Research into Supervision

Lawson, C., 2000. Research into Supervision. Reformulation, ACAT News Spring, p.x.


As a psychologist, I have been a supervisor of other psychologists and counsellors for some twelve years. It is an area that interests me since it is a relationship that can be influential or even inspirational. From my experience of being supervised the learning can be a process marked with great excitement. Of course being a supervisor is a complex role which is why I both enjoy it and want to research the process. It's such a mixture of personal and professional.

My particular interest is the supervisory relationship since I think the experience of supervision hinges on this . The supervisory relationship has been viewed as a supervisory alliance, a model taken from the psychotherapy research literature. The alliance has three constituent parts; bond, goals and tasks. In my view the bond is the significant part and that what my research is investigating.

I could have looked at it from an attachment perspective but as a CAT therapist I like the way CAT looks at relationships. So I am doing a qualitative study looking at helpfulness in supervision.

The central question to the research is what is happening in the relationship when the trainee experiences a helpful or unhelpful event in supervision. These experiences are identified by the trainees by filling in forms at the end of the supervision session. The supervision sessions are audio-taped and the 'event' will be identified from the session dialogue. Depending on the collection of data, identification of 'events', and the analysis of this information, I will then be asking the trainees to discuss their experience of a particular event and what made it helpful or unhelpful. The analysis is in the form of template analysis as used in comprehensive process analysis. This, again, is developed from the psychotherapy research literature.

The process of doing research so far has been an interesting one. It is the first time I have done qualitative research, which intuitively feels more interesting than the complexities of number crunching. That is my bias. I recognise that its status amongst psychologists means that for some, the methodologies are still suspect, but it allows me to address questions that would be unanswerable with quantitative research. It has to be said that there are many difficulties with empirical research in the area of supervision. Although many people have a great deal to say about supervision there has not been a great deal of research. Much of the research has been quite technical, looking at professional roles or how good supervisors use tapes or what information is not disclosed by trainees in supervision. More recently several authors have suggested that there is a need to look at the more personal aspects of supervision, so my project feels quite timely.

Carolyn Lawson

Full Reference

Lawson, C., 2000. Research into Supervision. Reformulation, ACAT News Spring, p.x.

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