Counselors practice under supervision as part of their professional licensing process and as part of their job. They receive clinical supervision to provide assistance and oversight of their direct work with clients and administrative supervision to oversee their compliance with employment practices and the guidelines of the employer. There are legal and ethical implications for both supervisors and supervisees in both cases (American Counseling Association, 2005).
Licensed Counselor Supervisors are charged with the gatekeeping responsibility in much the same way as counselor educators. The gatekeeping function is primarily defined by the profession and therefore is an ethical issue. However, the laws regarding the role of the counselor supervisor vary from state to state. In some states, there is a supervisor license while in others, the counselor supervisor credential is a certification. Then ethical nature of the supervisor function does not change but in states where there is separate license, the role and responsibility is defined by law.
Liability can also vary based upon the way in which supervisees are credentialed for practice. In some states, a separate but full license is held by individuals completing their period of supervised practice. In these states, supervisees are held responsible for their own practice. The supervisor is culpable in situations in which a supervisee creates an ethical or legal breach. However, this culpability is lessened if the supervisor has been engaging in adequate and appropriate supervision.
A supervisor would be negligent is situations in which regular meetings are not held at a frequency that ensures that the supervisee has the input and feedback needed to practice safely. Supervisors who do not make themselves aware of the clients being seen by supervisees or the capability of their supervisees to handle counseling situations would, in my mind, be negligent. The problem of inadequate supervision is one that effects the supervisees and clients. In situations in which a supervisee feels that a supervisor is incompetent, it might be necessary to report to a licensing or professional body. However, the counselor may also have the ability to simply seek out another supervisor. This option is less likely with administrative supervisors who are designated by the employer. Nonetheless, the employer is also culpable for the actions of employees and would have an interest in ensuring that clinical staff receive adequate supervision. Again, a report may be necessary to correct the situation.
- American Counseling Association (2005). American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. Washington, DC: American Couneeling Association.
- Bernard, J.M. & Goodyear, R.G. (1998). Fundamentals of Clinical Supervision (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.