Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 47(2), Apr 2016, 139-146.
Clinical supervision is essential to both the training of new psychologists and the viability of professional psychology. It is also a high-risk endeavor for clinical supervisors because of regulations in many states that impose a strict liability standard on supervisors for supervisees’ conduct. Applied in the context of tort law, the concept of strict liability makes supervisors responsible for supervisees’ actions without having to establish that a given supervisor was negligent or careless. Consequently, in jurisdictions where the strict liability standard is used, it is virtually inevitable that clinical supervisors will be named in civil suits over a supervisee’s actions regardless of whether a supervisor has been appropriately conscientious. In cases of supervisee misconduct, regulations in 27 of 51 jurisdictions (the 50 states plus the District of Columbia) generally hold clinical supervisors fully responsible for supervisees’ actions in a professional realm regardless of the nature of the supervisees’ misbehavior. Some examples are provided of language from these state regulations. The implications of this current reality are discussed. Altering the regulatory approach to clinical supervision is explored to reduce risk to clinical supervisors that is beyond their reasonable control. Recommendations for conducting clinical supervision and corresponding risk-management practices are suggested to assist clinicians in protecting themselves if practicing in a jurisdiction that uses the strict liability standard in regulations governing clinical supervision.
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