Multiple Responsibilities-Functions & Multiple Roles in Supervisory Relationships in Psychotherapy and Counseling
This resource page is part of our Online Courses on
Supervision in Psychotherapy and Counseling
This page provides background and resources regarding multiple loyalties and multiple roles that are an inherent part of supervisor-supervisee relationships.
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The relationship between clinical supervisor and supervisee is more complex than many clinicians and supervisors often realize. Supervisory Relationships inherently involve multi responsibilities or multi functions, or what one may call mandated multiple roles. Tensions may exist between the supervisor's ethical, legal and gatekeeping roles, which include:
- Enhancing supervisees' growth and professional development: Supervisors have a responsibility to facilitate the supervisee's professional growth and development, as well as acting in an evaluative role to determine whether the supervisee is adequately progressing and acquiring the skills and knowledge toward becoming an independent practitioner.
- Protecting the clients: Supervisors have direct responsibility to the welfare of the supervisees' current clients. In fact, in many states the supervisee's clients are considered the supervisor's clients for whose welfare he/she is responsible.
- Protecting future clients who may be treated by the supervisees: The supervisor's training of the supervisee and the final approval that the supervisee is ready to practice independently (after they also fulfill all the state's pre-licensure requirements of exams, education, etc.) also means that he/she is somewhat responsible for future clients of the supervisees.
- Protecting the public: Like other psychotherapists, counselors and mental health practitioners, supervisors have the duty to protect the public in cases, such as child/elder abuse/neglect, danger to members of the public (i.e., Tarasoff) as these duties apply to the supervisees' clients.
Supervisors inevitably must negotiate between their above mentioned and other various responsibilities and approach each role thoughtfully and consciously. When different roles or responsibilities are in conflict with each other, supervisors must seek ways to resolve the conflict, while keeping the welfare of clients as a priority.
Besides the inherent multiple roles and responsibilities outlined above, supervisors, especially in universities, colleges and other educational settings, may engage in professional or social multiple relationships with their supervisees due to the fact that they often have a variety of professional roles with supervisees besides that of a supervisor. Additional supervisors’ roles or functions may include serving on a dissertation committee, hiring the supervisee as a research assistant, teaching an academic course where the supervisee is a student, serving as an instructor on supervision or practicum groups where the supervisee is part of the group, being involved in general evaluations of the supervisee’s academic progress, and/or socializing with the supervisee in institutional holiday parties or other communal or institutional social events. A few researchers have acknowledged that social multiple relationships between supervisors and supervisees generally can be beneficial to supervisees as they can a healthy part of the mentoring aspect of supervision. Sequential professional or social multiple relationships are not uncommon between supervisors and supervisees as, in many circumstances, the supervisees, upon completing the supervisory and licensure requirements become colleagues of the supervisors.
As noted above and in our review of Multiple Relationships in Educational Settings, supervisors may face potentially unavoidable professional and social multiple role situations in educational and training settings. Our summary of the Codes of Ethics on Supervision in Psychotherapy and Counseling provides details of how different codes view the ethics of supervision and the supervisor-supervisee roles.
- Dual Roles in Educational & Academic Settings and Training Institutions
- Codes of Ethics on Supervision in Psychotherapy and Counseling
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