• learning;
  • nursing practice;
  • mental health;
  • perception;
  • clinical supervision

In recent years nursing as a whole has moved from a position of apparently little manifest concern in the issue of ‘clinical supervision’ to a veritable explosion of interest which is beginning to find expression in the literature. Beginning with a discussion of clinical supervision from within a psychodynamically informed interpersonal nursing framework this paper reports on a small scale qualitative inquiry which aimed to explore mental health nurses' perceptions and experiences of clinical supervision. Analysis of data derived from a series of semi-structured interviews provides very encouraging early indications that mental health nurses are becoming better able to reflect upon the nature of their own formative learning needs and so to take seriously their need for professional support as they strive towards a more therapeutic relationship with their patients. However, whilst all of the participants in the study had a positive perception of the potential value of clinical supervision, there is clear evidence to suggest that their actual experience was that ‘good enough supervision’ was more the exception than the rule. The participants' perceptions and experiences are described and the implications for research, practice, education and the management of service delivery systems are outlined.