Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year's Challenge

Today I’m linking up with the Frenzied SLPs to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. Later this month, I will be taking on a graduate intern for 9-10 weeks. My resolution is to try to be the best supervisor and mentor that I can be. Here are my thoughts on that role.

1.   I will remember what it was like! It has been more than 30 years since I was an intern. Yes, that was a LONG time ago, but believe me, I remember it. Interns have worked very hard to get to this point. As the clinical supervisor, I am in a position to assist the intern in gaining training and confidence assessing and treating various speech and language difficulties (not to mention all of the other duties). It is important to get to know my intern and, in this case, we already know each other. Like me, she has a life outside of the work setting. From a broader perspective, an intern may have a spouse and children. They may even have to work an extra job to make ends meet, since most internships are not paid positions. Those are important considerations to keep in mind.

2.  I will be THERE for the student intern. Am I up for the challenge? To do this right, it takes a lot of time and energy-especially during the first few weeks. Obviously, one must be present physically, but it is equally important to be there emotionally and cognitively as well. I have agreed to take on an intern, and I owe this to her!

3.  Am I a mentor or supervisor? Or both? There is a delicate balance between these roles. Ideally, I will begin mostly as a supervisor and finish mostly as a mentor. Actually, I try to combine both to some extent from the beginning. I want my student to feel comfortable asking questions, trying things that may or may not work, etc. This is THE time for the student to make mistakes, which leads me to the last point.

4.  A few words about criticism. How do you provide constructive feedback or criticism? I like the term feedback better than criticism. Criticism has a negative connotation. Establishing good rapport at the beginning of the internship will pave the way for constructive feedback. Getting to know the student makes all the difference. I want students/CFs to trust me enough to make mistakes knowing I will be there to help them analyze what went wrong in a positive manner using non-judgmental  feedback. That is the best environment for learning, in my opinion. Of course, I will also be the first one to recognize and describe successes as well!

Ultimately, the goal for the intern is to feel confident about assuming the full-time duties of the SLP. In my opinion, it is also important for the intern to know that the supervisor is there for them after they leave the internship. Remember, that intern may someday become your colleague. I speak from first-hand experience! 


  1. You are so conscientious and'll do great! Any intern would be lucky to have you as a supervisor!

  2. THANK YOU for this post! After having a couple "less than stellar" interns, I've decided to try it again this semester (after I swore I'd never do it again!). I do think it's our responsibility to give back, so I'm going to take some time and get things on paper for her and re-evaluate my role.

  3. Love #3 and #4! I've supervised my share of graduate students and I've grown to appreciate what each has to share individually, often times that means being a mentor, not just a supervisor! Feedback is very hard for me to give, but in the end when given promotes growth!!

  4. I was lucky enough to have two amazing, supportive, inspiring supervisors for externships during graduate school. I will be grateful to them for the rest of my life. I give you huge credit for taking on an intern! It is a lot of work, but you can truly make a difference in their whole outlook on the career!

  5. You are such a thoughtful mentor - your interns are lucky! It is a balance of how to provide growth lessons, and I always end up learning from my grad students and CFs, also.
    All Y’all Need

  6. What a thoughtful post! I think your intern will be lucky to have you! ~Linda

  7. It sounds like you were meant to supervise! Your intern will be lucky, indeed!