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Section 1
Goal Setting in Supervision

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Do you feel that setting a "goal" with your supervisee is a way of focusing his or her energy? In encouraging and assisting supervisees in establishing goals, you can help your supervisee in focusing him or herself better and elevate their performance. As you may know, a goal is an event, circumstance, object, or condition a supervisee strives to attain.

In this section, we will examine the four characteristics of effective goal setting with your supervisee: setting specific goals; setting realistically difficult goals; mutual supervisee-supervisor goal agreement; and giving feedback.

4 Characteristics of Effective Goal Setting

♦ #1 - Setting Specific Goals
First of all, as you are aware, it is important to set specific goals with your supervisee. A goal such as "improving performance" is too general to produce results. Do you agree?

Four questions to ask yourself that are helpful in setting goals:
-- What does my supervisee need to work on or improve?
-- In what areas is my supervisee lacking? Is he or she lacking in the area of client empathy?
-- Does my supervisee understand our agency and state confidentiality requirements and laws?
-- How can I set goals that will be effective and target the specific areas that need work?

Pause and ask yourself, "What other questions can I think of to ask about my supervisee and help them improve?"

Also, it goes without saying that it's important to set an actual time frame for accomplishing these goals. This of course works well with objective tasks like dictating client progress notes in a timely manner. A set amount of time in this case adds extra motivation to achieve this goal reasonably quickly. For less tangible goals like increasing self-awareness of client -therapist countertransference issues, time frames might be more long-term. Thus, you might consider setting goals for different time periods.

Different goals of varied difficulty, as in the case of client-therapist countertransference, will also vary in the amount of time it will take to accomplish them. Do you agree? You might try setting daily goals, short-term goals, to be accomplished between your hourly individual training sessions; medium-term goals, perhaps with a time frame of 30 days; and long-term goals, perhaps with a time frame of several months. In your manual, there is a form to facilitate your thought process regarding the establishment of these goals.

♦ #2 - Setting Realistic Goals
Secondly, consider formulating realistically difficult goals. This could be tricky, couldn't it? First, you must consider how to stretch your supervisee's capabilities. If goals are not challenging enough for him or her, there is no way for the supervisee to stretch his or her skills, and thus no improvement. On the other hand, goals that are too difficult or constraining can frustrate your supervisee. This is where the knowledge of your supervisee comes into play. It is not only vital to be aware of his or her potential, but also to understand and acknowledge his or her limitations.

Essentially, some supervisors think of it as bringing their supervisee as close to the edge as possible while not simultaneously pushing them over into frustration or a major stressor point. Pause and think about your supervisee. Do you know where they are at now and where they need to grow? If they are new, is it in the area of knowledge of community resources? If they are into resistance of change from a therapy style not compatible with the philosophy of your agency, are they into discomfort dodging, feelings of entitlement, or unwillingness to compromise?

♦ #3 - Cooperation in Goal Setting
Thirdly, in addition to setting specific and realistically difficult goals, be sure that the supervisee you are trying to challenge accepts your goals. When a supervisee is on board, so to speak, with your objectives, he or she can easily motivate themselves to accomplish these goals. Do you agree? When you merely impose tasks on a supervisee, he or she might begin to feel constrained and will possibly feel reluctant to work cooperatively.

For instance, scheduling sessions with your supervisee is an important goal to work out with him or her. If the supervisee feels that he or she is competent enough to do their work with only one supervision session a week, you might disagree. Perhaps you feel it is necessary to meet at the minimum three times a week. This goal of supervision sessions must also be discussed in reference to just how you as a supervisor feel most comfortable in observing your supervisee.

One supervisor wanted to observe his supervisee through video, noting the supervisee's empathetic facial expressions. The supervisee, however, felt uncomfortable with that much observation. Instead of forcing the therapist to accept the video, the supervisor compromised with audio recording instead of video. To avoid an uncooperative supervisee situation, I feel it is extremely important to discuss these goals with your supervisee prior to creating them. I also feel that supervisors and supervisees should have a coaching or mentoring relationship, which will be explained in a later section.

♦ #4 - Giving Feedback
In addition to setting specific and realistically difficult goals, and mutual supervisee-supervisor goal agreement, a fourth characteristic of successful supervisee goal setting is, of course, giving feedback. This is, quite obviously, a correcting tool as well as a motivational tool. As you know, it's beneficial to give your supervisee an update on how their development is proceeding. This is a good opportunity to set additional daily, short-term, medium, or long-term goals during your supervision sessions.

Also, to state the obvious, when a supervisee is steadily progressing, it is a good idea to let him or her know you are pleased with their growth. Acknowledgment, especially from a supervisor, will inspire your supervisee to continue their performance. This should go without saying, but we all get busy and it's easy to overlook the obvious. Encouragement will be dealt with in the empowerment section of this course.

In this section, we discussed the four characteristics of effective goal setting: setting specific goals; setting realistically difficult goals; mutual supervisee-supervisor goal agreement; and giving feedback.

In the next section, we will propose a new method of resolving conflict: observation; thoughts; feedback; desires; and next time.
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Aarts, H. (2019). Goal setting theory and the mystery of setting goals. Motivation Science, 5(2), 106–107. 

Borelli, J. L., Sohn, L., Wang, B. A., Hong, K., DeCoste, C., & Suchman, N. E. (2019). Therapist–client language matching: Initial promise as a measure of therapist–client relationship quality. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(1), 9–18.

Chui, H., Li, X., & Luk, S. (2021). Does peer relationship matter? A multilevel investigation of the effects of peer and supervisory relationships on group supervision outcomes. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 68(4), 457–466.

Morisano, D., Hirsh, J. B., Peterson, J. B., Pihl, R. O., & Shore, B. M. (2010). Setting, elaborating, and reflecting on personal goals improves academic performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 255–264.

Rapp, C. A., Goscha, R. J., & Fukui, S. (2015). Enhanced consumer goal achievement through strengths-based group supervision. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 38(3), 268–272. 

What are the five characteristics of effective goal setting with your supervisee? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 2
Table of Contents