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Supervision: Enhancing Supervisees Clinical Skills
5 CEUs Supervision: Enhancing Supervisees Clinical Skills

Section 9
Solution-focused Strategies for Clinical Supervision

Question 9 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Supervision CEU Courses

Solution-Focused Clinical Supervision
Juhnke (1996) and Thomas (1996) borrowed from the literature on solution-focused therapy and suggested that the basic assumptions of this approach would also serve a supervisor well in encouraging real growth within counselors. In particular, Thomas proposed certain ideals for a solution-focused supervision approach. First, the supervisor refrains from being didactic. Instead, he or she provides the opportunity for the supervisee to draw on inner resources to break binds in order to begin acting independently and make changes. Second, resistance is viewed as a "stuckness" that is produced by the nature of the relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee. Instead of trying to overcome the supervisee's resistance to suggestions or feedback, the supervisor promotes a collaborative atmosphere so that the supervisee is open to new options and directions. Third, focusing on the positive changes in the supervisee's behavior, rather than on their faults or problems, makes the supervisee's success more likely. Fourth, in the interest of using supervision time effectively, the supervisor takes advantage of the "snowball" or "ripple" effect, in which a small change is what makes it possible for solution-focused therapy to be brief. Change is always happening, and rapid change is not at all unusual. Fifth, instead of attempting radical and dramatic personality changes, the supervisor deals with what is possible. Supervision is not therapy and focuses on success-oriented behaviors, instead of problem-saturated talk, painful personal insights, and arduous self-discovery. Finally, because the solution-focused approach is based in a constructivist epistemology, the supervisor accepts that there is no single correct way to view a situation. Getting counselors to "see it our way" assumes that there is only one best way.

Hypothetical Examples of Solution-Focused Supervision
What follows is a brief set of examples of how the supervisor might maintain a solution-focused approach in a session with the supervisee. The quoted remarks are merely hypothetical examples of what the supervisor might say at any stage of the supervision. Because beginnings can set the tone for an entire session, the supervisor may want to begin the session by asking, "I'm wondering what about your work with your client would be most productive for us to focus on today?" Even though this way of beginning is ambiguous, the supervisees might interpret the remark as seeking to know where they have experienced problems, so the supervisor might attempt to head their session in another direction by inquiring, "What aspect of your counseling have you noticed getting better since we last met?" The simple request, "Tell me about the best thing you did with your client this week," is also an excellent way to steer toward an exploration of supervisee competencies and achievements.

Inevitably, the supervisee will focus on problems he or she is experiencing with the client. Rather than listening to the counselor's concern in detail and requesting even more problem-saturated talk, the supervisor acknowledges the problem and asks, "As you begin to get better at dealing with this situation, how will you know that you have become good enough at it so you can take it on your own?" The supervisor then encourages the supervisee to explore these solutions in greater detail and to envision them more vividly by asking, "What will you be doing differently?" or "When you get to the point at which you won't need to deal with this issue in supervision anymore, how will you know?"

If the counselor-in-training persists in framing his or her own behavior as a problem, the use of a scale can set expectations of success. The supervisor may say, "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being that the problem is at its absolute worst, and 10 being that the problem is completely solved, where would you say you are today?" After the counselor offers an estimate, the supervisor replies, "When you are on your way to a (the next highest number to the one named), how will you know?" The supervisor may follow this invitation by explicitly asking, "What, in particular, will be different about the way you handle that situation?" or "How will you have changed as a counselor?" By answering these questions, instead of exploring more minutia and facets of the problem, the supervisee is beginning to envision more clearly the strategies that may succeed in achieving a solution.

Sometimes, the counselor-in-training will be able to imagine a change but expresses discouragement that he or she would ever be able to achieve it. The supervisor has a number of possible responses to the counselor's doubts about accomplishing such a seemingly overwhelming goal. These responses are all based on the assumption that nothing is perfect--including failures! Even experiences that seem to be complete failures have small victories that have been overlooked. Therefore, there are always exceptions to these problems, circumstances that hold promise of alleviating these problems, or times, however brief and transient, when a person has a greater sense of confidence in achieving success. For example, the supervisor might invite the supervisee to focus on one of these exceptions by requesting, "Tell me about a time when a small piece of the change was already happening." Another possibility is to suggest focusing on a particular time of greater personal confidence, "When was there a time when you felt you were going to be able to solve this problem?"

Any time during supervision that the counselor-in-training describes successes, identifies improvements in effectiveness, or discovers an exception to a problem, the supervisor leans in, looks curious, and excitedly asks the supervisee to say more. The idea of solution-focused supervision is to facilitate concrete images of success and then ask, "How did you get yourself to do that?"
- Presbury, Jack, Echterling, Lennis, & Edson McKee, Supervision for inner vision: Solution-focused strategies, Counselor Education & Supervision, Dec 1999, Vol. 39, Issue 2.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about solution-focused strategies in supervision. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

According to Presbury, how is the solution-focused approach based in a constructivist epistemology? Record the letter of the correct answer the Answer Booklet

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Table of Contents
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Suicide Intervention Training for Counselor Trainees: A Quasi‐Experimental Study on Skill Retention
The authors used a quasi‐experimental design to explore the effect of Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training on 126 counselor trainees. Results showed that after 3 months, trainees had retained improvements in measured response skills and self‐reported attitudes. The authors discuss the developmental benefits of incorporating similar training into counselor education. Implications for skill measurement are also considered.
Examining Predictors of Counselor‐in‐Training Intentional Nondisclosure
This study explored factors that best predict intentional nondisclosure by counselors‐in‐training (CITs) during onsite supervision, including social judgment about one’s supervisor, the supervisory working alliance (SWA), and supervisee attachment styles. Stepwise regression in a sample of 146 CITs revealed that the SWA and supervisee attachment avoidance predicted 60% of the variance in intentional nondisclosure.
Pedagogy in Counselor Education: 2011–2015 Update
This research update includes a quantitative content analysis of 133 peer‐reviewed articles regarding teaching and learning published in 21 journals of the American Counseling Association and its divisions between January 2011 and December 2015. The authors discuss the focus areas, pedagogical foundations, and methodologies of the articles in comparison with the findings of the original 2001–2010 study.
Telling of Institutional Oppression: Voices of Minoritized Counselor Educators
The authors use the results of an intersectional critical qualitative inquiry to illustrate the encounters 6 minoritized counselor educators had with institutional forms of oppression. Their findings depict the insidious nature of institutional oppression and suggest that counselor educator experiences may be improved by peer mentorship programs and by the organizational advocacy and accountability efforts of bodies such as the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
Counselor Educators' Experiences Preparing Preservice School Counselors: A Phenomenological Study
The authors conducted a phenomenological study to explore the experiences of 32 school counselor educators preparing preservice school counselors. Analysis of data from 3 focus groups revealed 3 themes: breadth versus depth, balancing specialties and professor partiality, and preparation versus practice. These results highlight the need for collaboration across counseling specialties at the preservice level.


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