By: Logan Cohen, Marriage & Family Therapist, AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor, Founder of New Leaf Counseling Group - Charlotte, NC
Congratulations on the completion of your graduate level counseling psychology program!
The search for your AAMFT Approved Supervisor will be one of the most important decisions you will make for your professional growth. If you are looking for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor in Charlotte, NC, this means that you have finished your course work with a program approved by COAMFTE, OR you might just be looking for a seasoned professional therapist who has been steeped in Systems Theory to provide clinical consultation for some of your trickier relationship counseling cases.
In any case, if you are a provisionally licensed therapist or counselor who is looking for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor to complete your post-graduate requirements, it is essential to know what you are looking for. Our field of Marriage & Family Therapy is very different from individually focused talk therapy practices in North Carolina and the more your AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor understands the fine details that makes the practice what it is today, the better for your professional development.
There are also other concerns, such as what areas of specific clinical interest, as well as unique professional settings where a thorough knowledge of subtle ethical and legal issues becomes ESSENTIAL.
This is the only professional work I have ever wanted to do and I personally fell in love with the practice of Marriage & Family Therapy a long time ago. I became an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor so that I can do my part to help the practice of Marriage & Family continue gaining popularity in the Southeast region of the United States through the provision of high-quality clinical care here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Once you decide it is time to identify an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor, it will be important for you to know what you are looking for and as a fellow enthusiast, I want to help you find the best professional fit for your unique needs as well. It will be important for you to consider the following needs as a provisionally licensed counselor or therapist:
#1 Essential of an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor – Experienced
If you were looking for a therapist or counselor for your own intimate relationship, would you go see a professional with limited or minimal experience? If the answer to that question is “No”, then why would you cut off your own professional and clinical growth to those same limitations? We can only grow as far as our Clinical Supervisor has gone and with limited experience, you will inherently be limited to your own process of professional growth and development.
It is important to make sure that you select an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor who has experience in multiple settings – and preferably the specific settings where you are interested in working. Would you like to work in community mental health, especially while you are provisionally licensed to accrue clinical hours towards full licensure? If so, you will want to be sure that your AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor understands how those administrative systems work. Would you like to work in hospital settings? Or just imagined working in more quiet private practice settings? Again, it would be wise to make sure that the AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor you select for your post-graduate hours understands how those organizations function and potentially interact with clinical practice to create subtle nuances for ethical and legal concerns.
I have been fully licensed Marriage & Family Therapist since 2013 and before then, I went straight from an undergraduate degree in Psychology/Anthropology at the University of Georgia to working as a wilderness counselor with at-risk Youth. After spending 3 years in that wilderness therapy setting, I moved to Portland, Oregon to complete my Master’s Degree from Lewis & Clark College. After completing this program in a few years, I moved back to North Carolina where I have worked as a professional therapist ever since. This is the only professional work I have ever done and all I wanted to do.
Over this period of professional experience before becoming an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor, I worked in a wide range of professional settings - Family Therapist at a drug rehabilitation center for teenagers, Intensive In-Home Therapy, Phone Operator at Suicide Prevention Hotline, and Clinical Director for a large mental health company. I started my own group counseling practice New Leaf Counseling Group along the way and once I was able to provide for my Family on my own, I left community mental health and have focused on building the group counseling practice in Charlotte, NC.
#2 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor – Affordable
I know all too well that school is expensive and loans add up quickly. It will be important that you can find an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor who has affordable rates. If you are planning on identifying an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor in private practice, then you can expect to pay private practice rates in those settings. At the same time, you will want to be sure that you are intentionally investing in your professional development because what’s the point of getting a nice car (graduate degree) if you are going to put bad tires on it (poor fit of AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor)? The right balance will be different for each provisionally licensed therapist and counselor, so make sure you have considered what will work best for you. Also, be sure to discuss rates with any potential AAMFT Approved Supervisor so you are clear about financial expectations from the start.
For many years, I planned on being a public servant in community mental health for my entire career and know what it can be like with limited financial resources. Given this, I am in the practice of decreasing my rates for provisionally licensed therapists by as much as 30% for their AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervision. As stated earlier, I enjoy being an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor because I love the work and want to help other Therapists ad Counselors fall in love with it as well. That has always been - and will always be - my priority.
#3 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor – Nonjudgmental
A basic foundation of talk therapy is that a client should never expect to be judged by a professional therapist or counselor. Sure, a client might feel this way as their “stuff” is projected onto our Work together, however the clinician must be so professional and sharp that any attempt to do this will be easily recognized and shown back to the client to enrich their own process.
This is only possible when a stance of non-judgement and unconditional positive regard is built into the clinical practice and personal worldviews of a professional therapist or counselor. As a Boy who grew up in Georgia, I know all too well that the historical de-prioritization of academic rigor and critical consciousness in The Deep South has created systemic limitations in regional training programs. This is actually THE reason I traveled all the way to Portland, Oregon to attend graduate school with the goal of “bringing the fruit back Home to The South.” I LOVE this region of the country and even though there have been more than a fair share of historical shortcomings, I look forward to helping Charlotte, NC continue being part of the New South as our region develops and prospers.
#4 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor - Mutually Accountable
Mutual accountability should be part of ANY process having to do with personal growth and ESPECIALLY relationships. A sufficient AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor should be at LEAST as eager to model their own process of accountability as they are to work with a supervisee around theirs. Read that again…
Before anyone can feel safe enough in a space for personal growth work to take place, there must first be trust. In order for it to be real, this trust must be earned through a careful and precise practice of “containing the space”. It would be advisable for you to ask any potential AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor how they go about creating accountability for both parties throughout the supervision process.
I have created space for periodic reviews of both parties – the AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor (myself) and provisionally licensed therapist/counselor (hopefully you) – to remain accountable to each other through the entire process. The last place a supervisee should be told they are not up to snuff is when they want their final paperwork signed for full licensure – NOT FAIR. By creating space for and insisting that this mutual accountability take place periodically throughout the supervision process, everyone can maintain their level of trust and safety in The Work.
#5 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor – Systems Theorist
This is what REALLY sets us apart from the rest of the field when it comes to different types of talk therapy clinical practitioners. A good AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor should be fluent in at LEAST a few different classical systems theory modalities, such as Experiential, Structural, Strategic, Narrative, Solution-Focused, or Contextual – just to name a few. It would be wise to be sure on your end that the AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor you end up choosing to supervise your provisional license be well-versed in the specific areas of theoretical focus that you are interested in practicing yourself.
In my clinical practice, I use primarily a Structural-Strategic lens with Families and adopt more of an Experiential lens (Emotion-Focused Therapy) when working with Couples. When I work with individuals, I implement an integration of Internal-Family Systems and Rogerian theories to conceptualize the work. It can be hard for supervisees to get a handle on the theories and which ones work best for them, so I have learned to appreciate this process of supporting provisionally licensed therapists in developing adequate theoretical lens of preference.
Oh, and I’m a total nerd for this stuff, as indicated by my “setting the curve” in North Carolina for the National Licensure Exam in that quarter (178/200). It's not rocket science, but the Test is tough and does require intentional and deliberate preparation.
#6 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor - Self of Therapist
Do you remember that phrase “Self of Therapist” from graduate school? Most recent graduates are familiar with the phrase and recall that the DEVELOPMENT of this tool is one of the most important skills we have available to us as professionals. We hear stories about “the greats” like Salvador Minuchin, Carl Whitaker, and Virginia Satir, who could convince Family Members to engage in DRAMATIC processes of change through fluid use of their own authenticity!
But exactly how did they do it, and when is the right time, and by using WHAT EXACTLY?!? A good AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor should be able to describe how they do this with supervisees, as well as disclose how they do this in their own clinical practice.
You are not alone if you are a recent graduate who is confused about what Self of Therapist is and how to use it. This is an area of professional development that I had the pleasure of falling in love with after having great trainers and supervisors on the West Coast and can safely tell you – this is what separates a “good therapist” from a “great therapist”. I look forward to helping you unlock that personal potential onto your professional work and REALLY shine!
#7 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor - Clinical Skills
Aside from the learning theories and making sure you have all the info you need to pass that national licensure exam, the other part here is the clinical skills. It is one thing for a trainer or even professor to talk at students about how to do something conceptually. A good AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor should be able to describe the process to a supervisee, as well as fluidly role play the desired skill-sets to help the supervisee experience the lessons in “real time”.
Of all the feedback that I have ever had around working with provisionally licensed clinicians, I have never been accused of not providing enough information (my apologies for the double negative there). It would be a common experience for supervisees whom are working with me to expect practical skills and suggestions at every supervision meeting, along with suggestions for take home exercises to help further sharpen the specific clinical skill-sets of focus.
#8 Aspect of an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor - “Being a Therapist” in consulting room
This can be a difficult one to explain in writing, so I will be as brief as possible so I don’t appear to ramble on in a non-dual stream of consciousness….There are a lot of active skills to learn if you want to be the therapist you have always imagined. With that said, there are a LOT more passive skills – when not to speak, when to let an enactment continue, etc. For an inexperienced AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor, these are usually aspects of clinical work they are still mastering on their own as they further practice the more subtle features of the craft. It takes a lot of time, experience, and mistakes to learn how to “be” as a professional therapist with clients and unless an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor has been there themselves, they will be hard pressed to take you there as a supervisee.
As mentioned earlier in this article, I have worked in a lot of different settings and many of them have been with clients experiencing high acuity psychiatric issues. Those tend to be rich, albeit hectic environments that provide more than their fair share of experimentation with “different ways of Being” for a professional therapist. Over the years, I have developed a rather wide range myself and look forward to supporting provisionally licensed therapists and counselors discover and practice their own range as they hone their skill-sets.
#9 Essential for an AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor - Private practice experience
I have never met a provisionally licensed therapist or counselor who wants to work in community mental health their whole life, or even work for a group practice forever. One aspect of this type of work that tends to be attractive for many professionals is an ability to work for yourself and strike an optimal Balance between Work & Life. This is a professional path to entrepreneurship, but only if you also understand entrepreneurship and small business practices. Most professors in undergraduate and graduate training programs do not have a sufficient level of business sense to establish their own financially healthy therapy or counseling practices. In fact, most of these individuals who trained us usually have a lot of anxiety around business development concerns because there is no place for them in academic training. As a result, most recent graduates not only have limited business sense for the future, but have also inherited a degree of anxiety from their previous trainers/professors about small business practices.
I founded New Leaf Counseling Group in 2014 while I worked as a Clinical Director for a larger mental health company. Since then, I have enjoyed full-time work at the practice, as well as the addition of three additional practitioners to create a diverse counselor/therapist team at my practice where we get to support community members in healing their most intimate relationships, while also providing financially for our Family's. If you want to make sure your AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor understands “the ins and outs” of private practice, then I check this box.
It is my hope that this article has been of a support to you are you continue on your Journey of developing into the talented Therapist or Counselor that you always imagined. I look forward to the chance of being contacted by you so that I may be a small part of that Journey.