Supervision in the Recovery Field: Guiding Clinicians & Psychotherapists Providing Substance Abuse Treatment

Course materials are available as articles.

This course focuses on supervision issues as they relate to substance abuse and recovery. According to several government agencies and other resources, alcoholism and drug addiction have continued to increase, and yet the number of people receiving treatment is likely only 12% of the affected population. As the US reorganizes its delivery of medical care in the 21st century, the number of addicts who receive outpatient or inpatient treatment is likely to significantly increase. In a field in which clinical supervision has not historically been required, the recovery industry and drug and alcohol abuse treatments are making strides to catch up.

This introductory course is based primarily on a Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The supervision of clinicians serving in the Recovery industry is reviewed comprehensively. Principles of, models for and stages of supervision are summarized, as are cultural, contextual, ethical and legal concerns. Additionally, issues that are specific to the supervision of healthcare professionals in inpatient settings are also described. This article outlines ways to determine organizational readiness to implement supervision practices, as well as the specifics of developing both clinical and administrative supervision plans. Vignettes are provided so that students can apply what they have read and grasp the subtle issues inherent in the practice of supervision. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Disclaimer: This course is purely educational and does not intend to serve as a license (or permission) to mental health professionals to prescribe or practice any of the approaches discussed in this course unless they fall within the scope of practice of your profession. Check with your licensing board about the scope of practice of your profession to make sure you practice within that scope. It also does not serve as a permission to title yourself in any specific way.

Educational Objectives

  • Apply the principles of supervision to practical skills for providing administration, evaluation, clinical review and support to substance abuse counselors.
  • Describe the difference between supervision and therapy or counseling.
  • Compare and contrast supervisory roles of teacher, mentor, consultant and coach for a substance abuse counselor.
  • Describe ways in which the supervision of a facility-based substance abuse counselor is different from the supervision of an outpatient clinician in private practice.
  • Identify the developmental stages of cultural competence that clinicians move through.
  • Explain the areas of supervisory vulnerability and liability.
  • Identify ways in which both summative and formative evaluation of substance abuse counselors will occur.


  • Supervision as it pertains to Substance Abuse Counselors
    • Definition and Description
    • Central Principles of Clinical Supervision
    • Guidelines for New Supervisors
  • Models of Clinical Supervision
  • Developmental Stages of Counselors
  • Developmental Stages of Supervisors
  • Cultural and Contextual Factors
  • Ethical and Legal Issues & Regulations
  • Methods and Techniques of Clinical Supervision
  • Administrative Supervision
  • Observation and Evaluation of Supervisees
  • Practical Issues in Clinical Supervision
  • Applications of Supervision Techniques (vignettes)
  • Ethics in Supervision as addressed by NAADAC and other State and National Professional Associations
  • Regulations & Law as they Apply to Supervision in CA and a Variety of other States