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Workplace-based clinical supervision as an implementation strategy to support evidence-based treatment (EBT) in public mental health has received limited research attention. A commonly provided infrastructure support, it may offer a relatively cost-neutral implementation strategy for organizations. However, research has not objectively examined workplace-based supervision of EBT and specifically how it might differ from EBT supervision provided in efficacy and effectiveness trials.
Data come from a descriptive study of supervision in the context of a state-funded EBT implementation effort. Verbal interactions from audio recordings of 438 supervision sessions between 28 supervisors and 70 clinicians from 17 public mental health organizations (in 23 offices) were objectively coded for presence and intensity coverage of 29 supervision strategies (16 content and 13 technique items), duration, and temporal focus. Random effects mixed models estimated proportion of variance in content and techniques attributable to the supervisor and clinician levels.
Interrater reliability among coders was excellent. EBT cases averaged 12.4 min of supervision per session. Intensity of coverage for EBT content varied, with some discussed frequently at medium or high intensity (exposure) and others infrequently discussed or discussed only at low intensity (behavior management; assigning/reviewing client homework). Other than fidelity assessment, supervision techniques common in treatment trials (e.g., reviewing actual practice, behavioral rehearsal) were used rarely or primarily at low intensity. In general, EBT content clustered more at the clinician level; different techniques clustered at either the clinician or supervisor level.
Workplace-based clinical supervision may be a feasible implementation strategy for supporting EBT implementation, yet it differs from supervision in treatment trials. Time allotted per case is limited, compressing time for EBT coverage. Techniques that involve observation of clinician skills are rarely used. Workplace-based supervision content appears to be tailored to individual clinicians and driven to some degree by the individual supervisor. Our findings point to areas for intervention to enhance the potential of workplace-based supervision for implementation effectiveness.
NCT01800266, Clinical Trials, Retrospectively Registered (for this descriptive study; registration prior to any intervention [part of phase II RCT, this manuscript is only phase I descriptive results])