Reflective Supervision/Consultation

As we begin the Endorsement process in Oregon there are very few Endorsed® professionals who can provide Reflective Supervision/Consultation (RSC) for those working with very young children and their families throughout the state. While Oregon builds the state’s IMH Endorsement Network of professionals, we are temporarily accepting applications from professionals whose Reflective Supervisors/Consultants have not been endorsed.

Vetting can happen in two ways:

  • An Applicant applies for Endorsement and lists their supervision as part of their portfolio.  The Endorsement Coordinator will then contact the supervisor, send the supervisor the “Best Practices for Reflective Supervision/Consultation Document, the interview questions and schedule an interview.

  • A supervisor can contact the Endorsement Coordinator and ask to be vetted.  The supervisor will submit a resume.  The Endorsement Coordinator will send the supervisor the “Best Practices for Reflective Supervision/Consultation Document, the interview questions and schedule an interview.​

Supervisors/consultants must demonstrate minimum educational and work experience required to meet IMH Endorsement® standards at the approved level. (See the table below.) Reflective Supervision/Consultation (RSC) hours provided by those that ORIMHA has determined are qualified can be used toward an endorsement application.  The ORIMHA will maintain a list of vetted and Endorsed professionals on web site for use by members to assist in finding reflective supervision.  Vetting will be valid for up to five years.

Reflective Supervision Vetting During Capacity Building in Oregon

Requirements for Reflective Supervision/Consultation

Reflective Supervisor/Consultant Qualifications

The vetting process for non-endorsed reflective supervisors/consultants includes an examination of the supervisor’s resume and a phone interview to confirm that the supervisor/consultant has:


  • Earned a Masters degree.

  • Conducted the equivalent of IFS or IMHS work for two or more years.

  • Received RS/C from an experienced mental health professional while doing that work.

  • Had training in the provision of RSC, or a plan to obtain training.

  • Met the RSC Competencies (listed below).


Reflective Supervisor/Consultant Competencies

  • Knowledgeable about early development (pregnancy-delivery and first 3 years of life), typical and atypical development and in multiple domains.

  • Understands attachment theory and the importance of early relationships.

  • Understands families, their importance to each child’s development, their differences, cultural norms and values.

  • Knows developmental competence and psychopathology, and identification of strengths and risks.

  • Knows situations specific to risk (such as prematurity, birth of a baby with special needs, child abuse, etc.)

  • Familiar with assessment approaches and tools.

  • Knowledgeable about service and intervention models and techniques.

  • Understands relationship-based services.

  • Understands reflective practice.

  • Has the ability to develop trusting relationships with the practitioner.

  • Has the ability to model and encourage nurturing behavior and provide meaningful support, and enhance competency and self-worth.


Applicants are encouraged to contact ORIMHA’s Endorsement Coordinator at with questions and help developing a plan to document your supervisor’s/consultant’s IMH Competencies.

Best Practice for Reflective Supervision/Consultation Guidelines

Purpose of Guidelines:

  1. To emphasize the importance of reflective supervision and consultation for best practice,

  2. To better assure that those providing reflective supervision and consultation are appropriately trained.


For the purposes of this document, reflective supervision/consultation refers specifically to work done in the infant/family field on behalf of the infant/toddler’s primary care-giving relationships.

Distinguishing Between Administrative Supervision, Clinical Supervision and Reflective Supervision/Consultation:

Supervisors of infant and family programs are generally required to provide administrative and/or clinical supervision, while reflective supervision may be optional.  Put another way, reflective supervision/consultation often includes administrative elements and is always clinical, while administrative supervision is generally not reflective and clinical supervision is not always reflective.


Administrative Supervision:

Concerned with oversight of federal, state and agency regulations, program policies, rules and procedures.  Supervision that is primarily administrative will involve the following content:


  • Hire

  • Train/educate

  • Oversee paperwork

  • Write reports

  • Explain rules and policies

  • Coordinate

  • Monitor productivity

  • Evaluate


Clinical Supervision/Consultation:

Clinical supervision/consultation is case-focused but does not necessarily consider what the practitioner brings to the intervention nor does it necessarily encourage the exploration of emotion as it relates to work with an infant/toddler and family.

Supervision or consultation that is primarily clinical will most likely include many or all of the administrative content that are listed above, as well as the following:


  • Review casework

  • Discuss the diagnostic impressions and diagnosis

  • Discuss intervention strategies related to the intervention

  • Review the intervention or treatment plan

  • Review and evaluate clinical progress

  • Give guidance/advice

  • Teach


Reflective Supervision/Consultation:

Reflective supervision/consultation goes beyond clinical supervision to a shared exploration of the parallel process, i.e., attention to all of the relationships, including that between practitioner and parent, between parent and infant/toddler, and between practitioner and supervisor.  It is critical to understand how each of these relationships affects the others.

Of additional importance, by attending to the emotional content of the work and how reactions to the content affect the work, reflective supervision/consultation relates to professional and personal development within one’s discipline.  Finally, there is often greater emphasis on the supervisor/consultant’s ability to listen and wait, allowing the supervisee to discover solutions, concepts and perceptions on his/her own without interruption from the supervisor/consultant.

The components of reflective supervision/consultation include:


  • Form a trusting relationship between the supervisor and practitioner

  • Establish consistent and predictable meetings and times

  • Ask questions that encourage details about the infant, parent and emerging relationship

  • Listen

  • Remain emotionally present

  • Teach/guide

  • Nurture/support

  • Integrate emotion and reason

  • Foster the reflective process to be internalized by the supervisee

  • Explore the parallel process and allow time for personal reflection

  • Attend to how reactions to the content affect the reflective process


Reflective supervision/consultation may be carried out individually or within a group.  It may be the responsibility of the agency/program supervisor or a reflective supervisor/consultant may be contracted from outside the agency or program.


  • If the supervisor or consultant is contracted from outside the agency program, he or she will engage in reflective and clinical discussion, but will discuss administrative content only when it is clearly indicated in the contract.


  • If the reflective supervisor operates within the agency or program, then he/she will most likely need to address reflective, clinical and administrative content.  When discussions related to disciplinary action need to occur, it is the direct supervisor who addresses them.  When the direct supervisor is also the one who provides reflective supervision, it is preferable to schedule a meeting separate from the reflective supervision time; however, some supervisors choose to address disciplinary concerns during the individual clinician’s regular reflective supervision meeting.  Disciplinary action should never occur within a group supervisory/consultation session.


In all instances, the reflective supervisor/consultant is expected to set limits that are clear, firm and fair, to work collaboratively, and to interact and respond respectfully.

In sum, it is important to remember that relationship is the foundation for reflective supervision and consultation.  All growth and discovery about the work and oneself takes place within the context of this trusting relationship. To the extent that the supervisor or consultant and supervisee(s) or consultee(s) are able to establish a secure relationship, the capacity to be reflective will flourish.


“When it’s going well, supervision is a holding environment, a place to feel secure enough to expose insecurities, mistakes, questions and differences.”  Rebecca Shahmoon Shanock (1992).


Reflective supervision is “the place to understand the meaning of your work with a family and the meaning and impact of your relationship with the family.”  Jeree Pawl, public address.


“Do unto others as you would have others do unto others.”  Jeree Pawl (1998).


Best Practice Guidelines for the Reflective Supervisor/Consultant 


  • Agree on a regular time and place to meet

  • Arrive on time

  • Protect against interruptions, e.g. turn off phone, close door

  • Set the agenda together with the supervisee(s) before you begin

  • Remain open, curious and emotionally available

  • Respect supervisee’s pace/readiness to learn

  • Ally with supervisee’s strengths, offering reassurance and praise, as appropriate

  • Observe and listen carefully

  • Strengthen supervisee’s observation and listening skills

  • Suspend harsh or critical judgment

  • Invite the sharing of details about a particular situation, infant, toddler, parent, their competencies, behaviors, interactions, strengths, concerns

  • Listen for the emotional experiences that the supervisee is describing when discussing the case or response to the work, e.g. anger, impatience, sorrow, confusion, etc.

  • Respond with appropriate empathy

  • Invite supervisee to have and talk about feelings awakened in the presence of an infant or very young child and parent(s)

  • Wonder about, name and respond to those feelings with appropriate empathy

  • As the supervisee appears ready or able, encourage exploration of thoughts and feelings that the supervisee has about the work with very young children and families as well as about one’s response(s) to the work

  • Encourage exploration of thoughts and feelings that the supervisee has about the experience of supervision as well as how that experience might influence his/her work with infants/toddlers and their families or his/her choices in developing relationships.

  • Maintain a shared balance of attention on infant/toddler, parent/caregiver and supervisee

  • Reflect on supervision/consultation session in preparation for the next meeting

  • Remain available throughout the week if there is a crisis or concern that needs immediate attention


Best Practice Guidelines for the Reflective Supervisee/Consultee:


  • Agree with the supervisor or consultant on a regular time and place to meet

  • Arrive on time and remain open and emotionally available

  • Come prepared to share the details of a particular situation, home visit, assessment, experience or dilemma

  • Ask questions that allow you to think more deeply about your work with very young children and families and also yourself

  • Be aware of the feelings that you have in response to your work and in the presence of an infant or very young child and parent(s)

  • When you are able, share those feelings with your supervisor/consultant

  • Explore the relationship of your feelings to the work you are doing

  • Allow your supervisor/consultant to support you

  • Remain curious

  • Suspend critical or harsh judgment of yourself and of others

  • Reflect on the supervision/consultation session to enhance professional practice and personal growth


Reflective Supervision/Consultation for Endorsement Applicants:

Applicants for Endorsement at Infant Family Specialist should seek reflective supervision/consultation from someone who is Endorsed at Infant Mental Health Specialist or Infant Mental Health Mentor.


Exception to this general rule: A bachelor’s prepared Infant Family Specialist applicant may seek reflective supervision/consultation from a master’s prepared person who has earned Infant Family Specialist endorsement if there is no one at Infant Mental Health Specialist available to provide this, and if the master’s prepared Infant Family Specialist professional seeks reflective supervision/consultation while providing supervision to others.


Applicants for Endorsement at Infant Mental Health Specialist are expected to seek reflective supervision/consultation from someone who has earned Endorsement at Infant Mental Health Specialist or Infant Mental Health Mentor (Clinical).


Applicants for Endorsement at Infant Mental Health Mentor are expected to seek reflective supervision/consultation from someone who has earned Endorsement at Infant Mental Health Mentor (Clinical)

MI-AIMH recommends that those who provide reflective supervision/consultation to others seek individual or group supervision/consultation from a person who has earned endorsement at Infant Mental Health Mentor (Clinical).  This supervision should be reflective, regularly scheduled and offer a focus on the complexity of supervising others who provide relationship-based services to infants, toddlers and their families.


Reflective supervisors/consultants who have not earned endorsement or cannot meet the standards as defined in the guidelines above are invited to contact the ORIMHA Endorsement Coordinator at to inquire about training and participation in reflective supervision or consultation groups (see below).

As in relationship-focused practice with families, reflective supervision/consultation is most effective when it occurs in the context of a relationship that has an opportunity to develop by meeting regularly with the same supervisor/consultant over a period of time.  Therefore, ORIMHA expects that endorsement applicants will have received the majority of the required hours from just one source with the balance coming from no more than one other source.


Building Capacity for Reflective Practice:

ORIMHA recognizes that in many regions there are few supervisors/consultants who meet the qualifications specified above.  If an endorsement applicant has difficulty finding supervision/consultation to promote or support the practice of infant mental health or if a program has difficulty finding someone to provide reflective supervision/consultation to guide and support staff who are applicants for endorsement, ORIMHA can be a resource.


ORIMHA invites endorsement applicants and supervisors/consultants to contact the ORIMHA Endorsement Coordinator at to assist in finding supervisors/consultants who are endorsed and available to work with them or to discuss the standards for best practice presented in this guide. Rapidly changing technology makes it possible to connect through the Internet, by telephone conference, or face to face.

Please note:  Peer supervision (defined as colleagues meeting together without an identified supervisor/consultant to guide the reflective process), while valuable for many experienced practitioners, does not meet the reflective supervision/consultation criteria for endorsement as specified in this guide.

References and Suggested Resources

Bernstein, V.  (2002-03).  Standing Firm Against the Forces of Risk:  Supporting Home Visiting and Early Intervention Workers through Reflective Supervision.  Newsletter of the Infant Mental Health Promotion Project (IMP).  Volume 35, Winter.


Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Services, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. (2000). Early childhood mental health consultation. Washington, DC: National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health, Georgetown University Child Development Center.


Fenichel, E. (Ed.).  (1992).  Learning Through Supervision and Mentorship to Support the Development of Infants, Toddlers and their Families: A Source Book.  Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three.


Bertacci, J. & Coplon, J. The professional use of self in prevention. 84-90.


Schafer, W. The professionalization of early motherhood, 67-75.  Shahmoon Shanock, R. (1992). The supervisory relationship: Integrator, resource and guide, 37-41.


Foulds, B. &  Curtiss, K. (2002). No Longer Risking Myself: Assisting the Supervisor Through Supportive Consultation.  In Shirilla, J. & Weatherston, D. (Eds.), Case Studies in Infant Mental Health: Risk, Resiliency, and Relationships.    Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three, 177-186.


Heffron, M.C. (2005).  Reflective Supervision in Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Work.  In  K. Finello (Ed.),  The Handbook of Training and Practice in Infant and Preschool Mental Health.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 114-136.

Reflective Supervision: What is it? (November, 2007).  Journal for Zero to Three, Vol. 28, No. 2.


Eggbeer, L., Mann, T. & Seibel, N. (2007). Reflective supervision: Past, present, and future.


Heffron, M., Grunstein, S. & Tiemon, S. (2007) Exploring diversity in supervision and practice.


Schafer, W. (2007). Models and domains of supervision and their relationship to professional development.

Weatherston, D. (2007) A home based infant mental health intervention: The centrality of relationship in reflective supervision.


Weigand, R. (2007) Reflective supervision in child care: The discoveries of an accidental tourist.


Wightman, B., Weigand, B., Whitaker, K., Traylor, D., Yeider, S. Hyden, V. (2007) Reflective practice and supervision in child abuse prevention.


Parlakian, R. (2002). Look, Listen, and Learn: Reflective Supervision and Relationship-Based Work.  Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three.


Pawl, J. & St. John, M. (1998).  How you are is as important as what you do.  In Making a Positive Difference for Infants, Toddlers and their Families.  Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three.


Shahmoon Shanok, R., Gilkerson, L., Eggbeer, L. & Fenichel, E. (1995).  Reflective Supervision: A Relationship for Learning. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three, 37-41



Additional Resources