Coaches’ Corner: Providing High-Quality Supervision

Coaches’ Corner: Providing High-Quality Supervision

The role of being a supervisor is a big one. Providing high-quality supervision is arguably one of the most important, time-intensive, and challenging aspects of being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  The rewards can be great, but the repercussions of providing below-average supervision can have a lasting impact on the supervisee as well as the client. Understanding the importance of supervision is a critical initial step to ensure that supervisees receive proper supervision. The realization that a supervision meeting is not merely a “meeting” to be checked off the list is a valuable starting point. Dr. Linda LeBlanc and colleagues detail several key purposes of supervision in their book Building and Sustaining Meaningful and Effective Relationships as a Supervisor and Mentor. A few of these purposes include increasing the clinical skills of the supervisee and expanding the supervisee’s professional and ethical repertoires. Another essential purpose of supervision is to teach problem-solving, decision making, case conceptualization, and assistance-seeking skills.  

Once a BCBA understands the importance of supervision and can identify the purposes of supervision, they are ready to start engaging in high-quality supervisory practices. One component of these practices is engaging in meaningful Behavior Skills Training (BST). BST includes both vocal and written descriptions of a skill, modeling the skill, opportunities for the supervisee to practice the skill, and providing feedback and coaching to the supervisee based on their performance of the skill. These steps continue until the skill reaches mastery criteria. Another critical component of high-quality supervision is reinforcing the behavior of the supervisee. BCBAs should engage in conversations with their supervisees about preferred reinforcers and use those selected reinforcers to reinforce performance approximations to effectively build skills.  

A great supervisor also provides resources to their supervisees on how to execute the job more effectively and efficiently. These resources may include non-behavior analytic content on establishing collaborative relationships, interpersonal skills, perspective-taking, and self-management strategies. Supervisors should also work to find meaningful growth opportunities for their supervisees. Ongoing assessment of the supervisee’s skills and mutually creating a plan for growth are additional tips for supervision success.  

Being a supervisor is hard work! There are a variety of tasks to conceptualize, implement, assess, and revise with each supervisee. Consistently providing high-quality supervision can be exhausting at times, but the payoff of all the time and effort is huge. Knowing that you’ve helped shape the behavior of a future BCBA who will go into the world to do great things with ABA is invaluable. The results of high-quality supervision are also bidirectional in nature. The supervisee obviously benefits, but if done correctly, the supervisor should also benefit from the experience. The supervisor should be able to build more effective communication skills, drive stronger professionalism, contribute to the field, and have a richer understanding of ABA concepts and principles. The supervisor should also gain a meaningful and lasting relationship that they worked so very hard to build.  



LeBlanc, L. A., Sellers, T. P., Ala’i, S. (2020). Building and Sustaining Meaningful and Effective Relationships as a Supervisor and Mentor. Sloan Publishing.