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Dr. Lynn Fontana

Clinical Supervision for Licensure

My Philsophy of Supervision

Supervision is a one of my focuses in my career. Systemic family therapy is the grounding for both my clinical practice and supervision. I was privileged to have received the best of East Coast training in systemic based supervision, early in my career.

This preparation and subsequent experience suggests that therapists may not fully assimilate their classroom training in systemic family therapy without clinical supervision. 

Systemic thinking constitutes a true paradigm shift for most students. It’s a shift in perception, interpretation and use of relationships, that requires supervision and modeling with families. Through supervision, the classroom learning gives way to a larger understanding of the patterns of interactions and the narratives that the family may be trapped in.

The supervisor brings a second perspective forming a “double description”, from a systemic paradigm that helps the therapist integrate the classroom experience with his or her experiences of the family system.

The real time model of training such as one-way mirror, video of family sessions and immediate in home, participant-supervision, catalyzes the integration of systemic perceiving and thinking.

This also reflects the transformative effect that supervision contributed to my own  experience as an intern and young therapist in the process of getting my M.F.T. Master’s degree. This continues to influence how I supervise, and my belief in the supervision experience.  My experience in supervision in the Master’s Degree program highlight four supervisory mentors during that period  They were different and yet essentially the same, engaging and devoted to the profession of family therapy and to the supervision process.

I also sought and received consultation on my work through video taped family sessions from, Paul Watzslovich and Carlos Suzki, as well as from the students of Milton Erickson. This gave me a wealth of experience with families and the range of challenge and possibilities for change amidst the complexity of the human condition. This foundation continues to animate my understanding of the forms of supervision, and how central clinical supervision is for development of a generative, courageous and effective clinical practice. 

I had the opportunity to be the clinical supervisor of the Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) research program, based in South Carolina, housed in Oregon. This program provides rigorous supervision for their clinical staff as well as an on-going consultative support for the clinical supervisor. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to learn this method as well as to provide this clinical supervision. I also maintained data collection on the counselor’s and client’s satisfaction, their ability and efficacy with families and their faithfulness to the MST model. Data was also collected on my ability to supervise in the model and to be helpful to my supervisees.

Supervision as I view it, attends to the supervisee’s overall professional development, while providing intensive coaching in individual and family assessment, case formulation and approach, and extensive and frequent observations overseeing their family work.

I continue to grow and learn about context, similarities and differences in the supervisory and in the clinical relationship. The issues of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, socio-economic status, religion/spirituality are always present and must have attention in these relationships.

It is important to continually consider values, judgmental perceptions and biases in these relationships. I believe I must be proactive about asking for contextual influences and be ready to see my own blind spots. I continue to further my study and training to bring fresh perspectives and research to bare on supervisee’s cases. Supervision can also addresses a therapist’s adaptation to understanding of the political and social context of the work situation.

I believe it is important for supervisors to articulate a personal philosophy of supervision and to promote their supervisees to work toward embracing a primary theory on which to establish in their practice and to link new learning and information.

I continually hold at the back of my mind the question, “what is needed to enhance this particular relationship and help this supervisee? ” At the same time, I work at modeling the qualities of being genuine, having humor, optimism, warmth, nonjudgmental feedback, personal support and empathetic understanding. These are foundational qualities that I hope the client will experience from the therapist.

Another important quality that is a parallel between the supervisor-supervisee relationship and the therapist-client relationship is “trust”. The supervisee feels that they can reveal vulnerabilities, uncertainties, mistakes and discuss honest, painful issues, as would the client.

My own therapeutic practice and my approach to supervision are formally based in General Systems Theory. These theoretical constructs are foundational for providing a strong theoretical base for entering people’s lives and aiding in the prevention of interpersonal issues between counselor and clients.

Therapy and supervision are similar in that honor and mutuality is maintained. There is a mutual benefit and equality between all parties demonstrated by respect, benefit of the doubt, and a mutuality of working together toward success. In systems theory, both the supervisor and the therapist look for strengths and ‘what is working’ in the situation in their dyads.

What is most common and essential between both kinds of relationship is trust and alliance. Whatever the differences may be between the philosophies of the supervisor and supervisee, it is important to sustain the qualities of warmth, support, empathy, engaged listening, being genuine, having humor and optimism.  Fostering a maturing and tested trust is foundational to the supervisory process. Supervision must be individualized, addressing each supervisee’s specific needs, learning style, individual, ethnic differences and developmental needs.

With a private practice, opportunities to train and consult counselors, daily supervision of both therapists and interns, I remain enthusiastic, vital, growing, challenged and personally evolving.

I am dedicated and grateful to each of my supervisees and clients who are teachers on my path.

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