Monday, 30 May 2022

What makes a good supervisor

One of the most difficult things to determine is what makes a good supervisor in a particular field. Earlier in my career practice I met with a supervisor from the nursing profession, which was an epic fail. The models used made no sense to me, the approach to the client felt deterministic and abrasive, and the almost myopic focus on ethics lacked the nuance I was used to in career practice.

I had selected the wrong supervisor. Being in a small provincial town was part of the reason. But there were marked differences in the service delivery and models: in career practice we need to navigate our duty to our client alongside our contract with the payer. These primary and secondary duties are often murky, and can be complicated by family expectations, or contractual arrangements, or both. 

So what makes a 'good' career practice supervisor? I have put together some ideas:

  • Well-trained. Asking a potential supervisor about their qualifications and and currency of their training is a good first step. We need a well-trained supervisor, who understands the field of career practice, and who has formally learned to supervise (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Nicoleta, 2015). Previous studies have indicated that supervisors in the Antipodes may not be professionally trained in supervision (McMahon, 2003). CDANZ does not yet require career supervisors to be qualified in supervision, so picking up a supervisor from the CDANZ website is also not necessarily an indicator of 'quality'. 
  • Personable. For our supervision to be effective, we need to be able to form a "positive supervisory working alliance" with our supervisor (Bronson, 2000, p. 223, citing Bordin, 1983). 
  • Understands multiple roles. We need help in safely navigating across the multiplicity of roles we each hold (Bronson, 2000, citing Bernard, 1997), for example if we teach career practice, then we have multiple roles as a researcher, a teacher, a practitioner, and as a professional member of our organisation; all of which must be rationalised and balanced, with potential conflicts reconciled and assimilated into practice. 
  • Development-focused. We need a supervisor who is able to identify and assist us with our own development... someone who is able to challenge us with not only what we think we need to learn, but who can see what we are blind to (JoHari window, here; Luft & Ingham, 1955; Bronson, 2000, citing Stoltenberg & McNeill, 1997). We need challenge in order to grow: and this includes our supervisor's own personal development in the career field, such a exposure to new theory, etc (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Bronson, 2000, citing Kagan & Kagan, 1997; Nicoleta, 2015).
  • Structured. We need a supervisor who makes the mahi we will do in supervision overt, by consistently providing clear "communication about the expectancies, supervision goals, and evaluation criteria" (Bronson, 2000, p. 223, citing Holloway, 1997). The structure in connecting, setting goals, and setting expectations helps us to ensure that we progress.

I would be interested in what you all think!



  • Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (2019). Fundamentals of clinical supervision (6th ed.). Allyn and Bacon.
  • Bronson, M. K. (2001). Chapter 9: Supervision of career counseling. In L. J. Bradley & N. Ladany (Eds.), Counselor supervision (3rd ed., pp. 222-244). Brunner-Routledge.
  • Burceva, R. (2020). Supervision for School Career Counsellors: Supervisors’ Opinion. Rural Environment, Education, Personality, 13, 379-384.
  • Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari Window: A Graphic Model for Interpersonal Relations. Western Training Laboratory in Group Development. University of California at Los Angeles, Extension Office.
  • McMahon, M. (2003). Supervision and career counsellors: A little-explored practice with an uncertain future. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 31(2), 177-187.
  • Nicoleta, L. (2015). Supervision in Career Counseling–theoretical framework and practical benefits. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 180, 1094-1101.

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