Section 6: The Knowledge Base of Effective Supervision

In his/her role as an expert, a clinical counseling supervisor has a number of responsibilities in terms of possessing the requisite knowledge and skills to work effectively with supervisees. This responsibility will encompass two separate - but interacting - areas.

First, clinical counseling supervisors must enter into their supervisory role with a high level of knowledge and skills in the clinical arena. This essentially covers any material that is essential to be transferred to the supervisee as part of the developmental process, including knowledge of how to apply those clinical skills in a legal and ethical manner.  Accordingly, there are three key areas that should be part of the initial assessment of the supervisee’s capabilities as the supervisory relation is begun:

1) Clinical knowledge

2) Legal and ethical knowledge

3) Leadership knowledge

Additional detail on what these areas encompass will follow in a later section. Forms and templates for assessing these areas for both supervisors and supervisees will be made available in a later course in this series. 

Second, clinical counseling supervisors must also understand a number of elements related to the supervisory process. These include the following:

4) Administrative knowledge

5) Knowledge of supervisory structures and processes

6) Knowledge of major roles and responsibilities of supervision

7) Knowledge of models of learning and information transfer

8) Knowledge of models of motivating others

9) Knowledge of major components of supervision

10) Knowledge of major models of supervision

11) Knowledge of self

Prior to addressing the specific clinical and legal knowledge and skills involved in the information transfer in supervision, it may be helpful to address some broader aspects of the learning process. There will inevitably be two different kinds of learning involved in the process of transferring information from the supervisor to the supervisee: “Task-conscious or acquisition learning” and “Learning-conscious or formalized learning.” principles’ (Rogers 2003: What is the Difference: A new critique to adult learning and teaching, Leicester: NIACE, 18) These two different learning processes are noted below.


1) Task-conscious or acquisition learning. It is ‘concrete, immediate and confined to a specific activity; it is not concerned with general principles’ (Rogers, 2003). Examples include much of the learning involved in parenting or with running a home. 

For clinicians, this is concerned with the acquisition of the full array of approaches and techniques that allow for clinical work to proceed effectively. Good supervisors will target the development of these approaches and techniques at points in time when the supervisee is prepared to learn and apply them. This kind of learning is usually created through experiential learning opportunities, where the supervisee is directed and encouraged to try out new skills and approaches in vivo or in simulations with the supervisor taking on the role of the client. The skills then may be stored largely in procedural memory, as opposed to verbal memory.

2) Learning-conscious or formalized learning. Formalized learning arises from the process of facilitating learning. It is ‘educative learning’ rather than the accumulation of experience, or the acquisition of therapeutic capabilities through experiences utilizing those therapeutic approaches and techniques. To this extent there is a consciousness of learning – people are aware that the task they are engaged in entails learning. ‘Learning itself is the task. What formalized learning does is to make learning more conscious in order to enhance it’ (Rogers, 2003). 

The goal of good supervision is to move supervisees from a position of substantial reliance upon the teaching and directing capabilities of the supervisor to a position of being able to work in a generally independent manner. For this to occur, the supervisee must be encouraged and directed towards undertaking their own ongoing formalized learning process. This involves understanding how to learn, and - because there is so much to learn in the field of mental health - how to learn in a productive and efficient manner.

This is to say, the best supervisors will provide guidance on what knowledge and skills to go looking for, how to differentiate useful and evidence-based knowledge and skills from less useful and/or “squishy science” based information, and how to integrate the new information being acquired into what the supervisee already knows and uses. The supervisor will, in short, help develop an orientation within the supervisee for continuously developing and expanding their aptitudes in clinical work.

There is a further process of integration that the best supervisors will also incorporate into the learning process. First, they will also teach their supervisees to secure the full range of resources that are necessary for the clinical process to be effective in a real world with real challenges. Second, they will also engage their supervisees in the process of aligning this learning process – and all of the processes of clinical work - with sources of internal and external motivation. Third, they will also work at conceptualizing systems and structures that will support the learning process and the clinical work in which they are engaging.

From this set of understandings, a model appears - a mnemonic device, if you will – that will help the supervisor keep track of these four foundational elements of an integrated approach to the process of facilitating sustainable change in the learning and development process: The ARMS Model of Sustainable Change.


The ARMS Model of Sustainable Change





(Kossak, S and Safford, C, Effective Clinical Supervision of the Mental Health Professional, Live Training delivered in 2011, Atlanta, GA)


First, knowledge and skills in the change area must be expanded to build on the person’s intrinsic capabilities, so that the person who is the target of change may develop increasing independence and assume conscious ownership of the growth and change process. For example, a supervisee may enter into his/her career with certain intrinsic capabilities in experiencing and expressing empathy to clients, a capability that will vary from person to person.

This may then be expanded upon and applied to therapy in increasingly effective ways under the careful watch and direction of the supervisor, using both task-conscious and learning conscious approaches. This is where the focus on transferring specific skills, approaches, and techniques will occur, as well as instruction on the broader principles that will allow the supervisee to comprehend how to develop those capabilities further as he/she moves towards more complete independence.

It is a person’s ability to increase his/her knowledge and skills that will determine his/her eventual Aptitude in managing the requirements and responsibilities of any task that is part of his/her position. An important part of the ongoing evaluation process - and associated supervisee development plan - is assessing improvements in the supervisee’s aptitudes over time so that learning can be tracked and new material can be presented to the supervisee when he/she is ready for it.

Second, sufficient Resources must be present to allow for both 1) the acquisition and 2) the ongoing use of the knowledge and skills within the targeted environment for change. It is important to consider both internal and external resources when focusing on this area.

For example, the most skilled and knowledgeable clinician in the world would be severely hampered in his/her practice without an office or a phone – or the availability of clients to hone new skills.  Likewise, if the supervisee were depleted of physical and emotional energy through constant sleep deprivation, then the internal resources would not allow for optimal learning and development. Growth and change occur within a system, and resources provide important raw materials to support the growth and change of that system. 

Of course, one of the key resources that will help determine the success of a new clinician in growing and changing is the availability of a supervisor providing good supervision and working with the supervisee to engage in ongoing resource availability analysis.

Next, it is insufficient to possess aptitudes and resources if one lacks the Motivation to apply them towards the essential purpose for which change and growth are being sought. People will not utilize their internal resources of energy and focus if they are not motivated to do so. Accordingly, at every step of every change process, persons facilitating the change and growth must be constantly monitoring the motivational state of the target of change.

Internal motivation is driven by a number of complex factors related to a person’s vision for their life and their career: deeply held values, beliefs and perceptions, and their deepest aspirations. As mental health clinicians understand only too well, internal motivation may also be driven by other, less consciously directed factors: fears, anxieties, biases, urges and drives. Some important work in clinical supervision is concerned with helping supervisees gain more conscious awareness of motivational factors that may interfere with good, ethical practice.   

For supervisors to work more knowledgeably with motivation during the change or learning process, the ARCS model of adult learning will be introduced at a somewhat later time. This will support the supervisor’s knowledge of how to structure interventions in ways that increase motivation for learning.

Finally, all resources – both internal and external – are finite in nature. In order to maximize the use of available resources and avoid exhausting those resources before change goals are reached, it is important to focus on having good Systems and Structures to create efficiencies. 

Systems and structures, just like resources, can be either internal or external in nature. When we develop a habit or a routine for handling a task, we are involved in building an internal system that allows us to perform the task in an organized manner that will then require using less mental energy, creating an efficiency. Supervisors with any degree of experience will have developed internal systems that create efficiencies for their work, and passing these forward to a less experienced supervisee will shorten the learning curve for him/her. 

Likewise, when an organization develops protocols for handling complex responsibilities - like hiring people, managing suicidal clients, or developing its workers - the creation of those systems and structures allows for more efficient use of resources over time. Forms and templates that organize a process of gathering and storing information are other kinds of systems and structures.

Because the change / growth process is both energy consuming and potentially intimidating for some people, inefficiencies can create potential problems for sustaining motivation for change and growth. Available resources of energy and confidence can be squandered through inefficient systems and structures. For many reasons, good systems and structures can reduce these drains on motivation, while also building trust and enhancing authority.   

Like the learning-conscious approach to learning, there is also a conscious approach to sustainable change that can be derived from the ARMS model. The conscientious supervisor will keep track of and try to direct all four elements as the supervisee engages in growth and change. The supervisor may also choose to provide education to the supervisee in terms of keeping these four components of sustainable change in mind as they move towards increasingly independent states.

As previously noted, when dealing with issues of motivation around the learning process, it may be helpful to apply another model, one drawn from adult learning theory.  Models, too, are systems and structures that organize information into patterns that are easier and more efficient to utilize. The model that follows will provide an easily memorized set of elements to attend to in the process of encouraging motivation to learn. 

The ARCS Model was developed by John Keller. (Source: Keller, 2010, Motivational Design for Learning and Performance: The ARCS Model Approach, NY: Springer Science + Business Media) Dr. Keller is an adult learning specialist, and his work has influenced the way that trainers and teachers approach the design of learning environments that will maximize motivation to learn. It is part of a field of study called Motivational Design.


Motivational design is concerned with:

- Knowing and identifying the elements of human motivation

- Analyzing audience characteristics to determine motivational requirements

- Identifying characteristics of instructional materials and processes that stimulate motivation

- Selecting appropriate motivational tactics

- Applying and evaluating appropriate tactics


The ARCS model contains a very clear and concise reminder for supervisors and clinicians of what to focus on as they work to continuously shape and reshape the environment in which change interventions are occurring. It helps to center intervention strategies on the most important few elements that keep supervisees engaged in the learning and change process.

Incidentally, it is also a very useful concept to teach to supervisees, who are themselves in teaching roles with their clients. This will allow them to apply it to their own clinical work, as well as to use it in psychoeducation to their clients. For instance, parents who are attempting to teach their children the important lessons in life will be directed towards more effective learning strategies through the use of these concepts.

Because the concepts are cognitive in nature – as well as quite simple and straightforward - they can help the supervisee to stay in a more cognitively focused approach towards teaching and learning. This can help combat resistance that might arise from emotional sources.

However, when supervisees are teaching the ARCS model to clients, it is very important to remember the difference between the knowledge base of someone with experience in the helping professions and a lay person who lacks such a background. Many of the components of the ARCS model will seem simple and familiar to a professional; the core understandings will fit easily into the structures of what we already know. It is important not to project this level of learning onto the client, not to assume that because it is obvious to us that it will be obvious to them.

For the lay person, the concepts offered by the model may be wholly unfamiliar, ideas that will be considered for the very first time. They will serve only as a lead-in to the adaptive work that your target audience may need to do to re-conceptualize how they lead others.  These concepts may require much additional instruction before a client is willing to adopt them and use them. 

The ARCS Model is an acronym for four key areas of learning motivation: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. Let’s examine what is involved in each of these areas, with some explanation of how this applies to work with supervisees and/or clients.


In order for learning to occur, the target audience must pay attention to the attempts to impart new information. If the teacher cannot get the target audience to pay attention to the material, then the learner will not engage his/her cognitive resources in the process of receiving and processing new information.

The best learning environments will be those in which generate good focus and attention. Keller outlines three areas that are important for this aspect of learning:

A1 Perceptual arousal
A2 Inquiry arousal
A3 Variability

Perceptual arousal is generated by presenting to the target audience the learning material in a way that is interesting and stimulating to them. In adult learning situations, this can frequently be accomplished by introducing information in unusual or surprising ways that grab the target audience’s attention.

Inquiry arousal is concerned with introducing information in ways that generate a motivation for the learner to explore and engage in the learning process, either by generating curiosity or wonder, or by posing challenging questions or problems that the learner is motivated to try to answer or solve. Motivation for learning is increased, in other words, when the learner is persuaded to take ownership of the learning material.

Variability is concerned with the need to continuously modify and upgrade the learning environment to prevent boredom and complacency from setting in.

As helping professionals, there are several key concepts to take away from this part of the ARCS Model. First is the importance of continuously remaining aware of and attuned to the degree of focus and attention from the target audience as they interact with us. This is not always as simple as it looks.

First, in order to create the right level and kinds of attention in the learning process, the change agent needs to be engaged in a continuous process of evaluating the target’s needs in this area. A flexible approach to this issue is usually required; it is not the supervisor’s comfort level or preferred style of intervention that determines the success in maintaining perceptual arousal, it is the supervisee’s comfort or style of learning. The target audience determines the needs - and the change agent adapts to those needs. 

In line with this, it is always important to remember that as human beings we are susceptible to the trap of thinking that other people find us as interesting and stimulating as we find ourselves. We all have a perceptual bias towards believing that when we are intently focused on making an important point, other people will be inclined to pay attention. In fact, sometimes when we are cheerfully celebrating what good work we have just done, we are least attuned to whether the supervisee is actually paying attention - precisely because we are so focused on ourselves and our own wonderful insights. 

Similarly, because our work can involve very complicated things, we must sometimes search through and process very large amounts of information to get to just the right nugget of knowledge we want to give to our supervisee or client at any point in time. This can cause us to get so focused on our own cognitive processes that we lose focus on whether the supervisee or client is still paying attention. It is the target audience’s receptiveness that will ultimately determine whether a successful information transfer occurs, not whether we are enjoying hearing our own voices speak.

Finally, as helping professionals we always run the risk of being distracted from our focus on the target’s agenda due to our own emotional agendas or reactions. If we are focused on ourselves, we lose our ability to stay attuned to whether the supervisee or client is still paying attention to what we are trying to do. This is a factor that cannot be too strongly emphasized as supervisors prepare their supervisees for the difficult work of creating real change.

In all of these situations, the challenge is the same - not to lose track of the most important consideration in any learning environment: securing the attention of our audience. In addition to all the other processes involved in creating a teachable moment, we must always be continuously scanning the client’s focus and attention to make sure that they are still with us, that their attention has not moved elsewhere. 



In order for attention to be sustained long enough for learning to occur, the learning material must be relevant to the target audience, and efforts must be made that help and invite the target audience to grasp and understand that relevance. Keller outlines three areas that make up the relevance aspect of learning motivation: 

R1 Goal orientation
R2 Motive matching
R3 Familiarity

In order to sustain the attention of the target audience, the material being presented must have relevance for the goals, wants, needs, motives and aspirations of the target audience. This implies that assessment efforts are needed in order to gather good information in these areas. When engaging in complex learning with supervisees, it is important to help them maintain focus on how moving to a new position aligns with their most important goals and purposes. 

To the helping professional, these understandings probably would appear to be both simple and obvious. It is a core part of our training to search for the other person’s agenda, while remaining aware of the different values, beliefs and perspectives that people from different backgrounds bring to the change arena. We are trained to expect differences between what we see and what the other party sees. This is true in supervision, where the agenda of the supervisee must be factored into decisions about the material brought into the supervision.

Additionally, the change material must also be relevant in terms of how it relates to and connects with the knowledge base and core understandings already held by the target audience. In other words, there must not be too great a cognitive gap between what the target audience already knows and the new material that is being presented.

The great Russian psychologist, Lev Vgotsky, described this gap as the “zone of proximal development.” (Source: Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) The zone of proximal development is the difference between what a learner is able to do without help in bridging the knowledge gap, and what they are unable to do without support from the person engaged in the teaching process. If the gap is too great, it is demotivating for a learning to attempt to make the bridge to the new material, and the loss of relevance will lead to a loss of focal attention. 

Dr. Vgotsky discussed the importance of viewing the process of learning as building upon a scaffold of pre-existing knowledge. Like in the construction of a building, new material cannot be affixed without some kind of structure that already exists providing the connection points that allows the new material to be held in place. What we already know provides a framework for understanding the new material, but the new material alters our understandings in ways that allow for concepts that are larger and more complex to be formulated and grasped.

He lists the three important principles in applying this knowledge of scaffolding within the learning process: 

Item 1: The interaction should be collaborative for it to be effective.

Item 2: Learning should take place in the learner’s zone of proximal development.

Item 3: The scaffold, the support and guidance provided by the expert should be gradually removed as the learner becomes more proficient.

(Source: Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) 

When supervisees are engaging in complex learning in new areas of practice, they will face the same challenges with the zone of proximal development as any other person. This is why it is so important that the supervisor engage in good assessment of the supervisee’s areas of strength and his/her areas of weakness (improvement areas) prior to establishing a learning or development plan. When these factors are known, then issues of timing, pacing and sequencing will be easier to manage so that the learning can remain relevant to the developmental journey of the supervisee.

As human beings, supervisors are also prone to focusing on their own goals, needs, and aspirations. They can be diverted off track by their own worries, anxieties and insecurities. They can have our own blind spots, get uncomfortable making the imaginative leap to different ways of seeing and understanding the world. They can get concerned about the success and failure of their efforts to the detriment of staying focused on what is relevant to the supervisee and to the development tasks of supervision.

The importance of keeping this simple model in mind is that it brings us back to the most basic elements of what we are supposed to do. And keeping the change effort focused on what is relevant for the supervisee within the context of his/her placement or position is at the heart of successful clinical counseling supervision.  



The next factor related to learning, confidence, is closely connected to a concept known as the “holding environment”, a concept drawn from the work of psychiatrist Ronald Heifetz. Dr. Heifetz describes the holding environment in the following terms. 

A holding environment consists of any relationship in which one party has the power to hold the attention of another party and facilitate adaptive work. . . The holding environment can generate adaptive work because it contains and regulates the stresses that work generates.” (Source: Heifetz, Ronald, Leadership without Easy Answers, Boston, Harvard University Press, 2006)

There are two separate and co-necessary components to creating a successful holding environment. The first is the presence of forces that require the person to focus on the demands created from the adaptive challenge. For supervisors in teaching and developing roles, this is the part of our work that involves gently holding our supervisees’ feet to the fire, not allowing them to turn away from necessary work, nor allowing them to move towards false and facile solutions that will not be successful in the long run.

The second aspect of the holding environment is the part of the relationship that provides containment and relief from the emotional distress generated by the change process. Containment is like a safety net held around our supervisees as we offer support, empathy, confidence about their ability to learn, grow and development.

Relief is composed of a safe place for supervisees to vent their concerns and let off steam, or of actions that temporarily shift the focus off the distressing material in order to provide temporary respite to the supervisee during times when the learning and development work in this difficult profession has exceeded their adaptive capacities and they are overwhelmed.

Learning and change carry risks to the emotional well-being of the target audience. Relevance, and the last factor to be studied, satisfaction, are concerned with the risks that the changed state will be unhelpful and unwanted by the target audience. The third factor, confidence, is most directly concerned with the risk of failure, of the worry that the necessary changes are not within the adaptive capacities of the person engaged in the learning process. 

Keller outlines three factors that are involved in addressing the issue of confidence within a learning environment:  

C1 Learning requirements
C2 Success opportunities
C3 Personal control

In the helping professions, there are several elements that contribute to creating an atmosphere of confidence in adaptive work. First, the competence and professional authority of the helping professional, i.e., supervisor, establishes a foundation of support for the holding environment in this area. Two other foundation elements include the confidence expressed by the supervisor in his/her own skill sets and confidence shown and expressed about the capabilities of the supervisee to engage in the defined development work.

In addition to expressing confidence in the supervisee’s ability to change through non-verbal means – a stable, calm and positive presentation of self in interaction with him/her – it is always helpful to verbalize your belief and confidence in the supervisee’s capacities for learning and growing. This need for implied confidence is an essential feature of appropriate dependency on the part of the supervisee as he/she works his/her way towards independent practice capacities, and one of the key features of the holding environment that a successful supervisory relationship creates.

However, confidence also needs to be created in the way in which learning and change material is presented to the supervisee. Confidence is most successfully created through experiential success, and this means that we must design our development work in a manner that creates learning successes and a sense of mastery. We need to build in some opportunities for small victories within the design of our intervention approaches.

Keller discusses the importance of breaking the learning work down into small, incremental steps, with continuous feedback that supports the perception of success. This connects back up with Heifetz’s understanding about the importance of pacing, sequencing, and timing to maintain a successful holding environment.

Likewise, both Keller and Heifetz point out the need for the learner to have a sense of control over their learning. It is important to remain exquisitely sensitive to whether the person engaged in adaptive work is experiencing too great a sense of loss of control in the learning experience, and important to adapt the holding environment to increase the sense of control – to whatever degree is necessary.

The knowledge base and skill sets to be able to do this are important. They are also likely to be significantly less well formed in less experienced supervisees to whom we teach the ARCS model. Not to repeat the obvious, but clinical work is extremely complicated, with a substantial learning curve, and a very large knowledge base. Newer clinicians may be faced with some very difficult cases for which they feel inadequately prepared. For this reason, confidence is likely to be the element of the ARCS model that is the most difficult to address when we are engaged on development work with newer supervisees. 

The ARCS model can be a point of entry for discussions in this area, an opportunity to use the authority contained in a well-validated model of learning to support the supervisee: validating his/her need for confidence building while still holding feet to the fire to move change forward. Within the holding environment for the supervisee’s adaptive work, this will gently increase cognitive pressure to learn.

Likewise, it can be a gateway for the imparting of other skills related to building confidence in learning, such as providing opportunities for small successes, giving regular feedback, improving skills in assessing readiness for change, and other elements of more informed clinical work. 

Given the nature of our field, it would be remiss not to address the subject of resistance as it relates to learning and change, referencing Dr. Keller’s understandings about the need for personal control during the learning process.

As noted earlier in this course, clinicians are the vehicle for change during the therapeutic process, and the personal material of the clinician may provide obstacles to the successful use of the therapeutic relationship. To reduce or remove those obstacles, clinicians must at times confront areas where the personal material resides.  When this occurs, conscientious supervisors must lead their supervisees in that change effort - and address any resistance that blocks the necessary change.

As previously noted, the role of the supervisor does not include assuming clinical responsibilities for the resistance of the supervisee in this arena. However, given that supervisees will encounter this same issue with their clients, it may be helpful to enter into this conversation with some education about the nature of resistance. For this, a useful source may be the work of David Burns and Jack Harich on this subject.


Field Theory and System Based Resistance

Change resistance is the tendency for a system to continue its current behavior, despite the application of force to change that behavior.

(Source: Harich, Jack, Change resistance as the crux of the environmental sustainability problem, 2010, System Dynamics Review,

Harich notes two kinds of change resistance:

  1. Internal resistance: Fear of loss of stability provided by personality structure
  2. External resistance: Fear of loss of social connections and support provided by social norms, structures and institutions

Harich also notes the following approach for facilitating reduction to the resistance so that change may occur:

  1. Find the implicit system goal
  2. Find the main root causes
  3. Find the proper leverage points

In order for a supervisor to locate the implicit system goal for a supervisee where resistance occurs, it may be necessary to have a deeper understanding of the emotional life of the supervisee in ways that come perilously close to assuming the role of a therapist. However, in supervision the responsibility for uncovering and addressing these resistance issues must be laid back at the feet of the supervisee in this process.

The supervisor may work collaboratively with the supervisee to clarify that resistance exists and to define the process through which the supervisee may understand the causes, but not to take on the responsibility to “work through” the resistance as if within a therapy relationship. The supervisee must be assigned that responsibility and facilitated in finding his/her own therapist to work on those internal issues clinically.


Resistance and Change 

David Burns views the idea of change resistance from a two factor perspective, adding to Harich’s ideas of internal and external resistance a factor related to the availability of resources to manage the stress of change: “Resistance is composed of the conflict between the client’s professed desires for change and unconscious fears about the loss of safe ground, a sense of identity, and the perceived rigors of engaging in change efforts.

Outcome Resistance or Clinging to the Status Quo: Clients fear what the changed state will feel like, result in, or mean for them.

Process Resistance or Resisting the Hard Work of Change: Clients don’t want to do what is necessary to generate the change.” 

(Source: Burns, D, When Panic Attacks, 2006, NY: Morgan Row Books)

As noted in the preceding paragraphs addressing Harich’s work, resolution of outcome resistance will likely be assigned to the therapy work between the supervisee and his/her individual therapist. Process resistance may also contain some elements handled in a therapy relationship, but there may also be some parts that may be addressed in the supervisory relationship.

The amount of change, learning and novel responsibility present early in the career of a mental health clinician is high, and this can lead to a significant drain on the available emotional resources of the supervisee. It is worth having regular discussions with the supervisee about his/her ongoing level of stress and the degree of drain that he/she is feeling – with a lot of support and normalization of this experience.

From a structural or systemic perspective, it is also important to consider when to introduce new material and/or new responsibilities in relation to this factor, and what materials will be easier and more useful for the supervisee to attempt to absorb at any point in time. When possible, it is helpful to allow the supervisee to share in this kind of decision making. The following three principles will be important:


Key Learning Principles for Supervision


The final element of Keller’s model is concerned with assuring that the learning creates rewards, or satisfaction, for the person undertaking the effort of change. Satisfaction can include both the increased sense of mastery from successful adaptation and learning, as well as rewards given from external sources to reinforce the behavioral changes engaged in to learn.

Keller highlights three components of this part of his model.

S1 Intrinsic reinforcement
S2 Extrinsic rewards
S3 Equity

One of the key understandings of this part of the ARCS model is that satisfaction, like relevance, needs to be targeted to the unique individual to whom the learning process is directed. What is highly satisfying or rewarding to one person may have very little reward capacity for another person.

As we instruct others in the use of the ARCS model, this can be a very difficult concept for some people to grasp. As helping professionals, we are exposed early and often to the concepts of seeing others as unique individuals, with different motivations, needs, goals, values and purposes. Through experience, we become quite skilled at envisioning the experience of others.

For many people with whom we interact, this can be a novel and difficult concept to grasp. In utilizing this part of the ARCS model, too, a point of entry can be created for conversations about the advantages of using more flexible perspectives in interacting with people in learning environments. This is a useful lesson for supervisees who have more recently come to the field of mental health.

In addition to Keller’s own formulation of what is involved in each area of the ARCS model, there is also a more practical rendering of what to include for improved learning:






Understanding Adult Learners

It is important to remember that supervision is providing development to adult learners, who differ from youth learners in several important ways. Adult learners tend to be: 

This is in opposition to youth learners, who tend to be:



Supervision Styles

Just as supervisees are likely to have preferred styles of learning and interacting within the supervisory relationship, so too will supervisors have a preferred supervisory style. In a perfect world, the preferred supervisory style of the supervisor will ideally align with the supervisory style best suited to the needs of the supervisee. Below are the main ways to conceptualize a supervisory style, with discussion to follow:

(Source: Brown, S, Your Supervision Style, UC Davis 2011,


Other Categorizations of Supervision Styles

Pastoral Supervision                   High Support                        Low Structure

Contractual Supervision             High Support                        High Structure

Laissez Faire Supervision           Low Support                         Low Structure

Directorial Supervision                Low Support                         High Structure


(Source: Gatfield,T & Alpert, F, The Supervisory Management Styles Model, HERDSA, 2002,

Each of these different choices of supervision will have elements that will determine 1) the level of effort, organization, and support required of the supervisor and 2) the level of support, structure, and autonomy of the supervisee. Ideally, given the mission of clinical counseling supervision, the choice of supervisory style will be more focused on the developmental needs of the supervisee as opposed to the preferred style of the supervisor.

Like clinical work, clinical counseling supervision is an other-focused activity. In order to construct an effective learning context for the supervisee, supervisors should be prepared to analyze the degree of support and structure needed by the supervisee and alter the supervisory style based upon that analysis. A poor fit between the needs of the supervisee and the preferences or capabilities of the supervisor in terms of supervisory style can damage the clinical development of the supervisee to the point where advancement is made much more difficult. Clinical professionals should think carefully about whether they have the willingness to commit to that level of focus on the mission before they undertake the responsibility of providing supervision.


This completes the material from Module 1, Part 1. The next course in this series will provide a detailed overview of the Models and Approaches to Supervision.