Although there is ample literature and research on clinical supervision in the field of mental health in general, there is a dearth of research exploring effective supervision from the point of view of the supervisee. Moreover, few studies on supervision are based on empirical research, and even fewer are both empirical and focused on capturing the supervisee’s perspective. It is widely assumed by policy-makers, educators, and practitioners that supervision is a good thing, and understanding how supervisees perceive the supervisory relationship may help promote effective supervision. But does the available research, specifically that which expresses the voice of the supervisee, support this assumption about effective supervision?
We conducted a systematic review of databases to locate the most recent empirical literature focusing on effective supervision from the perspective of supervisees. In particular, we were curious to find out more about (1) the experiences of supervisees in supervision; and (2) supervision outcomes based on supervisees’ perceptions of the working alliance with their supervisor. Boolean operations of supervisee AND (clinical supervision* OR supervision* supervisory relationship* OR analytic training* OR psychotherapy* OR parallel process) OR effective clinical supervision AND (supervisee perspective OR supervisees’ perceptions OR supervisees’ experiences) were used to identify relevant articles in the identified databases.
The databases were selected based on previous literature reviews on clinical supervision. EBSCOhost was used to search Academic Search Premier, CINAHL, Medline, PsychInfo, Professional Development Collection, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, Social Work Abstracts, and SocioIndex.
The results of the database searches were downloaded into Zotero version 4.0.20 and duplicates were removed, yielding 167 studies for preliminary review. Of the 167 studies reviewed for relevance based on the title and abstract content, Examination of the studies’ text confirmed 17 applicable studies and nine ineligible studies based on the inclusion criteria.
Based on our review, we grouped the data into three categories related to effective supervision. (1) Balancing power dynamics between the supervisor and supervisee: Supervisors hold more of the power in the supervisory relationship, and it is therefore important that they are aware of it. In addition, the extent to which power is exercised within the supervisory work impacts the supervisee’s learning experiences and ability to grow professionally. (2) A safe and nurturing space: Effective supervision is based on the relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee and not only on the clinical or the psychodynamic model of clinical supervision. (3) Pedagogical viewpoint and professional experience of the supervisor: supervisees found that effective supervision was connected to their supervisor’s clinical experience, knowledge of theoretical approaches, and seniority within the clinical field.
The results of this review have implications for supervisees, supervisors, and researchers who can improve the supervisory working alliance and create a framework for how to provide effective supervision. Learning more about supervisees’ perspectives on effective supervision can yield new data on selecting a supervisor and the factors related to sustaining a positive supervisory relationship.