Community of Practice for BSAS Clinical Supervisors - a Spring, 2024 pilot project

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In Spring of 2024, the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS)  piloted an 8-week Community of Practice for individuals providing clinical supervision at BSAS-supported Co-Occurring Capable* programs. For one hour per week 12 participants, two from each BSAS region, met over Zoom for a conversation moderated by a facilitator.

During a time of growing awareness of stress on providers due to rising acuity levels of both mental health and substance use disorders coupled with ongoing workforce issues around recruitment and retention of staff, this Community of Practice provided much needed peer support, encouragement, an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to nagging workforce dilemmas, and shared resources. Participants reported that the pilot successfully addressed their needs, and planning is underway for this first cohort to continue their work together while enrolling a new cohort in a second Community of Practice.

A recurring theme throughout the community was that in traditional agency workforce structures there is only one Clinical Director, so the person in that challenging role is without peers with whom to share the toll and stress of responsibility for the clinical functioning of a program.

“I really appreciated hearing from everyone – since as Clinical Director I have no peers in my agency.”

“I meet regularly with the CEO and Board of my agency, but other than that have no one at my agency to collaborate with.”

“I really liked the [Community of Practice], the support & feedback, & it was validating that others experience the same challenges in their work.”

Maggie Giles, MTS MA PhD, facilitated the Community of Practice (CoP), which included an overview session describing the model and learning goals, followed by 7 weekly sessions on a range of topics. After each session, participants received a session recap with prompts to provide a brief reflection that they emailed to Dr. Giles. The following session was then based on themes that came up in participants’ reflection responses.

Themes that formed the centerpiece of weekly conversations included:

  • The rising acuity level of both of mental health disorders and substance use disorders for clients in their programs
  • Addressing client relapse in a strength-based way (incorporation of some harm reduction frameworks even though programs had abstinence from substance policies)
  • Recruitment and retention of staff
  • Providing both administrative and clinical supervision to staff
  • Low staff moral
  • Resources for running groups

Participants used meeting times to brainstorm responses to the challenges identified and share resources. Challenges experienced by one Clinical Director had often been experienced by others.

Examples of resources shared:

  • Recovery Renewal Contract
  • Group curriculum
  • Ice breakers and activities for groups
  • Vignettes to role play clinical issues with staff
  • Good Neighbor agreements
  • Training opportunities for staff
  • Job descriptions for program positions
  • Integrating medications and the Med Specialist position
  • Intake protocols

“[E]very week I have stars on my notes to highlight different phrases or pieces of something people said.”

“I’m really grateful because this is my first time in a leadership role and I’m still learning.”

The inaugural BSAS Community of Practice for Clinical Supervisors was certainly a success. All members of the cohort reported that the time spent was beneficial, and would welcome an opportunity to continue to meet, so plans are underway to keep the conversation going.

I think that talking with other providers in a similar situation was great, and I would love to continue to do this.”

“This has been such a rewarding experience.”

“I feel the benefits of the community of practice was to provide support and validation to other supervisors in the field along with sharing resources and ideas on how to tackle some of the challenges we all experience in this role. I think it was helpful to have this support from those outside your own agency as it helps offer unbiased feedback and fresh perspectives/ideas…I really enjoyed this experience and getting to meet everyone. Maggie did a wonderful job facilitating the discussion every week.”

Given the success of the pilot, planning is underway for expanded training for Clinical Supervisors, opportunities for this first cohort to remain engaged in an ongoing community, and opportunities for new cohorts to create their own communities. Stay tuned!


*Co-occurring-capable (COC) programs are SUD treatment programs that mainly focus on SUDs but can also treat patients with subthreshold or diagnosable but stable mental disorders (Mee-Lee et al., 2013). These programs may offer mental health services onsite or by referral. COC programs in mental health focus mainly on mental disorders but can treat patients with subthreshold or diagnosable but stable SUDs (Mee-Lee et al., 2013). COC programs have addiction counselors onsite or available through referral.