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Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2009. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 52.)

Cover of Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor

Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor.

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What Is a TIP?

Treatment Improvement Protocols (TIPs), developed by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are best-practices guidelines for the treatment of substance use disorders. CSAT draws on the experience and knowledge of clinical, research, and administrative experts to produce the TIPs, which are distributed to facilities and individuals across the country. As alcohol and drug use disorders are increasingly recognized as a major problem, the audience for the TIPs is expanding beyond public and private treatment facilities to include practitioners in mental health, criminal justice, primary care, and other healthcare and social service settings.

The recommendations contained in each TIP are grounded in scientific research findings and the opinion of the TIP consensus panel of experts that a particular practice will produce a specific clinical outcome (measurable change in client status). In making recommendations, consensus panelists engage in a process of “evidence-based thinking” in which they consider scientific research, clinical practice theory, practice principles, and practice guidelines, as well as their own individual clinical experiences. Based on this thinking, they arrive at recommendations for optimal clinical approaches for given clinical situations. Relevant citations (to research outcome reports, theoretic formulations, and practice principles and guidelines) are provided.

TIP Format

This TIP is organized into three parts:

  • Part 1 for substance abuse clinical supervisors focuses on providing appropriate supervision methods and frameworks.
  • Part 2 for program administrators focuses on providing administrative support to implement adoption of the counseling recommendations made in Part 1.
  • Part 3 for clinical supervisors, program administrators, and interested counselors is an online literature review that provides an in-depth look at relevant published resources. Part 3 will be updated every 6 months for 5 years following publication of the TIP.

Ideally this TIP might be used in a series of six or so meetings in which the materials in the TIP would be reviewed, discussed, and in other ways used as an educational and training vehicle for the improvement of clinical supervision skills (with the particulars of how this training would be done determined by the trainer, based upon her or his unique situation, needs, and preferences). Thus, after a relatively short period of time and with few or no additional resources, this TIP could meet the challenge of fostering improvement in the delivery of substance abuse treatment services.

Development Process

The topic for this TIP was selected following an advisory meeting of experts in substance use disorders (appendix C). Two Consensus Panels of experts on clinical supervision and substance abuse treatment were convened: one for clinical issues, and the other for administrative guidelines (p. v). The TIP then was field reviewed by an external group of subject matter experts, who provided suggestions for further refining the document (see appendix E).

TIPs Online

TIPs can be accessed via the Internet at The online Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor: Part 3, A Review of the Literature, which will be updated every 6 months for 5 years, is also available at


Throughout the TIP, the term “substance abuse” has been used to refer to both substance abuse and substance dependence (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, Text Revision [DSM-IV-TR] [American Psychiatric Association 2000]). This term was chosen partly because substance abuse treatment professionals commonly use the term “substance abuse” to describe any excessive use of addictive substances. In this TIP, the term refers to the use of alcohol as well as other substances of abuse. Readers should attend to the context in which the term occurs in order to determine what possible range of meanings it covers; in most cases, however, the term will refer to all varieties of substance use disorders described by DSM-IV.


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