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Effective Supervisor Qualities

Peggy Swarbrick Ph.D., FAOTA, Research Professor, Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology and Associate Director of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies; Director, Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey Wellness Institute

Over the years I have talked to many peer support specialists who have shared some of the positive qualities they identified that helped them to perform their role and continue to feel excited and energized in their work. The following are characteristics that have been identified by peer support specialists. Along with these qualities I have outlined a supervisor reflective checklist. This tool may be useful to use in one’s own supervision or to set personal growth goals.

Reflective Checklist for Supervisors

Empathy: Empathy allows supervisors to understand and connect with peer support specialists on an emotional level, fostering trust and rapport.

Reflective Checklist:

  • Do I actively listen to peer support specialists’ concerns and validate their feelings?
  • Do I offer a safe and non-judgmental way for peer support specialists to share their personal story?
  • Am I able to put myself in their shoes and understand their perspective?
  • Do I respond with compassion and understanding during challenging situations? 

Respect: Respect is fundamental in any professional relationship, promoting a positive work environment and mutual appreciation.

Reflective Checklist:

  • Do I treat peer support specialists with dignity and courtesy?
  • Do I try to stay aware of my own bias and assumptions?
  • Am I open to their opinions and contributions?
  • Do I create an atmosphere of mutual respect where everyone’s voice is heard?

Genuineness: Being genuine allows supervisors to build authenticity and trust with their supervisees, leading to open communication and collaboration.

Reflective Checklist:

  • Am I sincere and authentic in my interactions with supervisees?
  • Do I show vulnerability when appropriate, fostering a sense of shared experience?
  • Are my actions and words aligned, promoting transparency and trustworthiness?
  • Do I stay empathetic to what peer support specialists are conveying?


Importance: Being concrete provides clarity and direction, ensuring that expectations and goals are clearly understood.

Reflective Checklist:

Are my instructions and feedback specific and actionable?

  • Do I provide clear guidance on expectations and objectives?
  • Do I use different methods for conveying information to accommodate different learning styles?
  • Am I able to offer tangible examples to illustrate my points effectively?
  • Is my feedback honest and direct?

Self-Disclosure: Appropriately sharing personal experiences can foster rapport and understanding.

Reflective Checklist:

  • Is my sharing genuine and not just for the purpose of trying to duplicate the peer role?
  • Do I share personal experiences in a way that is relevant and beneficial to peer support specialists?
  • Am I mindful of boundaries, potential triggers, and avoiding oversharing?
  • Do I use self-disclosure to build rapport and trust without making the focus about myself?


  • Do I consistently schedule and maintain regular supervision sessions with peer support specialists?
  • Am I approachable and accessible for peer support specialists to discuss their issues or concerns? (Do I have an “open door” policy” that offers access as needed?)
  • Do I make intentional efforts to communicate and check in with peer support specialists regularly?

Respect and Support:

  • Do I provide regular encouragement and recognition for peer support specialists’ achievements?
  • Am I mindful of challenges peer support specialists face and express appreciation for their efforts?
  • Do I actively support peer support specialists professional development goals and aspirations?
  • Do I have the resources to offer support to peer support specialists as needed?

Promoting Staff Development:

  • Do I provide constructive feedback that helps peer support specialists grow and improve?
  • Am I proactive in identifying opportunities for peer support specialists to enhance their skills and knowledge?
  • Am I able to give time for peer support specialists to engage in continuing education opportunities?
  • Do I demonstrate confidence in peer support specialists’ abilities and encourage them to take on new challenges?

By regularly reflecting on these characteristics and feedback from peer support specialists supervisors can continually enhance their effectiveness in supporting and developing their supervisees.