Professional Supervision

Professional Supervision training for anyone working in the helping professions, nursing, counselling, teaching and those work in business. Improve your supervision skills.

Course Code: BPS301
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Professional Supervisor Training - Gain superior supervision skills.

For the past 20 years or so, the concept of supervision in the helping professions has been under scrutiny. The field of supervision has consequently been reviewed and revised to determine consistent philosophies across the board, and to explain exactly what is meant by supervision and what its central values and aims are. The defining philosophies for the practice of supervision are to be found in the Standards for Supervision and the Curriculum Guide for Counselling Supervision.

Before considering supervision, it is important to understand certain terms. A practitioner is used to refer to someone who provides counselling or psychotherapy-related services. A practitioner also includes anyone taking on the role of counsellor, psychotherapist, trainer, educator or supervisor.

The term “client” is a term referring to the recipient of any services. The client may be an individual, family, group or couple. Different terms may be used for the client and the practitioner in different contexts.

Professional supervision for psychologists and counsellors involves (for want of a better word), debriefing.

  • It's a formal arrangement for professionals to work regularly with someone who is experienced in counselling and supervision.
  • It is a process to maintain adequate standards of professionalism and a method of consultancy to widen the horizons of an experienced practitioner.
  • It provides a means of passing on skills, attitudes and knowledge to newer members of a profession.
  • It ensures that clients receive adequate support whilst a trainee is training.

The supervisor’s task is to work together with the supervisee to ensure and develop the efficiency of the supervisee/client relationship. The method by which this takes place is one where the supervisor overseas the supervisee through critically observing and monitoring the supervisees actions and behaviour. The supervisor offers critically constructive feedback and guidance throughout this process.

In brief, a supervisor’s role is to ensure accountability, conduct training, and offer professional support.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Professional Supervision
    • Introduction
    • Nature and scope of counselling
    • Defining supervision
    • Benefits of being supervised
    • Personal moral qualities of a counsellor
    • Case study
    • Your strengths and weaknesses
    • SWOT analysis
    • Qualities of a professional supervisor
    • Case study
  2. Models of Supervision
    • Beginning the super vision process
    • Contracts
    • Models of supervision
    • Mentoring
    • Proctors interactive model of supervision
    • Use of reflection in the theoretical framework
    • Forms of supervision: individual, group, self, agency
    • Reporting and record keeping
    • PBL: Create and present a plan with specific strategies for improving the supervision of employee’s work related skills, attitudes, and knowledge in the workplace, based on a clear understanding of the person’s needs, values, and situation.
  3. Professionalism, Ethics, and Legal Concerns
    • Introduction and ethical codes
    • Supervisor professional standards
    • Ethical decisions
    • Responsibilities of supervisors to other professionals
    • Confidentiality
    • Informed consent
    • Multicultural counselling
    • Dual relationships
    • Professional boundaries
    • Complaints
    • Professional misconduct
    • Bringing the profession into disrepute
    • Sanctions
  4. Different Approaches to Supervision
    • Relevant theories or models
    • Developmental models
    • The Professional Development Model (PDM)
    • Discrimination model
    • Issues in supervision
    • What is burnout
    • What causes burnout
    • Is stress the same as burn out
    • Online counselling and supervision
    • Telephone counselling
    • E mail or online counselling
    • How does online supervision work
    • International perspectives on counselling supervision
  5. Supervision for Different Professions
    • Introduction
    • What to look for in an effective supervisor
    • Foundations of supervision
    • Supervision policy statement
    • Case study: Supervision in social work
    • Case study: supervision in occupational health nursing
    • Case study: supervision in the coaching profession
    • Case study: supervision for child safety
    • Case study: supervision in youth work
  6. Organisational Considerations
    • Introduction
    • Self governance, awareness and supervision
    • Defining requirements
    • Organisational dynamics
    • Team dynamics
    • Supervision and outside contractors
    • Benefits of supervision in an organisation
    • Education
  7. Managing Supervision
    • Issues in managing the process
    • Frequency and duration of supervision
    • Finance
    • Other elements
    • Motivating factors
    • Transference and counter transference
    • Power abuse
    • Selection of supervisors and supervision
    • Standardised and open methods of supervision

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Understand what is meant by professional supervision, why it is necessary, benefits and disadvantages;
  • Define and compare different models of supervision including reciprocal mentoring, group supervision, self supervision, and agency supervision;
  • Develop an understanding of professional issues of supervision including confidentiality, ethics, quality control, and legal concerns;
  • Understand and define different approaches to supervision including psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioural, solution-orientated, process-orientated and narrative methods;
  • Understand some of the different approaches applied to supervision for different professional groups;
  • Understand the different requirements of providing supervision in organisations where most employees are counsellors, organisations where counsellors are in the minority, and organisations of non-counsellors;
  • Identify the different managerial components of the supervision process including budgeting, monitoring frequency of supervision, selection of supervisors, and the question of standardisation.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the concept of professional supervision;
  • Describe the process of a one-on-one case study of professional supervision;
  • Determine the pros and cons of professional supervision;
  • Define different supervision models including reciprocal mentoring, group supervision, self supervision and agency supervision;
  • Identify ethical concerns to be considered in supervisor/supervisee and supervisee/client relationships;
  • Consider the importance of confidentiality and duty of care;
  • Identify main legal concerns arising from supervision;
  • Discuss problems caused by treating supervision as a form of quality control.
  • Explore similarities and differences between psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioural, solution oriented, process oriented and narrative approaches to professional supervision;
  • Identify key problems associated with matching theory to practice in supervision.

Why Should You Learn about Professional Supervision?

Supervision is:

  • Is a formal arrangement for professionals to work regularly with someone who is experienced in counselling and supervision.
  • Is a process to maintain adequate standards of professionalism and a method of consultancy to widen the horizons of an experienced practitioner
  • Is a means of passing on skills, attitudes, and knowledge to newer members of a profession
  • Ensures that clients receive adequate support whilst a trainee is undergoing training.

The supervisor’s task is to work together with the supervisee to ensure and develop the efficiency of the supervisee/client relationship. The method by which this takes place is one where the supervisor overseas the supervisee through critically observing and monitoring the supervisees actions and behaviour. The supervisor offers critically constructive feedback and guidance throughout this process. In brief, a supervisor’s role is to ensure accountability, conduct training, and offer professional support.

Benefits of Being Supervised

1. Human service work exposes practitioners to situations that impose a great demand on them. This demand can lead to the trainee becoming enmeshed, over-involved, and ultimately becoming ineffective. Supervisees cannot be objective in all cases about their own abilities, agendas, and practices. A supervisor can be objective and help the supervisee to grow and learn.

For example: If a student becomes stuck and is unable to move the counselling sessions forward to help meet counselling objectives, then the supervisor may be able to assist by reminding the counsellor of strategies they can employ, or by drawing their awareness to various dynamics or unconscious forces that may be inhibiting the counsellor/counselee relationship. As such, the trainee counsellor can move forward with renewed effectiveness. 

2. The supervisor can ensure that the supervisee is meeting the needs of clients and keeping to ethical and professional standards.

For example: If a counselee begins to express personal affection toward their counsellor and wishes to meet with them outside of their professional relationship, a supervisor would be able to provide accountability for the counsellor by providing guidance while being able to confer that the counsellor has discussed the matter with them to prevent any future claims by the counselee of a breach of ethical and professional standards.  

3.  A supervisor will also consider the mental health of their client – the counsellor.  This is twofold: firstly, the supervisor will be protecting the counsellor from burnout and, secondly, they are protecting the public against counselling support that may not be effective if the counsellor is not performing to the best of their ability.

The supervisor will notice signs of mental distress or burnout in the counsellor long before the counsellor recognises it in themselves.  Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged, excessive stress.  When you relate that to the role of a counsellor, clearly they may be sitting day after day with people who are suffering intense emotional problems. The counsellor will absorb some of those feelings which can begin to overwhelm the counsellor if they are not afforded the opportunity to debrief. The competent supervisor therefore offers them an opportunity to discuss and hopefully release those feelings before they become too burdensome. If they cannot do this, then the counsellor will be at risk of burnout not just within the counselling role, but also on a personal level in their life outside of the counselling practice.

4. Supervisors will also help supervisees relate practice to theory, and visa versa. They will challenge them to improve on their practice and accept new practices and theories into their current skills and knowledge. Although some counsellors predominantly adhere to a particular theoretical stance, many adopt a more eclectic approach. From their objective standpoint, the supervisor may be able to see when an alternative theoretical perspective might be beneficial to the counselling relationship. They will also encourage counsellors in reflective learning (more on this shortly). 

Supervision can help supervisees to cope with difficult practice situations. 

Professional supervision is a contractual agreement made between a supervisor and a supervisee. Supervision may be:

  • A service which is paid for.
  • A requirement of your employment.
  • A requirement of being a member of a professional institution.

Participation in supervision is a requirement set down in the Code of Ethics of many professional associations.

Personal Moral Qualities of a Counsellor

Being a good counsellor does not necessarily make you a good supervisor. A supervisor will have different skills and knowledge to enable them to support the counsellor, as well as building upon the counselling skill set that they themselves will have developed.

Using the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) Code as an example, practitioners must have certain personal moral qualities when dealing with their clients. These qualities refer to providing services with an ethical and moral component. The qualities should be nurtured within the individual as a personal commitment rather than because they “have to”. Counsellors should aspire to the following personal qualities:

  • Empathy: understanding things from another person’s perspective. Putting yourself in “their shoes”.
  • Sincerity: being consistent between what we say and what we do. This is essential for building a trusting relationship with a client. 
  • Resilience: working with the client and supporting them in their concerns, without becoming personally diminished. 
  • Integrity: being moral, honest, coherent, and straightforward when dealing with others. 
  • Respect: holding others in esteem and understanding. Treat them as you would have them treat you.
  • Humility: the counsellor needs to be able to assess their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Competence: using the skills and knowledge that is required to work efficiently and effectively. 
  • Fairness: applying appropriate criteria to inform decisions and actions and hence maintain equity.
  • Wisdom: having sound judgement that can be used to inform one's practice.
  • Courage: acting in spite of any risks, personal fears and uncertainties.

It is a challenge to work ethically in any profession, and there can be times when we have competing obligations.  In this situation, it would be easier to stop analysing things ethically so as to avoid any tension. However, these ethical codes are intended to assist practitioners in situations where they should be taken into account. 

Supervisors will often have to support their counsellors in ethical decisions. These can be a matter of individual choice and can be difficult for the counsellor and supervisor.

Graduate comment:  The course was a valuable learning experience because it challenged my thinking regarding the application of supervision and how to apply supervision to different professions.  The course exceeded my expectations, in particular because it explored other aspects of supervision such as burn-out, professionalism, ethics and legal concerns.  The course has a very comprehensive approach to supervision, which makes for a more rounded supervisorAllan M Eno MSc (Hons) Degree, Clinical Supervisor/Manager, Harley St, London - UK, Professional Supervision course.

Who This Course Can Help?

Whilst it leans towards the health and caring professions, this course is relatively generic in nature and is applicable to a wide range of careers. Students learn about different models of supervision, their pros and cons, and their relevance to different types of workplace scenarios. It is of value as much to people offering supervision as to those undertaking it, and given that we each benefit from supervision regardless of our station, the course may be of value to most people.

This course is useful to people in a range of professions including:

  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Nursing
  • Caring roles
  • Health professions
  • Business

ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
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This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

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We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Tracey Jones (Psychologist)

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE.
Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc.
25 years industry experience in writing, editing, education, psychology, and business. Tracey has several books and hundreds of articles published; in both fiction and non fiction.

Jacinda Cole (Psychologist)

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist.
B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Jacinda has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

Christine Todd

University lecturer, businesswoman, photographer, consultant and sustainability expert; with over 40 years industry experience
B.A., M.Plan.Prac., M.A.(Social).
An expert in planning, with years of practical experience in permaculture.

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