Comfort and challenge: A thematic analysis of female clinicians’ experiences of supervision



Objective. The supervision of counsellors, counselling psychologists, and psychotherapists is generally perceived to be an invaluable component of training and practice. The present study analysed this process to explore the meanings of supervision and to consider implications for clinical practice and training.

Design. This study presents the accounts of 19 psychological therapists who experienced supervision while working at a London-based women's therapy centre.

Method. Demographic information was collected by questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore aspects of the supervisory experience. The qualitative data were thematically analysed.

Results. Supervision has complex and paradoxical meanings, and it impacts on clinical counselling practice in multifarious ways. Dominant themes highlighted were the usefulness of supervision, specifically support, empowerment, and joining; fear of exposure in supervision versus gaining new information; the comfort versus the challenge of supervision; and supervision as a containing space.

Conclusions. An experiential model of supervision was developed from the data. This model complements existing models in the field. It could be evaluated and used alongside existing models in various training and supervision contexts. Findings are discussed in relation to the literature on clinical supervision.

Practitioner Points

  • • Supervision is an expanding area of clinical practice, yet there is a very small evidence base surrounding its process.
  • • A qualitative approach to researching the process of supervision provides a useful understanding of its key ingredients.
  • • Whilst a number of models of learning, therapy, and supervision exist, the experiential supervision model that has been developed here draws on the conflicted experiences of the supervision process to facilitate professional development and learning in supervision.