17 MARCH 2010
By its very nature, residential treatment is a dissonance-producing experience for both counselors and supervisors. Most residential counselor positions are entry level, and frequently they represent a young person's first professional role. Few starting positions require the intensity of spending many hours daily with disturbed children in intimate conditions that is inherent in the role of the residential counselor. It is the job of the residential supervisor to provide guidance and support to the residential counselors while at the same time maintaining clinical oversight and performing a variety of administrative functions within the program. Commonly selected for their success in direct care, residential supervisors often enter the position without adequate preparation to effectively handle this more complex role. The personal integration needed by a residential supervisor to manage the unpredictable, to be emotionally available for genuine empathic intervention, and to be able to respond differentially yet appropriately to individual needs is a function of the higher stages of cognitive complexity. According to Sprinthall (1994),
if the task at hand involves complex human relationship skills such as accurate empathy, the ability to read and flex, to select the appropriate model from the professional repertoire, then higher order psychological maturity across moral, ego and conceptual development is clearly prerequisite (p. 96)....
...Without an adequate cognitive framework to address clinical and ethical concerns, supervisors and, consequently, counselors and clients are likely to experience negative and miseducative results. On the other hand, supervisors who are capable of coping with ethical conflict, joining effectively with beginning counselors, taking multiple perspectives in addressing complex human interactions, and modeling the skills needed in therapeutic intervention are more likely to create a community of trust, collaboration, support and growth in the treatment milieu. Such a community is, in turn, more likely to facilitate the growth and empowerment of residential counselors who are better able to author a personal commitment to helping children.
VICTORIA J. FOSTER AND CHARLES A. MCADAMS
Foster, V.J. and McAdams, C.A. (1998). Supervising the
Child Care Counselor: A Cognitive Developmental Model. Child and
Youth Care Forum, 27, 1. pp. 16-17.
Sprinthall, N.A. (1994). Counseling and role taking: Promoting moral and ego development. In J. Rest and D. Narvaez (Eds.). Moral Development in the Professions: Psychology and Applied Ethics. pp. (85-99). Erlbaum Associates. Hillsadale, NJ.