Why Selecting a Good Supervisor Can Be More Important Than Getting Into The Right Program
I still remember my first day of work at a brand-new job after earning my bachelor’s degree in psychology. The sky was bright and blue without a cloud to mar the sun.
I was a bonafide, degree-holding professional now. Gone were the days of unskilled labor. This was not mowing lawns during sweltering Florida summers; this was not making change as a cashier at a boutique in “The Most Magical Place on Earth” for tourists.
This job was real.
To say I was second guessing my career choice would be an exaggeration. But I certainly took note of how little I truly knew about human behavior and the mind I had studied so diligently in school. While I did eventually gain my footing at this first job, my second was in community case management. It was a step closer to my goal of running my own private practice as a thriving psychotherapist. This job took me for a loop as well. It was like being proud of learning a new language, only to find out that each word had far more meanings than I originally had known. Each job was a learning experience, and I noted quizzically that I felt like I was in school while on the job
Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to have the knowledge I had crammed for in late-night study sessions as a foundation. But this was not an essay exam or even the complicated multiple-choice questions from the SAT’s or GRE’s. I was getting a dose of learning that traditional college classrooms, undergrad and grad alike, could not quite prepare me for. Life is a classroom, only it isn’t. I eventually made my way back to attend graduate school.
Once again, I was pursuing the almighty parchment with filigreed lettering to tell the world I was ready for what lay ahead. Grad school provided me a more rounded experience (and a much more strenuous one, as well) than undergrad because there was opportunity for real-world experience by way of practicum and internship. These new wrinkles in my education allowed me to branch out and discover more about myself than just a classroom setting alone, despite how witty the banter may have been in class.
I will admit to lucking my way into a good internship site with very qualified supervisors at my disposal. I was looking for experience in a private practice setting and this one fit the bill. I did not research my supervisor at length prior to beginning. Hearing some of the horror stories from my cohort made me realize how good I had it. And that was the moment I realized I had made the mistake of spending more time searching for the right program to get into, and not enough time researching the person who would supervise my experiences outside of the classroom. I was fortunate to be placed in the path of a supervisor who not only knew plenty about the area of expertise I was planning on pursuing, but one who also knew that even the best programs in the country fall far short in various categories in preparing young minds for the life I would live beyond my diploma.
The ability to get to know a supervisor one-on-one was invaluable. He had been through virtually everything I could envision and more. The connection with a mentor who understood what it was like to be where I was, and also how great things could be if I learned through him what he had learned the hard way, made my journey less fearful and more impactful to me.
Programs and supervision are both an investment in time and money. Both offer learning experiences which can help hone your craft and prepare you for the road which lies ahead. Being diligent in researching the right supervisor, instead of just the right program, can pay off with intangibles that only one-on-one mentorship can provide. Looking back, I like to think of my program as laying the foundation of the pavers along that roadway. Once the groundwork has been established, my supervisory experiences are the training wheels used to steady the bike I will use to travel along that roadway for my entire career.
As seen on Florida Supervisor