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Five reasons why contracting is important within clinical supervision

Updated: Feb 27

Two cut out heads negotiating a contract

What is contracting in clinical supervision?

Firstly, lets start with what we mean when we talk about contracting.

Contracting is the process of establishing a formal agreement between the supervisor and supervisee. It involves setting clear expectations, boundaries, and guidelines for the supervision relationship, outlining the purpose, goals, responsibilities, and parameters of the supervision process.

Setting the 'contract' would normally happen at the beginning of the supervisory relationship and helps ensure that both the supervisor and supervisee have a shared understanding of the goals and objectives of the sessions. It sets the framework for the supervisory relationship promoting clarity, accountability, and professionalism.

The contract should be reviewed regularly (every six months for example) to make sure it still reflects the relationship and meets the needs of the both the supervisor and the supervisee.

Why is having a contract important?

Some might feel that having a contract is too restrictive and prefer a more fluid approach to the supervisor/supervisee relationship. This is fine if everything is going well for both parties but can be an issue when one or both become dis-satisfied about an element of the supervision session, the supervision process or the supervisory relationship.

Here are some reasons why contracting is important in clinical supervision:

Scope and Direction

A well-defined contract helps both the supervisor and supervisee understand the purpose and goals of the supervision. It ensures that everyone involved is on the same page and working towards a common objective. By clearly articulating the desired outcomes, specific areas of focus, and the scope of the supervision, the contract helps maintain a sense of direction.

Roles and Expectations

The Supervisor/Supervisee relationship involves a power dynamic, as the supervisor uses their experience to provide guidance and opinion to the supervisee. This is certainly the case in less experienced supervisees but may transpose as the practitioner becomes more experienced to a more peer-like supervision relationship.

By establishing clear boundaries and expectations through a contract, it helps define the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of both parties. This ensures that the supervisee knows what to expect from the supervisor and vice versa, creating a safe, professional environment.

Confidentiality and Ethics

Given the sensitive nature of the work undertaken by the supervisee, contracting must include discussing matters of confidentiality and ethics. A good contract will establish guidelines for handling sensitive issues or information, ensuring that the supervisee's clients' privacy and confidentiality remain protected. The contract would ideally outline how information will be shared, recorded, and stored, ensuring compliance with ethical and legal standards.

Areas for Development

Contracting in the area of the supervisee's professional development gives an opportunity to explore the supervisee's professional development goals and identify specific areas of growth. The contract gives a focus to skill development and knowledge acquisition that can be included in the supervision objectives.

Evaluation and Review

The contract may include a structure for reflection, evaluation and feedback to assess progress and helps maintain accountability. Regular reviews can give an opportunity to explore the supervision process' effectiveness and the contract amended to ensure supervisee's needs continue to be met.

What if it all goes wrong?

It is important to be realistic in terms of expectations of the supervisory relationship and remember that both supervisee and supervisor are individuals with their own quirks and experiences which are going to impact the relationship. Having a contract does not insure against things going wrong in the relationship or the supervision process. The contract does, however, give a framework for discussion. A clear contract clarifies expectations and gives a foundation for exploration and negotiation.

In summary, having a clear contract setting out both parties role and expectations will always be a solid foundation in the supervisory relationship giving a sense of safety and shared understanding ultimately benefiting the people we are working with - our clients.

Main Diploma in Supervision image

Contracting is one of the areas covered on the Diploma in Supervision online course. Trainers are Bev Gibbons and Ronen Stilman - both experienced therapists, trainers and supervisors.

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