How to Become a Superb Speech and Occupational Supervisor
From the moment we are brought into this world, we are supervised, or observed in the interest of security and wellbeing. As time carries on, we continue to be supervised: in the home setting, in the school setting, and in the work setting. As you step into your professional life, you may then come across the exciting opportunity to become a “supervisor”. Your initial thought may be “Awesome!”, but also, “Wait, how do I supervise?”, or more importantly, “How do I supervise well?”
Luckily, through the research and experience of others, there are specific strategies that are useful in becoming a superb supervisor in the work setting. In this blog, we will be discussing how you can become a superb supervisor in the fields of speech-language therapy and occupational therapy.
Why is supervision important?
Before we tackle how to become a dream supervisor, it is important to think about why supervision is important. Supervision allows for the training and sharing of personal and professional best practices. It is through supervision where young professionals in these fields can self-reflect on their skills in professionalism, time management, organization, communication, clinical writing, constructive feedback, and evidence-based practice.
The importance of being a well-rounded supervisor is substantial. If you have already graduated from your Master’s program, you know that you will always remember your supervisors. Whether through direct or indirect feedback, your supervisors have contributed to your outlook on the profession as a whole, and also on yourself.
Am I ready for it?
As much as anyone wants to jump into a role feeling confident and comfortable, it takes research, mentorship, and experience to gain these feelings. In 2017, Elizabeth Buckley wrote an article in the ASHA Leader expressing that the majority of speech-pathologists feel unprepared to handle supervising roles, as after all, supervision was not the focus in graduate school training. Many feel the same in the field of occupational therapy.
This year, in 2020, ASHA is beginning to require 2.0 hours of training for any SLP who supervises a graduate student, assistant, or clinical fellow (ASHA, 2018); thus, it will hopefully help professionals feel more equipped to train and teach adults in these highly complex fields.
If you’ve already stepped into the role of a supervisor, however, you can still feel a significant increase in confidence through research and talking to other experienced supervisors. Below is a compilation of tips and strategies to help make your experience as a supervisor as blissful as possible!
5 Tips to Become a Superb Supervisor
Firstly, in order to become an excellent supervisor, there are various techniques and strategies to utilize.
- Reflect on your experience with your past supervisors
- Sharon Rice wrote a post in the ASHA Leader (2016), sharing that it is important to ask yourself questions regarding your past experiences with supervisors. She noted that it will “help from guidelines regarding your own supervision”. Remember to ask yourself these important questions (Table 1):
- Stay Informed on the Literature
- For speech-pathologists, make sure to consistently refer to:
- ASHA’s Knowledge and Skills Page (2008) https://www.asha.org/policy/ks2008-00294/
- ASHA’s Technical Report on Supervision (2008); https://www.asha.org/policy/tr2008-00296/
- For occupational therapists, make sure to consistently refer to:
- AOTA’s Supervision Guidelines as an Occupational Therapist https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=1867156
- Open Lines of Communication
- From the start, it is essential to communicate each other’s expectations of the experience. Let your supervisee know what is expected from them; additionally, determine what your supervisee expects from his/her supervisor. Be transparent from the start.
- Learn How to Provide Feedback
- Providing positive, encouraging feedback is easy and comfortable. Providing anything other than positive feedback can feel daunting; however, it often is the most important feedback, as that is how we learn and take away from experiences. In becoming a superb supervisor, one must dig deep in determining the most appropriate, individualized feedback response that will not discourage supervisees.
- Inspired and taken from “TeachThought” (Reynolds, 2008), below please find helpful strategies in providing effective feedback to your supervisees: (Table 2)
Young professionals absorb information about their skills, professional role, and overall self through the observations and interactions with supervisors — but also remember that you, as the supervisor, are also absorbing information about the field. Even decades into working in a field, one is continually learning and gaining new experiences. So, remind yourself that it is okay to make mistakes, as no one is perfect.
Work together toward a mutually beneficial relationship, in these beautiful fields of speech-pathology and occupational therapy. Furthermore, having a mutually respectful and healthy relationship is the best way to provide the best services for our beloved patients.
Andrea Scola, M.S., CF-SLP
Exceptional Speech Therapy Blog Writer