"What is Triadic Supervision . . . and why?"


Field supervisors are very familiar with the California Board of Behavioral Science's (BBS) rules on trainee supervision. If the BBS were the only "rulebook" for us to follow, then life as a supervisor would be relatively simple. The fact that the Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling Program at Fresno State is accredited by the Counsel on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) complicates supervision practices. Accreditation also puts us in good company; we are one of only four (4) such accredited MFT programs in California, along with CSU Northridge, Sacramento State, and San Francisco State.

Meeting and maintaining our CACREP accreditation standards assures employers that our graduates have met rigorous additional standards designed to promote excellence in their field of practice. Accreditation also assures prospective students that certain training standards will be addressed at Fresno State that sets us apart from other institutions. Finally, counselor education students who are completing their doctorates around the country (and world) seek to be employed in CACREP accredited programs, as this is their assurance that rigorous training standards are regarded as important, and probably commensurate with their doctoral training standards.

While CACREP standards are sweeping and apply to all aspects of our program, the standards become quite apparent outside our hallowed halls where trainee field placements are concerned, including requiring some unique modifications in the supervision format and structure utilized in field settings. CACREP-related upgrades promote a higher standard of supervisorial contact than is required by the BBS, and it is essential that we "dovetail" BBS requirements and CACREP standards so trainees can count all of their field placement hours toward their California MFT license, issued by the BBS.

The change of mindset that may be most difficult for our field supervisors is the notion of "Triadic Supervision." Supervisors already know that the BBS limits the supervision structure to two formats, individual and group, and the term, triadic, is nowhere to be found in the California law pertaining to MFT training.

CACREP also limits the field supervision structure to two formats: individual and triadic. The individual format is quite straightforward: 1-"unit" of supervision = 1 supervisor with 1 supervisee for 1 60-minute hour, and is equivalent to the BBS requirement. Triadic, however, has become a challenge for MFT supervisors both on- and off-campus, and it is quite different from the BBS version of group supervision: 1-"unit" of supervision = 1 supervisor with no more than 8 supervisees for 2 60-minute hours.

One "unit" of Triadic Supervision is literally defined by CACREP as: 1 supervisor with 2 supervisees for 1 hour. As one can readily see, CACREP's definition of Triadic Supervision meets the requirements of NEITHER individual NOR group supervision as defined by the BBS.

This presents a problem on a variety of fronts for the university, our trainees, and the field settings where our students are placed. For the university, we may not be able to compete with the University of Phoenix and National University for field placements because they are only compelled to adhere to the BBS standards, which permits up to eight (8) trainees to be supervised at one time in a group setting. For our trainees, if they compete the rigorous CACREP-influenced academic program, but are then unable to find a placement within the community due to these extraordinary supervision requirements, they will begin to question the overall merits of a CACREP accredited education. And, should trainees find a placement that is "willing" to offer triadic supervision in accordance with the CACREP standard, the hours of supervision won't count for licensure because they don't meet the BBS standard for either individual or group supervision. Limitations for our supervisors might involve time and funding issues. Agencies may determine such a supervision format to be cost-prohibitive, thus, find our trainees unattractive to accept.

To resolve these issues, Fresno State has elected to extrapolate the CACREP formula so it meets both the intent of CACREP and the letter of California law. Our working formula for 1-"unit" of "Triadic Supervision" is: 1 supervisor with no more than 4 trainees for 2 60-minute hours. Simple math will affirm that the ratio of time-to-supervisees is clearly maintained using this formula, AND, it meets the BBS standard for "group supervision," albeit with a smaller maximum group size.


Updated: December 4, 2012

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Questions regarding this page can be sent via e-mail to H. Dan Smith at dans@mail.fresnostate.edu