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Five Questions to Ask a Potential Supervisor

Searching for a supervisor to complete your fieldwork hours with can be a daunting process. As of January 2021, there are over 40,000 BCBAs! So there is a myriad of experience types you may encounter. Therefore, it is really important that you consider what type of experience you want and what you are looking for in a supervisor. There are so many options, but here are five questions that may guide you when talking to potential supervisors:

What is your area of specialty?

This is probably the most important question! Since BCBAs are ethically obligated to practice within the scope of their competency, it is imperative that the individual supervising you has experience in the setting you are currently obtaining your hours in. In addition, if you plan to branch out into a different setting, it can be helpful to know if that potential supervisor has experience in that area as well. This question can be instrumental in determining if that potential supervisor is a good fit for you.

Do you offer group supervision?

Some BCBAs may advertise group supervision, but not all of them do. This does not mean that they don't provide it though. It's important to ask this question because group supervision can be extremely beneficial. This exposes you to other trainees and offers a way to obtain a well rounded experience. While group supervision isn't required for fieldwork hours, it's nice to know if it's an option. Just remember, no more than 50% of your supervision contacts per supervision period can be conducted in a group format.

What is your supervision style?

There are a few different supervision styles. Some of them are extremely structured with a specific supervision curriculum. However, some supervisors have a less structured supervision style and supervision meetings are more free flowing. I like to refer to these styles as either supervisor led versus trainee led. For some individuals, a structured style led by the supervisor is more beneficial. This may include weekly homework, specific topics preplanned for each week, etc. On the other side, a trainee may want flexibility in the content they are discussing or focus on different topics selected by them each week. You know your learning style best, so make sure the supervisor you select can accommodate that!

How do you conduct the required client observation each month?

There are two reasons that this question is important. First and foremost, you are required to be observed with a client each supervision period at least one time. There are some supervisors out there that will offer all unrestricted hours and tell potential trainees that they don't need a client-this is incorrect. So, it is beneficial to know if this potential supervisor is adhering to the requirements. It is important to note though that as of March 2021, the BACB is still waiving this requirement due to COVID-19. However, a special form must be completed for the supervision period(s) where a client observation was not conducted. Also, this form is only allowed if you do not have access to a client, due to COVID-19.

The second reason this question is important is because you will need to try to plan out how the supervisor will be able to complete an observation. For example, if the supervisor would like you to record sessions, it will be important to figure out how this will be shared in a HIPAA compliant manner. If the supervisor prefers sessions streamed live, then it will be important to figure out on what platform this will occur.

Do you provide me with unrestricted activities or do I need to come up with them on my own?

This may seem like a silly question, but it isn't! The BACB 2022 experience requirements state you need a minimum of 60% of your hours to be unrestricted. Due to this high percentage, there are many trainees out there that have difficulty reaching this goal. Part of the reason is that their supervisor is not providing them with enough unrestricted activities. Yes, you can suggest unrestricted activities to your supervisor to see if they count, but it is equally important that your supervisor guides you and provides you with unrestricted activities. This question just helps to prepare you for the level of guidance this potential supervisor might provide.

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