Many mental health professionals associate clinical supervision with trainees. In reality, psychotherapists at any stage of their career can benefit from clinical supervision, as it provides them with ongoing support and expert insights.
To become a licensed clinical social worker with the psychotherapy privilege, a trainee must complete a minimum number of therapy hours under clinical supervision. This enables new therapists to learn through practice while ensuring that they’re delivering quality care to their clients.
However, those who are already licensed — including those with years of experience — might benefit from clinical supervision, too.
Clinical supervision or consultation can be beneficial for both practitioners and patients. While supervision is important for mental health trainees, clinical consultation can be especially useful for private practice owners who need extra support and wisdom from a fellow professional.
How does clinical consultation benefit mental health practitioners?
Clinical supervision gives trainees the opportunity to learn in a practical setting. While education gives trainees the necessary insight to begin providing therapy, they also need hands-on experience in order to become competent, well-rounded healthcare providers.
Meeting with a clinical supervisor or consultant can help a practitioner learn and gain experience. And the same is true for a practitioner that is already licensed: the support of a clinical supervisor can hone your skills, improve the quality of therapy you provide, and help you feel supported.
A clinical consultant can help you with:
- Navigating ethical dilemmas
- Identifying your own biases
- Learning to compartmentalize your own feelings
- Practicing self-care
- Measuring progress in therapy
- Clinical support for complex cases
- Deciding on a course of treatment
- Considering opportunities for professional growth
- Private practice support and consulting
These issues can be difficult to approach at any point in your career, and a clinical consultant can provide you with the necessary guidance to navigate them successfully.
How can clinical consultation practices improve the patient experience?
The support received by a therapist naturally filters down to the patient, who benefits from the improved quality of care that their therapist is able to provide.
When a therapist has the support of a supervisor or consultant, they might be better equipped to take care of their own mental health, enabling them to be more present in sessions. Consultation facilitates self-awareness, too, which helps therapists provide better care.
Additionally, the therapist will have support in navigating difficult issues that arise in therapy. This enables them to make the most ethical decision, improving the patient experience.
From a best practice perspective, when you have a client who is at high risk for lethality, are considering notifying appropriate authorities due to safety or referring them to a higher level of care, it can be beneficial to run through tough cases with a trusted colleague or clinical consultant. That support can be documented in the patient’s chart as an added layer should a legal matter ever arise.
In short, better support for the therapist leads to a better experience for the patient.
What is the difference between 1:1 and group consultation practices?
Clinical consultation can be conducted on a one-on-one basis or in a group structure.
Group consultation allows the supervisee to benefit from the insights of other supervisees. Connecting with other professionals in a group setting can also be an opportunity to expand your professional network.
However, some people prefer one-on-one supervision or consultation as it allows the supervisor to focus entirely on one supervisee’s experiences. This might be ideal for mental health professionals who feel that they need more intensive guidance or those with heavier caseloads.
Should private practice owners seek out consultation from other professionals?
Being in private practice can be enjoyable for many therapists, but being your own boss can be lonely. You’re often left without a sounding board, navigating ethical dilemmas and the aftermath of difficult therapy sessions on your own.
Consulting other professionals is a great way to improve as a therapist. It can also help you combat loneliness as you’ll be able to share your concerns and challenges with someone who understands your situation.
Clinical consultation can also help you grow as a professional. Meeting with another experienced therapist is an opportunity to talk about your vision as a professional as well as opportunities for growth.
Having a supportive professional network — which can include someone in a supervisory or consultative role — can benefit both you and your patients.
Lisa Balderman at Balderman Wellness offers Clinical Consultation — both One-on-One and Group Coaching — to provide guidance to support the professional growth of mental health practitioners.
Lisa Balderman LCSW-R, enjoys working with young professionals still in internships or working in a public clinic with limited supervision, as they often have heavy caseloads and benefit from the added support. She also offers support to private practice owners.