Clinical Supervision Activities for Increasing Competence and Self-Awareness

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When treating clients who were victims of trauma , psychotherapists may themselves be traumatized by the emotionally intense experience of engaging in this type of psychotherapy. Yet, distress is not only a concern for psychotherapists who treat victims of trauma. As has been highlighted, distress is a universal phenomenon.

Skills for Clinical Supervision

More importantly, how we respond to the experience of distress is key, along with preventive steps we take and strategies used to minimize its deleterious effects. Similarly, Pope, Tabachnick, and Keith-Spiegel found There are many aspects of the work of being a psychotherapist that may contribute to the distress — burnout continuum. Failure to adequately attend to and address these factors may result in decreased clinical effectiveness and emotional wellness.

Therapist Burnout

There are challenges we each will face during different times and phases in our lives and careers. Each life and career stage and transition brings with them their own unique challenges and stressors.

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Considering where you are in your life and career at present and developing a plan to proactively address the most commonly occurring challenges will assist you to engage more in prevention activities. Thus, it is vital that each psychotherapist participate in the ongoing practice of self-care. In fact, one may consider the ongoing practice of self-care to be an ethical imperative. Self-care can involve so many different activities.

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Self-care also involves maintaining a healthy balance between various professional activities as well as between the professional and personal parts of our life. Kramen-Kahn suggests the following 15 questions to determine ones current level of personal self-care. The practice of self-care is an ongoing endeavor. We are never done with self-care; it must be engaged in throughout our careers. As our life circumstances change over time, so too should our self-care practices.

Additionally, we should each engage in ongoing self-reflection and self-assessment to ensure that our self-care needs are adequately being met. Along these lines, we should each become aware of and pay attention to our personal warning signs that tell us that we may not adequately be meeting our ongoing self-care needs. Examples may include being in session with clients and experiencing boredom, feeling anger or resentment toward clients, daydreaming while in session, wishing you were somewhere else, watching the clock and counting down the minutes until the session ends, ending sessions early, missing or canceling appointments, feeling fatigued, loss of enjoyment, low motivation , impaired sleep, and self-medicating.

Each psychotherapist should make a concerted effort to integrate ongoing self-care activities into our daily lives. This also means that we consciously work to avoid engaging in negative or maladaptive behaviors that are likely to contribute to increased distress and not likely to promote effective self-care. There exists a wide range of self-care activities we each may engage in. More recently, Cooper unpublished dissertation found psychologists using the following strategies to engage in self-care: Use of humor It is hoped that all psychotherapists will heed the call to practice ongoing self-care.

Its importance cannot be overstated. But, what about for graduate students and other trainees? Regardless of where you are in your training and professional development, now is the time to begin the ongoing practice of self-care. You are currently developing your professional identity ; the practices you engage in now can last throughout your career both positive and negative practices. Also, failure to engage in adequate self-care now can have a deleterious impact on the services you provide to your clients right now. So, it is never too soon to begin these important self-care habits.

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  4. Barnett, J. Distress, burnout, self-care, and the promotion of wellness for psychotherapists and trainees: Issues, implications, and recommendations. American Psychological Association. Ethical principles of psychologist and code of conduct. Baker, E. Impaired professionals: Distress, professional impairment, self-care, and psychological wellness. Gross Eds. Psychotherapist wellness as an ethical imperative. Allen Eds. No time for self-care? Case, P. Spiritual coping and well-functioning among psychologists.


    Elman, N. From trainee impairment to professional competence problems: Seeking new terminology that facilitates effective action. Figley, C. Freudenberger, H. The staff burn-out syndrome in alternative institutions. Guy, J. Professional distress and therapeutic effectiveness: National survey of psychologists practicing psychotherapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 20 1 , Pearlman, L. Trauma and the therapist: Counter- transference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors.

    New York: Norton. Pipes, R. American Psychologist, 60 , Pope, K. Ethics of practice: The beliefs and behaviors of psychologists as therapists. Jeffrey E. Barnett, Psy. One of the best, most concise articles that I have read on the subject. As a clinical psychologist myself, I am looking to assist other mental health professionals improve their self-care routine. Thanks so much! Matt, Thanks so much for your feedback. I am glad you found the article helpful. I also think that it is vital that we look out for and support each other, not trying to go it alone.

    Thanks again and best wishes — Jeff. Excellent article.

    I can relate to a few of those points unfortunately. However, a great reminder to make changes so we can provide the best services to clients. Thanks, Kristine. We all need to work hard to address these issues on an ongoing basis and throughout each phase of our lives and careers. The challenges will always be there; it is how we respond that is key. Also, we are each human and each of us is vulnerable to the many challenges and stressors in our professional and personal lives. Thanks again — Jeff.


    I am a residential care associate in a facility working with mentally ill clients. I am not a therapist or a caseworker. I also work the night shift.