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Core Competencies in Social Constructionist Supervision?


  • Olga Sutherland, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, Couple and Family Therapy, University of Guelph; Marshall Fine, EdD, Professor, The Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University; Lynda Ashbourne, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, Couple and Family Therapy, University of Guelph.
    Special thanks to Dr. Tom Strong and Joaquin Gaete Silva for their comments on an early draft of this article.

Address correspondence to Olga Sutherland, PhD, Couple and Family Therapy Centre, Rm. 251, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1; E-mail:


Family therapy is moving increasingly toward evidence-based practice and competency-based training. This article explores what might seem to be an unlikely link between social constructionist supervision, which is based on dialogic and fluid processes of meaning-making, and the increasing reliance on discrete core competencies in the education and training of family therapists. We propose an alternate approach to competencies for supervision with therapists in training that, among other things, invites accountability and provides evaluative props. The approach we propose is based on a set of orientations that we hope reflect the dialogic and contextual nature of social constructionist practice and supervision. These orientations consist of reflexivity and attention to power, fostering polyphony and generativity, collaborative stance, and focus on client resourcefulness. Ideas and questions for supervisors and therapists in training to address the orientations are articulated.