Become an Approved Supervisor


By Patricia Harwell, LMFT

For the past few years I have devoted an increasing amount of time to the supervision of trainees, new graduates and candidates for AAMFT’s Approved Supervisor designation. I have long held the belief   that Approved Supervisors play a key role in preparing Marriage and Family Therapists who are clinically competent, ethically aware and licensure eligible.  Ten years of experience on the GA Composite Board  served to reinforce my perspective on the importance of the Approved Supervisor’s role.

In the May/June 2010 issue of Family Therapy Magazine, Thorana Nelson wrote a thought provoking article entitled “So Why Take the Fundamentals of Supervision Course or Become an AAMFT ApprovedSupervisor?”  The following six reasons were identified as motives for investing the time and energy required to earn Approved Supervisor status: (1.) the Approved Supervisor designation offers expanded career opportunities; (2.) it is the next logical step of professional growth; (3.) it fulfills the desire to become a better supervisor; (4.) it helps the Supervisor/Therapist become a better therapist; (5.) it provides opportunities to mentor; and (6.) it allows one to “give back” to the profession.

As I review my supervision experience since earning the Approved Supervisor designation, I can identify with each of Nelson’s six motives.    I would also like to propose two additional motivating factors which are relevant in light of recent developments in education, training and delivery of Marriage and Family Therapy services.  The first has to do with the proliferation of online graduate education in a variety of fields including the mental health disciplines.  Although it is too early to evaluate the long term effectiveness of online education in the clinical professions, these programs are likely to continue to grow in number over the next few years.  Many MFT students enrolled in such programs report great difficulty finding practicum/internship sites which offer 500 hours of acceptable clinical experience and 100 hours of supervision from someone who is AAMFT approved.  Even if an LMFT is employed at the practicum site, more often than not he or she has not earned the Approved Supervisor designation. When the new graduate applies for an Associate License, he or she learns that the practicum supervision does not meet GA requirements.  Sometimes, at this point, applicants become discouraged and seek licensure in another discipline even though they are systemic thinkers and want to work with couples and families.  With increased availability of AAMFT Approved Supervisors, MFT trainees are more likely to receive clinical supervision which not only meets the requirements for becoming licensed in GA but also enables them to practice systemically oriented therapy in a more ethical and competent way.

The second relevant factor relates to efforts in other mental health disciplines to establish certification standards for earning advanced supervisor credentials.    Because AAMFT is a recognized leader in   training and qualifying advanced supervisors, many aspiring supervisors from other disciplines seek training opportunities offered by Approved Supervisors.    Interdisciplinary training at this level offers the opportunity for rich collegial discourse with the potential for improving the effectiveness of service delivery and training of future practitioners in all of our professions.   In summary, the process of becoming an Approved Supervisor offers a variety of opportunities for professional growth, development and contribution to our field.