apply to counselling associations such as ACCA, ACA or PACFA to be referred to a registered supervisor.
All members of AFCA (apart from student members) are required to be under supervision to maintain their level of membership and to progress to higher levels of membership.

Supervision involves the following four areas:

  • Encouragement of the supervisee
  • Further training
  • Collaboration on case management
  • Correction

Typically this would occur through the discussion of specific cases that the supervisee is wishing to explore or receive advice on or have confirmation on in case analysis or planning.

Supervisees may at times share personal issues with their supervisor which is natural enough in a good quality relationship particularly since the supervisor is obviously an experienced Counsellor, however supervisors must not get involved in personal counselling as this provides a ‘dual’ relationship which then in turn muddies the water with respect to the responsibility of supervision.
It is hard once you are involved as a supervisor with a supervisee who begins to download personal issues and who trusts you in a ‘counselling’ role to then decide that the supervisee is too much of a liability to be involved in supervision.
In order to work therapeutically the supervisor may leave clients at risk or conversely to cut the counselling relationship and leave the ‘client’ in the lurch.
It’s better to be aware of the distinctions before hand for both supervisor and supervisee.
This doesn’t mean of course that as people we can’t be real and tell each other if we’ve had a bad day or a blue with a family member. Brief therapy which is solution focused and supportive can be utilised in a natural and down to earth way however to engage in a full blown therapy session or series of sessions is to violate the supervision relationship.

There still seems to be a lot of confusion about what Professional Supervision is and what it encompasses. The following sets out a general framework of what constitutes Professional Supervision and also discusses some issues.
Firstly, what Professional Supervision is not. It is not:

  • Someone watching over your shoulder whilst you practise.
  • A discussion between two practitioners;
  • Being supervised whilst on a field placement or completing a course;
  • Discussing personal matters with a Counsellor.

Supervision is: A formal arrangement for Counsellors to discuss their work regularly with someone who is experienced in counselling and supervision.
The task is to work together to ensure and develop the efficiency of the Counsellor/client relationship.
Professional supervision is a process to maintain adequate standards of counselling and a method of consultancy to widen the horizons of an experienced practitioner.
Counselling exposes Counsellors to situations that impose a great demand on practitioners. This demand can lead to becoming enmeshed, over-involved and being ineffective. Counsellors cannot in all cases be objective about their own abilities, agendas and practices.
A supervisor can be objective and help the Counsellor to grow and learn. The supervisor can ensure that the counselor is meeting the needs of their clients and keeping to ethical and professional standards.
Supervisors will also help Counsellors relate practice to theory and visa versa. Professional Supervision is a contractual agreement made between a Supervisor and a Supervisee.
The supervision is usually a paid-for service or in an agency it can be part of your employment requirement.

A supervisor must fill all of the following criteria;

  • Have a qualification in Supervision or be enrolled in a Counselling Supervision course.
  • Have at least five years of clinical/counselling practical experience;
  • Be a qualified clinical Counsellor (or eligible for registration as a clinical Counsellor with ACCA).

• All practising Counsellors;
• Any person whose job has a large component that involves them dealing with people in crisis;
• Most professionals who work in the Human Services industry;
• Any other person who believes it would be advantageous;
• Professional Supervisors

  • The recommended industry standard is one hour of supervision for every 20 hours of client contact time. For example, if you see 20 clients at one hour each over a two-week period you require one hour’s supervision per fortnight.
  • For those in the Human Services industry not practising counselling it is suggested that one hour per week is adequate in most cases.

No. No one can make you seek Professional Supervision.
However, Counsellors who do not have a Professional Supervisor cannot be placed on the ACCA referral database.
Professional Supervision is now a requirement within the industry.
Membership of professional bodies is now dependent on Professional Supervision and the amount of hours received.
Current members of AFCA who do not wish to receive Professional Supervision cannot apply for an upgrade to Professional or Clinical level.

For members in regional and isolated areas this is a real dilemma. Counsellors who operate in small communities are faced with confidentiality issues if they see a supervisor who is part of that community.
Presently psychologists are the most popular form of Professional Supervision.
They can be found in the phone book. Social workers (qualified) are also able to give Professional Supervision. Some clinical Counsellors are also qualified and can be found in the phone book.
ACCA has a small list of members who are also qualified.

No. As previously stated it can be advantageous to have a Supervisor who does not live close by or in the same community.
Phone supervision is effective and if supplemented by videotape every now and then can be just has informative.