4 Ways Supervisors Can Support Supervisees of Color
Having a supportive clinical supervisor while working in the counseling field is essential to the professional development of a supervisee. Clinical supervision is an ongoing relationship that can enhance a clinician’s growth, knowledge, and expertise in the field. As a result, this can ensure more successful outcomes for clients and more competent and satisfied supervisees.
Though each person’s experiences may be different, diversity and multicultural variables impact all of us. When a supervisor is culturally sensitive and competent, addressing these factors during supervision can create a deeper working relationship between supervisor and supervisee. When diversity isn’t acknowledged, addressed, or inquired about in supervision, it can lead to a supervision experience that is frustrating and incomplete for a supervisee of color.
If you are a clinical supervisor, here are four ways that you can support supervisees of color.
1. Do not make assumptions
The danger of making assumptions is that, without even questioning anything, we believe the assumptions are true. Due to the sheer amount of information we need to process in any given moment, our brains often fill in the gaps and use knowledge obtained from the past to make sense of a situation. This is sometimes useful and effective but it can also fail to provide an accurate picture.
Clinical supervisors can support supervisees of color by seeing past their own assumptions
to better understand the experiences of their supervisee. It benefits everyone to be curious, ask questions, and listen instead of relying only on pieces of information from a limited perspective.
It's also important to recognize that not everything affects everyone in the same way. Though two people may share similar backgrounds, look alike, or speak the same language, it doesn’t mean that their experiences and perspectives are the same. It can also be true that there are more differences within a group than between groups so it’s important for clinical supervisors to approach each supervisee as a unique individual. Along the same lines, clinical supervisors can further support supervisees of color by challenging stereotypes.
2. Ask questions and create a safe space for discussion
In order to avoid making assumptions, clinical supervisors can take an active role in supervision by asking questions and providing ongoing opportunities for supervisees of color to talk about culture, diversity, and their identity.
Supervisees may not know whether this is something that can be addressed during supervision so it’s important for supervisors to establish a relationship in which experiences with prejudice and discrimination can be openly discussed and explored. Supervisors can offer a supportive working relationship that promotes acceptance and respect.
3. Address any prejudice and discrimination experienced in therapy sessions
All forms of intolerance can make their way into the therapy room and threaten to disrupt a therapeutic relationship. Something to keep in mind is that everyone has their own biases so it may not only be prejudice and discrimination experienced by a clinician from a client but also the clinician’s own feelings and thoughts that need to be further explored.
Experiencing intolerance from others can be such a frequent and common occurrence in everyday life for a person of color that it can be a very validating experience for someone to take the time to ask them how they are doing. A supervisee of color may find it difficult to talk about their experience or to examine how these experiences might impact their work with clients but both are important to discuss.
4. Enhance your own cultural competency
Finally, supervisors can support supervisees of color by enhancing their cultural sensitivity and competency. A good place to start is to learn about yourself, your biases, identifying privilege, and trying to see the limitations of your own view. This can lead to personal and professional growth which will positively impact your supervisees and clients.
Another way to enhance cultural competency is to engage in continuing education on this
topic. As the term “continuing education” suggests, being culturally sensitive and culturally competent involves lifelong learning.
By finding ways to support supervisees of color, clinical supervisors have the opportunity to encourage significant personal and professional growth for themselves, their supervisees, and, ultimately, the clients that they all serve. As a clinical supervisor or a supervisee, if you implement these four strategies you can effectively provide and receive culturally competent and culturally sensitive clinical supervision!
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Pansy Ayala is a licensed therapist with Catalyss Counseling and specializes in working with professionals and parents who are experiencing anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and/or relationship issues. She uses a holistic, individualized approach to better understand who you are, what areas of your life you find problematic, and how you can reach your goals. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.