What effect does the director’s behavior have on staff? On clients?

Supervision in Crisis Counseling

Kurt, a recent graduate of a counseling program, has a job in an agency that provides services to low-income individuals, couples, and families. State budget cuts and an economic downturn have increased the client load beyond capacity. Kurt is pursuing his LPC credentials and receives supervision from an approved counselor outside of his agency. This arrangement has proven to be a good thing because the director of his agency is too stressed and overwhelmed to provide supervision. Everyone at the agency is overwhelmed.

Although Kurt is thankful for all the client contact hours he is receiving, he is beginning to wonder how he will maintain his current pace. He keeps up with all of his case notes but has noticed that some of the other counselors put off doing case notes and paperwork and that they seem cynical about their clients. He feels like he is barely keeping his head above water and that the job is very hard on him. His LPC supervisor has expressed concern about his caseload and the effect it might have on him and his ability to provide appropriate care, but Kurt has assured her that he’s doing fine.

A major stressor at the agency has been the behavior of the director. While at times the director is jovial and supportive, he sometimes flies off the handle for no reason and becomes enraged. Kurt has not been on the receiving end of these rages yet, but everyone on the staff seems to walk on eggshells and dreads that they will be the next target. They are all thankful for those days when the director is in a good mood, but as time passes the staff is beginning to sense that the director is becoming increasingly stressed, and they dread the inevitable outbursts of rage.

Kurt has not addressed the director’s behavior with his LPC supervisor. He doesn’t want her to think poorly of the director, and he also wonders if maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. One day the director is in a particularly bad mood, and the staff is tense and nervous. Kurt hears the director screaming at the receptionist and calling her names in front of a waiting room full of clients. That evening, Kurt comes clean with his supervisor about how bad things are at the agency. His supervisor says, “What you’re describing is the cycle of abuse.” Kurt is stunned and realizes that the entire staff at the agency has been caught up in an abuse cycle.

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Kurt has avoided telling his supervisor the truth about his workplace?

2. Do you believe the director is impaired? Is client care at risk?

3. What effect does the director’s behavior have on staff? On clients?

4. What, if anything, should the supervisor do with this information?

5. What should Kurt do?

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