Clinicians' Perceptions of Supervision Emphasis and its Influence on the Supervisory Relationship in Private Mental Health Agencies in Virginia

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Virginia Tech

Private community-based mental health agencies fill a vital role in Virginia's health system in that they increase access to care and provide a wide range of services. In order to operate and receive state funding, these private agencies are responsible for abiding by regulations set forth by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS). Supervision, as defined by DBHDS and DMAS, features a more administrative approach, requiring supervisors to review policies and ensure procedural compliance. In contrast, supervision as defined by counselor educators leans more towards a clinical approach whereby a more experienced member of the profession will guide the supervisee in professional development through the enhancement of skills and techniques. The issue of interest herein is that little is known about how supervisors in private community-based mental health agencies are navigating these multiple areas of supervisory emphasis.

This quantitative inquiry focused on understanding clinicians' perceptions of supervision emphasis and its influence on the supervisory relationship in private mental health agencies in Virginia. Three research questions were developed to determine (a) the influence of clinicians' perceptions of supervision emphasis on the supervision working alliance, (b) the relationship between a supervisor's licensure status (Licensed Professional Counselor versus other designations) and the influence on the supervisory working alliance, and (c) the influence of supervisor responsibilities of hiring/terminating staff and/or conducting performance evaluations on the working alliance. Instruments used in this study included a demographic questionnaire, the Supervisor Emphasis Rating Form-Revised (SERF-R), and the Working Alliance Inventory-Revised (WAI-R). Analysis methods utilized in this study included multiple regression, T-tests, and analysis of variance.

Three key findings emerged from this investigation. The first finding is that multiple regression results showed that the professional behaviors mean score in the SERF-R could explain 13% of variance in the WAI-R. The second key finding is that supervisors with the credential of Licensed Professional Counselor had a higher mean working alliance score than those with other professional licensures. The final key finding is that there was no significant difference in the working alliance between clinicians whose supervisors were responsible for certain administrative tasks and those clinicians whose supervisors had no such responsibilities. The implications of this study, its limitations, and suggestions for future research are detailed herein.

community based mental health, supervision emphasis, working alliance