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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
November/December 2009, Volume 17, Number 6 

TIP 52: A Guide for Clinical Supervision

Clinical supervision has become the cornerstone of quality improvement in the substance abuse treatment field.

“Supervision ensures that counselors continue to increase their skills,” said H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). “That increases treatment effectiveness, client retention, and staff satisfaction.”

photo of two clinicians talking

CSAT’s new Treatment Improvement Protocol 52 (TIP 52), Clinical Supervision and Professional Development of the Substance Abuse Counselor, offers best-practice guidelines and basic information for clinical supervisors and program administrators.

Providing a bridge between the classroom and the clinic, clinical supervision improves client care and develops the professionalism of clinical personnel. Clinical supervision also helps maintain ethical standards in the field and ensures those standards are widely shared.

“TIP 52 focuses on teaching, coaching, consulting, and mentoring functions,” said the protocol’s Consensus Panel Chair, David J. Powell, Ph.D., president of the International Center for Health Concerns, Inc., East Granby, CT.

What Is Clinical Supervision?

According to Dr. Powell, clinical supervision is “a disciplined, tutorial process in which principles are transformed into practical skills.”

The clinical supervisor also serves as liaison between administrative and clinical staff. “Teacher, coach, mentor, consultant—the roles of the clinical supervisor are key to staff retention and morale,” said John Porter, M.S., Northwest Frontier Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC), Wilsonville, OR. “Our clients are better served in a collegial, team-building atmosphere.”

Effective clinical supervision ultimately ensures that clients receive appropriate and competent services.

About the Manual

Topics include cultural competence, ethical and legal issues, dual relationships and boundary issues, informed consent, confidentiality, and supervisor ethics. Divided into three major sections, TIP 52 includes the following:

  • Part 1: Designed for supervisors, this section presents the basics of clinical supervision, including representative vignettes of specific scenarios, master supervisor notes and comments to show the thinking behind the supervisor’s approach in each vignette, and how-to descriptions of effective techniques.
  • Part 2: A hands-on guide, this section helps program administrators understand the benefits and rationale behind providing clinical supervision for their program’s substance abuse counselors. Tools are described to ease tasks associated with implementing a clinical supervision system.
  • Part 3: A literature review is included online only for clinical supervisors, interested counselors, and administrators.

How To Order

To order print copies of TIP 52, call SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). Request publication number SMA09-4435.

Download TIP 52. Download the online literature review.

Central Principles of Clinical Supervision

The Consensus Panel identified 11 central principles:

  • Clinical supervision is an essential part of all clinical programs.
  • Clinical supervision enhances staff retention and morale.
  • Every clinician, regardless of level of skill and experience, needs and has a right to clinical supervision. In addition, supervisors need and have a right to supervision of their supervision.
  • Clinical supervision needs the full support of agency administrators.
  • The supervisory relationship is the crucible in which ethical practice is developed and reinforced.
  • Clinical supervision is a skill that has to be developed.
  • Clinical supervision in substance abuse treatment most often requires balancing administrative and clinical supervision tasks.
  • Culture and other contextual variables influence the supervision process; supervisors need to continually strive for cultural competence.
  • Successful implementation of evidence-based practices requires ongoing supervision.
  • Supervisors have the responsibility to be gatekeepers for the profession.
  • Clinical supervision should involve direct observation methods.

  News & Updates  
Pamela S. Hyde Sworn in as New Administrator

Pamela S. Hyde Sworn in as New Administrator

Read more, view Webcast, and see photos.

Parity Law: Lessons Learned from California

Parity Law: Lessons Learned from California

Study may help to highlight the need for public education about the Federal parity law.

Voice Awards Honor Consumer Leaders

Voice Awards Honor Consumer Leaders

Entertainment industry and consumer leaders honored in Hollywood. Photo gallery.

TIP 52:  Treatment Guide to Clinical Supervision

TIP 52: Treatment Guide to Clinical Supervision

Improving counselors’ skills takes coaching and mentoring.

Guidelines: Responding to Mental Health Crises

Report offers principles for safe interventions.

Substance-Exposed Infants: How States Help

Substance-Exposed Infants: How States Help

Cross-agency, unified approach is recommended.

Funding Opportunities

Funding Opportunities

Call for applications include Peer-to-Peer Recovery program.

Tribal Grants Awarded

In Montana, a tribal group recently accepted a “big check.”

New Research Available on Parenting

New Research on Parenting

SAMHSA staff recently guest-edited 11 articles that focus on parenting.

Web Site Update on Co-Occurring Disorders

Web Site Update on Co-Occurring Disorders

New, interactive Web site features a library of tools.

  Adolescents & Substance Use  
“Influencers” Prevent Prescription Drug Misuse

“Influencers” Prevent Prescription Drug Misuse

Online toolkit helps family, teachers, and doctors keep teens from abusing prescription drugs.

Youth Tobacco Trends Show Decline

Youth Tobacco Trends Show Decline

Fewer youth are using tobacco products.

Perceptions of Risk from Substance Use

Perceptions of Risk from Substance Use

Age relates to teens’ perception of the danger of substance use.

  Suicide Awareness  
Suicide Prevention Update

Suicide Prevention Update

Lifeline’s Twitter, Facebook numbers rise.

  Prevention Update  
Native American Center for Excellence

Native American Center for Excellence

Recent event included a hoop dancing demonstration.

  Also in this Issue  
Gender Differences in Adolescents

Gender Differences in Adolescents

State reports on behavioral health problems presented by gender.

New Wallet Cards for 1-800-662-HELP

New Wallet Cards for 1-800-662-HELP

Order free wallet cards in English and en español.


Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration – 1 Choke Cherry Road – Rockville, MD 20857
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