The Supervision Frame: a guide for supervision contract setting

The Supervision Frame – how using this house in contract setting can help frame the supervisory process…

I’m often asked when working with Supervisors (Supervision of Supervision) …. ‘How did I find myself in this pickle… my supervisee doesn’t come prepared…. Wasn’t I clear enough about expectations, roles and responsibilities? 

Whether you offer individual or group supervision or are part of a peer supervisory relationship, it is important to ensure all involved have a clear understanding of roles responsibilities and the tasks of supervision. The ‘Supervision Frame’ provides a visual representation to guide discussion in the early stages of negotiating a supervision contract ensuring clarity of expectations and the process of supervision. 

Supervision needs to be collaborative and pitched to the developmental level of the supervisee. Good clinical supervision provides a space for regular reflection on practice enhancing the delivery of clinical care and patient safety.  Included in the role of supervisor are educator, mentor, coach and counsellor (for the purpose of self-care, boundary and limit setting).

How to use the house?

Step 1:  Forming the Foundation:  Before entering a supervisory relationship it is important to discuss how you will work together.  This discussion forms the basis of your contract. Generally, this discussion is called a ‘Pre-supervision’ meeting or ‘Role Induction’ discussion. This resource provides a template for the meeting: Establishing the Working Alliance (pdf).

It is important to establish learning goals and how these can be achieved.  A contract should be negotiated with clear learning goals, how and when they will be assessed. A good example of a contract can be seen here: Supervision Contract Template (pdf).

From this meeting you can negotiate how supervision will be structured to ensure supervision is pitched to the appropriate developmental level considering how the supervisee best learns (written; practice, readings, active case review etc).

A strong foundation with a secure underlay means that the supervisory relationship can withstand some pressures along the way…..

Step 2:  Theoretical Framework (The Roof)

The next step is to discuss the theoretical framework of both supervisor and supervisee.  What informs your thinking in clinical practice and what theoretical model/s does the supervisee want to develop? I often use the analogy of a coat hanger.

In my wardrobe I have a selection of shirts, pants, jumpers and t-shirts etc., .  Yet despite this range I tend to pick the same few clothing items and recycle these over and over again …. Tested in all conditions I call these my ‘go to items’…… This is a bit like my preference for CBT and systems theories……. My ‘goto models’ of practice. Like most therapists you may have other models of therapy in your therapeutic repertoire that you may apply in practice to suit the client. Consider your theoretical framework and how you will apply in supervision. Is it is a match for your supervisee depending on their developmental level/workplace and how you will communicate theory when reviewing practice?

Step 3: Tasks of Supervision 

Teacher/Educator: As a gatekeeper to the profession there is an evaluative task to supervision. Ensure that you make explicit your role to provide feedback and evaluation and discuss with the supervisee how this will be communicated over the course of the supervision contract. Will assessment tools be used – how and when and who will receive this feedback and evaluation. When evaluating for professional accreditation, evaluation may use summative forms (e.g. Likert scales or written feedback). 

Active Case Review:  It is helpful to prepare the supervisee for active case review in session and for the supervisee to come prepared (perhaps using a case presentation form

Reflection: Supervision should always include a reflective component, inviting the supervisee to consider the question/s for supervision and alternative ways of thinking and working with the client. Reflective practice is defined as a process that empowers the supervisee to consider the interrelatedness between supervisor, supervisee and client and the emotional content of the work and how thoughts and feelings impact on how they work therapeutically. Reflection encourages professional growth as the supervisee is guided by the supervisor to consider alternative ways of working clinically. 

Restorative/Resilience (Person of the Therapist) self-awareness:  Incorporating space for self-reflection has been shown to be an important factor in the therapist relationship Sleater & Scheiner, 2018).  It is argued that a therapist needs to be aware of ‘their real self’ when working therapeutically, including the purposeful use of personal aspects of the therapist (self) to further the aims of therapy. Depending on the negotiated contract the depth of this exploration will vary. 

As such, it is important for the supervisor to provide a clear theoretical framework to both understand and apply the ‘use of self’, as a supervisory intervention. Using this house as a framework introduces the supervisee to consider the ‘use of self’ when reviewing how they work with clients.'s_use_of_self/link/5e1d2058a6fdcc2837711fec/download

Step 4: Goals

It is clear that within this Supervision Frame, a primary goal for supervision is competency-based practice using evidence-based practice. The supervisor needs to discuss the application of a competency-based approach to supervision identifying how explicit skills, knowledge and values will be assessed in supervision. The supervisor needs to foster supervisee learning to meet these criterion referenced competency standards in line with evidence-based practice. Applying reflective practice in supervision will open opportunities to enhance supervisee self-awareness.


Step 5: Strategies

Lastly, when negotiating the supervision contract discuss the range of strategies to be used in supervision. Included in the Supervision Frame are the biopsychosocial framework, genogram/sociogram and the 7 eyed model (Hawkins & Shohet, 2012).

Putting it all together

Using the Supervision Frame as a framework to discuss learning goals and contract provides coverage of the core tasks of supervision and can help both you and your supervisee set clear and assessable goals.

Reference: Hawkins, P., & Shohet, R. (2012). Supervision in the helping professions (4th ed.). Milton Keynes: Open University Press

- Christine Senediak

Director, Clinical Supervision Services and Sydney Family Therapy Training Institute

August 2020

Christine can be contacted through her website at:

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