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Models of Supervision

I am defining Supervision as a therapeutic, educative, professional relationship between a supervisor and a supervisee which exists for the benefit of a particular client, all clients and to the existence of a professional space to which potential clients can turn. Supervision has ethical, legal, human and existential aspects to it. 

Deurzen and Young (2009) describe Existential Psychotherapeutic Supervision as a Philosophical position in which theory or models are situated in. As a Focusing Oriented Therapist (FoT) I wish to offer supervision which comes out of the philosophical stance of Gendlin’s (2017) and the practice he developed ‘Focusing’ (1996). Focusing isn’t a model or a modality but a theory based on practice, which comes from Gendlin’s Philosophical work, as such it is consistent with other Existentialist Phenological Philosophies.

‘Philosophy is the inspiration for existential therapy and supervision, though its application does not create a new modality or technique of therapy or supervision.’


I have reflected on my work in a limited number of supervision sessions and on peer and trainer feedback to notice which models most readily evident in my Supervisory practice at this early stage. 

Firstly, I will consider the Person-Centred Approach (PCA), which is implicit in the values and beliefs fundamental to this approach.  Rogers and Gendlin worked together at the University of Chicago and Gendlin considered himself to be a Person-Centred Therapist. For myself the core-conditions given in the PCA (Rogers, 1951) underlies all of the interactions between a supervisor and a supervisee. If an interaction is not Person-Centred it is not going to be therapeutic and or useful for a supervisee or the profession, it is an ethical stance and so very useful for the next section of the discussion here where I shall consider the Codes of Practice, and the following section on Power and it is essential on avoiding harm and abuse. 

I believe that the PCA is most valuable at a professional level to argue against therapy and supervision becoming overly medicalised or intrusively bureaucratised and to insist on space for creativity, flexibility, and the necessity of being human. However, I think Person-Centred theorists, including Dryden, Horton and Mearns (1995) who argue against the use of models entirely take this too an unhelpful extreme. Instead, I think models provide necessary functions to navigate the developmental stages of supervision (Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987), what we can expect from the supervisor relationship, to reflect on our blind-spots and notice what is useful, to map how we relate to wider institutional and systemic needs, and to help us understand how we work and be accountable, clear, and capable of reflecting. Indeed, the absence of models which clearly frame how we are working risks working from an obscure default and can be used unscrupulously to hide poor practice and malpractice.

Tudor (2004, 2007) and others have tried to consolidate a PCA to Supervision, but in my opinion, overall the ‘Approach’ continues to lack any clear model for practitioners to cohere around, while this gives permission and flexibility when it comes to values and an ethical position, as a model I would argue the PCA lacks clarity with no definitive supervision given by Rogers different PCA authors point to different reading of him and so they are  unable to present a stable model to identify with professionally, for example see Cooper et al 2013. Therefore, while diversity strengthens the PCA to ethics it hampers it in creating and maintaining a model. 

Page and Wosket’s (2008) ‘Cyclical Model of Counsellor Supervision’ contains twenty-five discrete units grouped into five stages which can be analysed to understand how these aspects create a container for ‘Space’ in the supervision relationship. Carroll (2008) compares this use of ‘Space’ to Buber’s idea of the ‘sphere of the inbetween’, allowing for the ‘spiritual journey as well as the supervisory one’ (both p.85). This is a model I use quite naturally to establish a working alliance which for me is quite naturally the ‘container’ for the ‘space’ of Supervision. If I was wanting to reflect on a working alliance that was struggling to form this model could provide some insights into which aspects are missing or where myself and the supervisee are misaligned. I value how Page and Wosket’s model can be calibrated to suit the needs of each supervisee and supervisor by bridging, contracting and reviewing and their acknowledgement of the limits to any model, that it is no substitute for the full experience of the lived relational experience; 

‘[an] over-reliance on a supervision model may diminish or even obliterate much of what the supervisor has already available’  


For me, this points to the need for something deeper than a model to hold us in our process, pointing to the philosophical layer beneath or alongside any model or skillset so that we can navigate the way between the models. 

‘Existential thinking is an attitude, a way of understanding the human situation that is not just confined to our work as therapists or supervisors’ (Deurzen and Young,2009, p.9)

Hawkin’s & Shohet’s (2013) ‘Seven Eye Model’ is most useful to me when trying to grasp what a Supervisee is wanting to communicate, especially towards the beginning of a session as it helps to locate the parts involved, for example, individuals, organisations, cultural dynamics. The model makes power dynamics explicit at the level of an individual’s identity and how this fits or doesn’t easily fit into wider hierarchies and patterns. This model draws our attention to internal processes, processes between people and groups of people and the whole context. I would use this in a session to ‘map out’ the whole difficulty with a supervisee who feels stuck and to create the space for them to ‘feel into the problem’ to enable them to deepen into their reexperiencing of what they have brought. 

Inskipp & Proctor’s Working Alliance (1995:3) brings a breath I find useful for reminding me about all that supervision can be to suit supervises at all levels of development, offering sufficient protection, support and an educative functional while insisting that supervision is not merely case or therapist management but can have similar processes to therapy, while maintaining its different purpose. The model is a useful check to see if the relationship has the right balance of what they refer to as Normative, Formative and Restorative aspects, if the supervisory relationship is facing a challenge, it would be helpful to see if these are the sites of challenge. Their model identifies vital functions, roles and contexts for the supervisory relationship and is a clean, neat model. For me it gives a grand overarching structure, which I might explicitly think about only rarely, but having it available provides clarity and support for work which needs this kind of attention.

Carroll’s (1996) Seven Tasks provides a helpful guide for reflecting on the details of what is happening in supervision sessions as each of these tasks are necessary and in relationships we can gravitate towards similar patterns. I think this model is useful for shedding light on what isn’t happening in supervision. Depending on the context of the work, the developmental level of the supervisee and the stage of the supervisory relationship more time might be spent teaching, and monitoring ethics rather than consulting for example, but as life events occur monitoring counselling needs and checking that the ongoing process of learning is happening reminds me of the breadth of the supervisory task. In addition this model provides a useful tool for the consultative supervision and to professional dialogues, in an organisation such as The International Focusing Institute (TIFI) where there are a wide variety of therapists working in many contexts and the conversation about FoT Supervision is only just beginning, this model might be very useful for provoking conversations about what we assume supervision is and isn’t. Similarly to Inskipp & Proctor (1995) it creates a large space to think about our work and what this work could include as well as to reflect upon it.

Clarkson (2003) describes five therapeutic relationships that co-exist and that others may also be present, these are not linear and distinct but aspects which can be drawn out and described (p.7). While I would not use the terms exactly as she does, especially with the Jungian tones they are both distinct and generous enough to include the most important aspects of my practice and find this model able to accommodate experiences I have and ideas I use, including person-centred values, attachment theory, trauma-informed, emancipatory social justice, earth honouring and animist values, and a spirituality which values ancestral and other-than human connections. I enjoy her use of the word ‘kinship’ (p.5) as a way of describing the therapeutic and supervisory relationship, enough boundary and enough closeness to be in a constantly refining relationship, it points to the fact that we are living organisms and attachment is something we live and work with, rather than evolve out of. 

The model that fits my Supervision best is Clarkson as I can experience it with my ‘felt sense’ (Gendlin,1966) most readily during a supervision session, so it is more available to me. Nevertheless, it is not entirely consistent with how I work, for example she speaks of transference while I would think in terms of somatic transference, ‘existential bias’ (Deurzen & Young, 2009) and ‘Interaction First’ Gendlin, G. T. (2017), but it’s deeply speaks to me more closely than the others. However, these models all have useful practical applications and outside of the Supervisory session I would logically select the most relevant model depending on the purpose of my enquiry. In the future I would love to see a process model for supervision, such as the ones which exist for therapy and life processes coming from Gendlin’s position, at present we have models which are more about content and processes outside of the Focusing tradition, which is why I have had to rely heavily on Existentialist models of Supervision here, and there is a problematic tension in doing so. 


Carroll, M. ‘The Spirituality of Supervision’ (2008). In Carroll, M. and Tholstrup, M. (ed.) Integrative Approaches to Supervision. Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Clarkson, P. (2003). The Therapeutic Relationship. Whurr Publishers: London

Cooper, M., O’Hara, M., Schmid, P. F. (2013). The Handbook of Person-Centred Psychotherapy and Counselling. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Deurzen, E. and Young, S. (ed.) (2009). Existential Perspectives on Supervision: Widening the Horizon of Psychotherapy and Counselling. Bloomsbury Academic

Dryden, W, Horton, I & Mearns, D (1995). Issues in Professional Counsellor Training (Counsellor Trainer & Supervisor S.) London: Cassell

Gendlin, E. T. (1996). Focusing-oriented psychotherapy. A manual of the experiential method. New York: Guilford Press.

Gendlin, G. T. (2017). A Process Model. Northwestern University; Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy

Hawkins, P. & Shohet, R. (2013). Supervision in the Helping Professions. OUP: Milton Keynes

Inskipp, F & Proctor, B. (1995). The Art, Craft and Tasks of Counselling Supervision. Cascade

Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centred Therapy, Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory. United Kingdom: Houghton Mifflin

Page, S. & Wosket, V. (1994). Supervising the Counsellor. Routledge: London

Stoltenberg, C. D., Delworth, U. (1987). Supervising Counselors and Therapists: A Developmental Approach. United States: Jossey-Bass.

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