As a Speech-Language Pathologist, you can always remember a terrible [supervision] situation. You can remember what it felt like to not have the support, to walk away feeling unfulfilled by the experience.
I am one of those SLPs.
Thirteen years ago, I had my first practicum placement. I was excited, couldn’t wait to begin and showed up ready to learn. That practicum was everything but what I needed or expected. I was placed with a private practice in which I would see adults in the rehab setting, see children in the private practice, and also see some students within a public school setting. My first day, my supervisor told me to meet her at the private practice and then drive to the school setting. When I arrived at the school, my supervisor was not immediately behind me, the school was not expecting me, and I stood there in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do. From then on, my supervisor rarely showed up to the school, expecting me to sign off on IEPs and other paperwork that were not appropriate based on my degree or level of experience. In addition, when we would do therapy in the rehab setting, I was often pushed to the back and was told to watch, rather than given the opportunity to provide therapy and learn. Despite all of this, I was offered a job. When I declined the job, she tried to sabotage my future career. Fast forward 13 years and I couldn’t be happier with where I am now.
I tell you all of this, to share that to this day I remember this experience vividly. I recently saw this supervisor at a conference and I was surprised at the feelings of hurt and anger that surfaced as I recalled my experience. From this, I vowed that if I was given the opportunity to supervise, I would always provide a phenomenal experience for future SLPs.
So, what’s the best way to make supervision and mentoring in speech work for you? Here are some tips I’ve implemented in my practice of supervising and mentoring graduate students, Clinical Fellows, and fellow SLP colleagues.
- Establish Expectations
- Without expectations, it can be difficult for both parties to have an understanding of what the steps are, as well as what the outcome will be.
- Set clear guidelines
- Establish appropriate methods for contact (i.e., email, cellphone, etc.), in addition to letting your supervisee or mentee know if certain times of the day (e.g., after work hours) are off limits.
- Set due dates for when paperwork is to be completed in order to have adequate time for review and feedback.
- Create a schedule to discuss and report on progress and provide feedback
- Establish SMART Goals
- When first starting out, set goals that are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time based. This will go along with the guidelines that you have established.
- Provide constructive feedback, as well as praise the positives
- While it is important to provide feedback to allow for growth and the opportunity to learn, it is just us, if not more important to provide praise for a job well done.
- Offer training when applicable
- If the supervisee/mentee is unfamiliar with techniques or practices, provide opportunities to learn either hands-on or through resources. This will allow the opportunity to learn and grow as a therapist or teachers.
- During this process, be a supervisor/mentor not a friend
- Sometimes relationships and rapport is easily established. However, during this process it is important to set boundaries and maintain a professional relationship until the process is over. Being a friend can often get in the way of providing objective and constructive feedback.
- Continue to be a resource even after the supervisory experience has ended
- Often, the practicum experience is not enough. The real world provides challenges/situations that do not always occur during the practicum experience. Letting the supervisee/mentee know that you are available even after the specidied time period can often put the SLP/teacher at ease knowing they have an available resource.
- Make it a successful experience!!
- Enjoy the role as supervisor/mentor, it’s rewarding and can provide a learning experience for you as well as the other person!