Free Social Work Supervision

Free Social Work SupervisionFree Social Work Supervision


Is receiving free social work supervision as part of my agency job a good idea?


What are the pros and cons of free social work supervision verses paid supervision outside my agency?


Are there any restrictions on free social work supervision versus paid outside supervision?


Who doesn’t like free things? I like free things! But sometimes free isn’t always best and, scratching the surface, sometimes free comes at a cost.

Occasionally, free supervision is offered as a part of an agency job. At Social Work we frequently get questions about free social work supervision and have decided to take some time to address a few of them to help you sort out the pros and cons.



  • Certainly, the most obvious pro to free social work supervision is that it is … free.
  • Usually a co-worker will supervise you and it can be helpful that the supervisor knows the agency culture.
  • In-house supervisors may also know the clients you will be discussing better than out-of-house supervisors.
  • Supervisors who are in-house may be able to shadow and monitor your sessions with clients.



  • While it is sometimes beneficial that the supervisor is part of the agency culture, this connection can potentially complicate free conversation and make being open in supervision difficult because both supervisor and supervisee are connected to the day-to-day decision making, gossiping, and general office politics that occur.
  • Confidentiality can be assured with an outside supervisor while a supervisor in-house will create more challenges not only because of others potentially overhearing your conversation but because of workplace dynamics.
  • What happens if you are given conflicting advice in your agency and you have to make the decision as to whose advice to follow? If your supervisor also works at the agency then you have now become part of a potential workplace power struggle.
  • It can sometimes be much easier to discuss workplace stress with a supervisor who is not experiencing the same workplace stress. If, for example, you are having an issue with a co-worker, and you know that your supervisor is friends with the co-worker, your ability to have open conversation is compromised.



  • By far and away the biggest concern to consider if your agency offers in-house free social work supervision is if your clinical supervisor is also in charge of writing your annual performance review and/or decides on promotions. Complications abound in this type of relationship because you, as a supervisee, may not be able to be as open about your questions and actions in supervision for fear of being judged and passed over for promotions. Likewise, you may be overly influenced to the extent that you do not question the supervisor. Good supervision should be a discussion of possibilities.


For all of the reasons mentioned we generally advisee outside social work supervision rather than in-house supervision. Yes, this may cost extra money but in the long run it can be worth the freedom it affords in conversation and the career growth that can occur by receiving both clinical guidance and workplace professional coaching and support.

With regard to limitation placed on outside clinical supervisors versus in-house, a common confidentiality agreement should be built into your supervision contract that prohibits your supervisor from discussing clients outside the conversation with you.



  • Sometime agencies will pay for outside social work supervision. Ask your agency when you are hired and work it into your contract.  If they do not provide this option make sure to ask if your clinical supervisor will also be writing your annual review or otherwise engaging in direct management of your position.



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J. Christopher Hall, LCSW, Ph.D.

J. Christopher Hall, LCSW, Ph.D.

Chris holds a PhD and LCSW specializing in clinical individual and family therapy. He is a researcher, educator, practitioner, and supervisor with over 16 years experience. He has published chapters and articles in peer reviewed scientific journals and is an active scholar on the effectiveness of clinical practice.

July 23, 2014


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