There are two fundamental evaluation dilemmas for the clinical supervisor. Firstly, as a therapist, the clinical supervisor has highly developed skills in providing a non-judgemental, non-directive, and supportive environment for their clients.

The supervisory relationship, however, is based on evaluation and direction – something that can feel uncomfortable for the skilled therapist. Additionally, as an exact criterion does not exist by which the competencies of a counsellor can be objectively measured, ambiguity can cause confusion.

Supervisors therefore need to apply the favourable conditions and the process of evaluation that will be described below, to both formative and summative types of evaluation.

Favourable Conditions for Evaluation: To ensure an evaluation that is as accurate, objective and as useful to the supervisee as possible, supervisors need to create an environment that is appropriate for evaluation.

Bernard and Goodyear (1998) have suggested the following summary of twelve favourable conditions:

  1. Be sensitive to the unequal position of the supervisee.
  2. Clarify with the supervisee the administrative and clinical roles of the supervisor.
  3. Address the supervisee’s defensiveness openly.
  4. Address the supervisee’s individual differences openly.
  5. Explain all evaluation procedures in advance.
  6. Ensure the supervisee is actively involved in what is to be learned, as evaluation should be a mutual and continual process.
  7. Be flexible in accommodating life situations in supervision and evaluation.
  8. The supervisor must have a supportive administrative structure and the system/process must have integrity.
  9. Avoid premature evaluations of supervisees.
  10. Invite feedback from supervisees, and use it.
  11. Monitor the supervisory relationship. It should remain professional, positive, supportive, and trusting.
  12. If you don’t enjoy being a supervisor, don’t do it.

The Process of Evaluation: With favourable conditions in place, there are two other important issues to consider before undertaking steps in the process of evaluation. The first issue is the subjective nature of evaluation. Supervisors must keep in mind the influence of their similarity or dissimilarity with the supervisee, their familiarity with the supervisee, and their own priorities and idiosyncrasies in skill judgement and rating.

The second issue is the consequences of evaluation. These are the effects on the supervisee, the supervisor, the clients, and the program/agency, if the evaluation is negative, positive, or inaccurate. These two issues are fundamental in the process of evaluation and must always be considered.

Bernard and Goodyear (1998 p.159-171), explain the six elements comprising of the evaluation process as:

The Supervision-Evaluation Contract

Creating an effective contract in the initial stages of supervision which will involve the supervisee identifying and incorporating their own learning goals and which will assist in the development of a collaborative partnership for supervision.

The contract should also include criteria for evaluation, supervision methods, length and frequency of supervision contacts, plan of action for goal attainment, timeframe for completion of the plan, and how a summative evaluation will be achieved. This contract needs to be reviewed regularly, and possibly adjusted, with formative evaluations. It may be helpful to have this contract form a part of the supervision plan.

Choosing Supervision Methods for Evaluation

To enable provision of an accurate and comprehensive evaluation, supervisors should choose a variety of supervision methods. These might include the use of process notes, audio taping sessions, and/or group supervision. The more varied the methods of supervision, the more detailed the supervisor’s picture of the supervisee’s strengths and weaknesses.

Choosing Evaluative Instruments

As evaluation instruments have not yet been developed to measure supervisee performance, supervisors need to be creative in their assessment tools. This might mean adapting other measures or writing your own evaluation tools. Developing some type of tool will assist in supporting and giving credibility to your evaluations.

It is also important to incorporate the supervisee rating themselves on some measures. The use of evaluation instruments must be accompanied by discussion with the supervisee to ensure that they understand the tool and its results.

Communicating Formative Feedback

This is the central task of the evaluation process and of supervision overall. Providing formative feedback during supervision assists the supervisee’s learning. It informs them of what will be assessed in the summative evaluation, and gives them the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge in the areas required.

Encouraging Self-Assessment

Self-assessment is a skill that is essential to all counselling practitioners and is therefore appropriately encouraged during supervision. There are several possible strategies for incorporating supervisee self-assessment, these include: evaluating themselves and their progress prior to each supervision contact; periodically evaluating a segment of a taped session; or being involved in the summative evaluation process.

A measure of success in this area would be if a supervisee can provide a relatively accurate assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses for the summative evaluation.

Communicating Summative Evaluations

It is essential that the summative evaluation is a culmination of evaluation, not the beginning of the evaluation process. Critical issues for providing an effective summative evaluation are the quality of the supervision relationship, the clarity of the roles of people within supervision (including those not in the immediate relationship), and the communication skills of the supervisor.