A variety of definitions for clinical supervision exist. Differences typically reflect aspects of the author’s discipline and training focus. Bernard and Goodyear (1998) offer this definition that has come to be accepted within the counseling profession:
Supervision is an intervention that is provided by a senior member of a profession to a junior member or members of that same profession. This relationship is evaluative, extends over time, and has the simultaneous purposes of enhancing the professional functioning of the junior member(s), monitoring the quality of professional services offered to the clients she, he, or they see(s), and serving as a gatekeeper of those who are to enter the particular profession.

Within the definition, there is mention of several components of supervision:

Supervision is an intervention

There are unique competencies and skills involved in supervision that allow the supervisor to help the supervisee. Models of supervision exist that provide a framework for the process. In addition, supervisors incorporate various modes and interventions to facilitate supervisee development.
Awareness of these models, modes, and interventions will help the supervisee understand the underlying processes of supervision and therefore, be a more active participant in the supervision process. A dialogue can develop between supervisor and supervisee as a means to share personal styles and preferences for frameworks and interventions to be used in supervision.

Supervision is provided by a senior member of a profession

A clinical supervisor is more advanced, at least in some important ways, than the supervisee. During fieldwork experiences, supervisors typically include a course instructor and an individual clinical supervisor. Depending on the level of the fieldwork experience and the program, the clinical instructor may be the course instructor or other professor from the training program, a doctoral student from the training program, and/or a professional counselor affiliated with the site at which the student is engaged in the fieldwork experience.

It is important that the supervisee understand the roles and expectations of each supervisor.

Supervision is a relationship that extends over time

The process of supervision occurs within the relationship established between the supervisor and supervisee. It is important to keep in mind that both the supervisor and supervisee contribute to the relationship and have responsibilities within the process. As assumption of supervision is that it will last long enough for some developmental progress of the supervisee. Supervision is differentiated from brief interactions (such as workshops), and consultation that, by definition, is time and session limited, although all of these interactions share common goals (e.g., training in a skill, clarification of process, regaining objectivity). The fact that supervision is ongoing allows for the relationship to grow and develop. The importance of the supervisory relationship has received much attention in supervision literature.

While not the sole determinate of the quality of supervision, the quality of the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee can add or detract from the experience. It is important that the “relationship” aspect of supervision not be overlooked or neglected.

The supervisor evaluates, monitors, and serves as a gatekeeper

In addition to enhancing the professional functioning of counselors, supervisors have an ethical and legal responsibility to monitor the quality of care that is being delivered to the supervisee’s clients. In order to enhance the professional functioning of the supervisee and assure quality of care, the supervisor constantly monitors and provides feedback regarding supervisee performance. This formative evaluation forms the basis of the work done in supervision. The supervisor also serves as a gatekeeper for those who want to enter the counseling profession. The supervisor is charged to evaluate the counselor based on work done with current clients, and to assess potential for working with future clients. As part of this role, supervisors formally evaluate supervisees. These summative evaluations occur after there has been enough supervision to expect a certain degree of competence. For example, during fieldwork experiences, summative evaluations typically occur at the midpoint and end of semesters.

Evaluation is a crucial aspect of the supervision process, and one that is often the source of discomfort for both the supervisor and supervisee.