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Supervision Competency Development Initiative

Enhancing Supervisory Skills in Connecticut’s Behavioral Health Workforce

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Overview: Connecticut prioritized workforce development as one of several focal areas in its transformation efforts. Supervisors were identified as a key segment of the workforce, as they exert enormous influence on the nature of care provided. Since most supervisors have not received formal training or consultation about the supervisory process, this initiative was designed to provide such training and improve agency support for the provision of supervision. Following the core skills training, intensive consultation was provided to agency leadership by the Yale Group on Workforce Development. The consultation focused on agency-based strategies to implement and adhere to supervision standards and to assure sustainability among supervisors of the core skills taught during the workshops.

Need: Staff members are often promoted into supervisory roles based on their performance in direct service positions rather than their capacity to supervise. Seldom do they receive formal training and mentoring about how to supervise. The result is that they are often ambivalent about providing supervision, may be dissatisfied with the experience, and provide it less frequently than needed. There is evidence that staff members being supervised by supervisors who have not been trained for this role are less satisfied with the experience and leave their jobs more frequently than those with trained supervisors. Concerns exist about quality of care when supervision is either not available or is provided by untrained supervisors.


  1. To increase the capacity of supervisors to manage supervisory relationships;
  2. To increase the capacity of supervisors to improve supervisee job performance;
  3. To increase the capacity of supervisors to promote the professional development of supervisees; and
  4. To foster agency/employer efforts to support the provision of competent   supervision through a) adoption of supervision standards; b) implementation of systems to document and track the provision of supervision; and c) creating a culture of supervision through agency based learning communities and continuing education on supervision.

Activities: The Supervision Competency Development Initiative was managed directly through the Yale Group on Workforce Development. Three rounds of training were completed with four agencies in each wave. Training for supervisors in Round 1 consisted of five full days, while Rounds 2 and 3 involved three full days. Because organizational change necessitates involvement, support, and behavioral change at all personnel levels, training about the supervision model was also provided to agency administrators (the supervisors’ supervisors) and to direct care staff (the supervisors’ supervisees). Complementing these activities was agency-based consultation focused on four key components for implementation and sustainability:  a) development of an agency-wide supervision plan encompassing the technical or practical aspects of supervision and intended to build a “culture of supervision” agency-wide; b) development of agency-wide supervision standards intended to identify measurable characteristics of supervision, such as: who provides it; how it is delivered; and how it is documented; c) creation of learning communities, or small cohorts of supervisors, where supervisors were encouraged to become responsible for their own learning and sustainability of the core skills gained through the workshops; and d) development of professional development plans for supervisees with supervisors reviewing the plans quarterly to ensure that they are being implemented and supported.

Results: Results of this initiative met or surpassed all goals. Overall, 269 supervisors and 311 direct care staff were trained. Surveys developed by Yale and administered for this project demonstrated the potential for this intervention to significantly improve supervisor perception of their competency to: a) manage supervisory relationships, develop supervisory contracts and session agendas; b) manage job performance, convey clear expectations, conduct effective evaluations, achieve compliance with requirements, and achieve adherence to program standards; and c) promote professional development and support staff development plans. In addition, each participating agency successfully adopted formal supervision standards and agency-wide plans for supervision.

Current Status: Ongoing efforts focus on providing additional support to the agencies trained through this initiative. Specific activities include: a) providing ongoing consultation on implementation and sustainability of the supervision standards, and b) additional training of direct care supervisors in core skill development, both onsite and through a Supervision Continuing Education Network. This network uses webinars to deliver educational material quarterly on topics relevant to supervising effectively in Connecticut’s publicly funded behavioral healthcare system. Sustainability activities currently underway following the ending of Mental Health Transformation Grant funding include the purchase of training and consultation on supervision from the Yale Group on Workforce Development by DMHAS for Connecticut Valley Hospital, by the Department of Corrections for some correctional facilities, and by a number of private non-profit agencies.

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