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Disclaimer: Law, rules and regulations, not Guidelines, specify the requirements for practice and violating them constitutes professional misconduct. Not adhering to this Guideline may be interpreted as professional misconduct only if the conduct also violates pertinent law, rules and regulations.

5. Using and Providing Supervision

Using Supervision

Social workers in the first three years of professional practice should acquire frequent and regular individual supervision focused primarily on improving skills and knowledge in client care and professional development. You should seek supervision from a more experienced social worker in the same area of practice or, when that is not possible, from a licensed professional with experience in that area of practice.
You should seek consultation with experienced colleagues throughout your career, particularly whenever you are only minimally qualified in a specific practice modality or when you believe a client could benefit from a collaborative approach to service.
If you are a Licensed Master Social Worker providing clinical social work services under supervision, whether or not you intend to seek licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or the insurance privilege, you should ensure that your supervisor is qualified and the frequency and duration of the supervision meets the requirements in law.

Providing Supervision

Your supervisory relationships are a form of social work practice and should be governed by the same guidelines that apply to client relationships with regard to ethical considerations, defining needs, confidentiality, expectations and responsibilities (see Guideline 2) and establishing appropriate boundaries (see Guideline 4).
It is your responsibility as the supervisor to ensure that the supervisee is competent to practice, whether or not the supervisee is licensed. The supervisor who allows a supervisee to practice a profession without a license or beyond the supervisee's level of competence, may be subject to charges of professional misconduct under the Education Law.
If you are providing supervision in a group setting, the size and duration of the group should be conducive to participation by all supervisees. Many agree that groups should be limited to no more than five supervisees with one supervisor. You may choose to supervise a group of less than five, based on factors such as your supervisory skills and the qualifications and needs of the supervisees.
When deciding to use other than in-person supervision, you should assess the skills of the supervisee and the purpose of the supervision, including the limitations of telepractice (see Guideline 9).
You may find it helpful to conduct an annual progress report with your supervisee(s). This could include documentation of the supervisee's ability to:
  1. Establish professional relationships
  2. Assess client need and plan appropriate interventions
  3. Make appropriate interventions
  4. Be flexible and change interventions in response to changing needs or client preferences
  5. Assess the supervisee's capacities and skills as a licensed professional
  6. Work effectively with clients at various levels and in relation to systems, including families, organizations and other groups.
When you provide supervision you should consider developing with the supervisee a written agreement that clarifies the responsibilities of each party, such as:
  1. Purpose and scope of the supervision
  2. Learning and development needs of the supervisee and plans to address those needs in supervision
  3. Structure of the supervision, including but not limited to
    • Expected duration of the supervisory relationship
    • If other than individual supervision, the number of participants
    • Duration/length of each supervisory session
    • Frequency of supervisory sessions
    • Time and place of supervisory sessions
    • Cost (if any) and payment arrangements
    • Responsibilities for case materials
    • Role expectations of supervisor and supervisee(s)
    • Accountability and reporting requirements
    • Confidentiality protections.

Citations of Pertinent Law, Rules or Regulations:

  • Education Law, section 6509(2) - incompetence and negligence
  • Education Law, section 6509(3) - impaired practice
  • Education Law, section 6509(4) - habitual substance abuse
  • Education Law, section 6509(7) - permitting unlicensed practice
  • Education Law, section 6509(9) - unprofessional conduct
  • Insurance Law, sections 3221(l)(4)(A) and (D), and 4303(I) and (n) - authorizes reimbursement for social work psychotherapy
  • Regents Rules, part 29.1(b)(9) - practicing beyond competency and without adequate supervision
  • Regents Rules, part 29.1(b)(10) - improper delegation of duties
  • Regents Rules, part 29.2(a)(5) - failing to supervise appropriately
  • Commissioner's Regulations, part 74.5 - requirements for supervisor and supervision of social work psychotherapy