Most mental health counselors are required to have a master’s degree in their area of specialty or some area of counseling. They must also undergo a clinical supervision period before they are able to work independently with clients. However, in the field of substance use (SUD), these same criteria are not required. In fact, a large number of SUD counselors enter the field without certification, licensure, or master’s-level education. And even though they do not receive supervision from a clinical practitioner for a period of time prior to engaging directly with clients, they do have effective clinical supervision (ECS) available to them. But it is unclear whether or not this type of supervisory experience can be equivalent to the education and practical supervision that other counselors receive.
Tanja C. Laschober of the Institute for Behavioral Research at the University of Georgia recently led a study examining how ECS helped prepare counselors for client interactions and also how it impacted overall job performance. Laschober assessed 392 groups of supervisors/counselors, and asked them to provide reports on various aspects of their relationships, including challenging assignments, accepting and acknowledging competency of both counselor and supervisor, proficiency of supervisor and counselor, role modeling/mentoring, and general task performance. She found that the ECS experience had a positive effect on how well the counselors performed their jobs. In fact, there was enough evidence of skill enhancement resulting from the ECS experience that Laschober believes that this type of relationship could offset any education deficiencies.
One of the most surprising results was discovered in the counselors’ ratings of their supervisors and how this affected job performance. Specifically, the counselors did not rate their supervisors’ proficiency as the most influential factor affecting their job performance, but rather their supervisors’ mentorship. The encouragement, sponsorship, and acknowledgement that the counselors received from their supervisors did far more to enhance their skill levels and overall performances than did the proficiency of their respective supervisors. Laschober added, “Thus, it appears that mental health counselors in SUD settings might benefit from ECS, such as mentorship and a strong working alliance with supervisors, to help improve their job performance.”
Laschober, Tanja C., Lillian Turner De Tormey Eby, and Julia B. Sauer. Effective clinical supervision in substance use disorder treatment programs and counselor job performance. Journal of Mental Health Counseling 35.1 (2013): 76-94. Print.
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