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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.)

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Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor.

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Appendix B: New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Clinical Supervision Vision Statement

To position clinical supervision, within the system of prevention, treatment, and recovery-oriented services, as integral to a continuous learning culture that encourages professional development, service improvement, and quality of care, maximizing benefits to the client.

Clinical supervision is defined as “a social influence process that occurs over time in which the supervisor participates with the supervisees to ensure quality clinical care. Effective supervisors observe, mentor, coach, evaluate, inspire, and create an atmosphere that promotes self-motivation, learning, and professional development. They build teams, create cohesion, resolve conflict, and shape agency culture, while attending to ethical and diversity issues in all aspects of the process. Such supervision is key to both quality improvement and the successful implementation of consensus and evidence-based practices” (TAP 21A).


  • Clinical supervision is a valuable and necessary strategy to ensure continuous staff and program development.
  • The supervisory relationship must be supportive and culturally competent, provide direct oversight, and prioritize skill development and counselor wellness.
  • Clinical supervision is a formal process that is provided frequently and employs direct observation techniques.
  • Clinical supervisors are specifically trained and invest in continuing professional development.
  • Fully integrated clinical supervision is expected to result in improved staff retention, counselor skills, and clinical outcomes.

The integration of clinical supervision is both a short-term and long-term strategy for ongoing quality improvement and increased successful client outcomes. The proficiency and integrity of the workforce, and subsequently the caliber of services, are strengthened through gatekeeping functions, direct oversight, teaching, training, infusion of diversity-cultural competence and sensitivity, and the morale-boosting benefits inherent in quality clinical supervision.

Research and expert consensus links clinical supervision with a wide variety of actual and potential outcomes, including improved quality of services to clients, professional development of staff, better adherence to codes of ethical conduct, increased staff retention, improved morale and wellness, fidelity to evidenced-based practices, improved regulatory compliance and risk management, and enhanced perception of recovery-oriented systems of care by consumers, professionals, and the community. Though more empirical work is needed, there is enough reliable evidence to indicate that clinical supervision is a highly efficient practice key to the growth and future of the field

Skilled clinical supervisors help staff gain advanced competency through both formal training and education supported by ongoing feedback and guidance throughout their professional career. Values inherent in clinical supervision are articulated in the acronym ASPECT:

Accountability – upholding the promise to deliver quality services.

Stewardship – mindful use of all available resources.

Professionalism – consistent and ethical role modeling and application.

Excellence – the relentless pursuit to provide the best quality care.

Continuous Learning – steadfast commitment to ongoing development.

Teamwork – active support of collective wisdom and energy to achieve great results.

The quality of the relationship between the clinical supervisor and supervisee is critical to a positive learning alliance. Clinical supervisors exercise supervisory responsibilities in a culturally responsive, respectful, fair, and objective manner. They invest in a positive supervisory alliance and endorse the professional development process of supervisees through well-thought-out, documented, and actively supported learning plans. These more experienced and objective professionals also help to mitigate the potentially adverse effects of countertransference, compassion fatigue, and burnout.

Moving the field forward by integrating clinical supervision into all recovery-oriented systems of care requires increasing the value of clinical supervision amongst policy makers, administrators, supervisors, and direct-line staff; retooling staffing patterns to support the provision of clinical supervision as a primary responsibility; and including a clinical supervisor certification. Full integration across the State may require a mechanism to include clinical supervision as a reimbursable service, thereby endorsing the integrity of clinical supervision and staffing needs. Effective clinical supervisors have available specialized training in clinical supervision inclusive of formal education and direct supervision to supplement their clinical training. Clinical supervisors are recognized through an established credential that certifies their competency.

Individual and group clinical supervision is offered regularly through acceptable methods including direct observation. This can be through live face-to-face supervision, audio/video tapes, and/or other electronic resources. Supervisors use this information to target specific skill enhancement to improve performance.

The clinical supervision hour focuses on the clinical content of the work and how the worker performs as a professional helper. Clinical technique and theory are explored and integrated to empower the supervisee’s conceptual understanding and application of practical skills.

Resources are available for supervisors to receive their own clinical supervision that coaches them in their own professional development and supports effective clinical care.

Adopting clinical supervision may require significant change in agency, local, and State operations. This system-wide investment will yield invaluable gains, including a quality improvement-oriented approach to monitoring and service delivery that is projected to lead to improved staff retention, enhanced counselor skills, and better clinical outcomes.

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