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In Supervision: Scaife’s theory of supervision

In Supervision


Welcome to this week’s In Supervision post. This post will look at Scaife’s theory of supervision, specifically focusing on the responsibilities of each of the parties involved.

Scaife considers the client’s responsibilities as well as the supervisee/therapist and the supervisor. We will now look at each one individually.


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The client’s responsibilities, when they come to see me or another therapist, are to be motivated to change and to work hard to get to a better place in life. The decision to change is with the client. There might need to be an ongoing assessment of this motivation and whether the client is stuck in the process or what is going on for them in the therapeutic relationship.

Both supervisee and supervisor must be aware of this in order to figure out how to best help each client, and how to help the supervisee develop and work successfully in light of arising difficulties.


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The therapist/supervisee’s responsibilities are both towards the clients and the supervisory relationship itself.

Regarding his/her clients, the supervisee must make the therapeutic space one that facilitates trust, honesty and openness on the part of the client, in order to effect change. The therapist must also ensure they are acting within ethical and professional boundaries, which includes attending regular supervision and continuous professional development activities (seminars, conferences, reading books, doing research, amongst others).

Regarding his/her supervision process and supervisor, the supervisee must remember that they are just as responsible for this process as is their supervisor. They must also identify what their learning outcomes are and be prepared for supervision so time is used effectively.

The supervisee learns as they develop as a therapist, about differences between themselves and others, especially their clients – cultural, religious, ethnic, gender, disability and sexuality differences. An awareness of how the employer – if in an organisation – affects their practice is also relevant, as policies and procedures might affect the freedom with which the counsellor works, and influences the supervisory relationship.

Another responsibility of the supervisee is to be open in communicating their arising feelings and thoughts about their practice, their clients and their supervisor, including the reactions to a variety of arising situations with the client and the supervisor, and how they usually deal with them.

Challenging the supervisor in regards to boundaries and contract issues is also important. Assessing whether the supervisee is still at trainee level or has moved up to a more consultative relationship with their supervisor is also important – otherwise the supervisee might feel undermined and this might affect the supervisory relationship and possibly their motivation and their relationship with clients.

Discuss what is helpful and what is unhelpful about supervision, be humble enough to accept errors and learn from them, as well as be able to transfer what’s learned in supervision into practice with clients.


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All of these are the responsibilities of the supervisee, which will be worked on as a team with the supervisor. But added to these, the supervisor’s responsibilities also include a duty of care towards the client, the supervisee and the profession by promoting and teaching the standards and ethical framework of their professional body and the policies and procedures if working for and organisation.

The supervisor’s role is to safeguard both the supervisee and the supervisor, and part of this might be to question the supervisee’s capacity to work with clients or with a particular client, at a particular point in time. Supervisors, according to Scaife, have a gatekeeping function.

Depending on the level of development of the supervisee, the supervisor will help them determine what the best way to act is with a particular client or situation. The supervisor will also facilitate the supervisee’s ability to use the space as a learning environment and also as a space to develop their practice.

Finally, contracting and keeping track of the relationship and any problems or positive things that might arise and need discussing with the supervisee.

Scaife’s theory reinforces what has been discussed in previous models, but looks at it from a completely different perspective – that of responsibility. I find it very interesting but also very important that the client is given responsibility for their therapeutic process, as it is up to them how much they disclose to their therapist and how fast or slow the work is, and it is up to the therapist to know how much they can challenge or pull back a bit, depending on where the client is in their process. And finally it is up to the supervisor to determine whether that particular therapeutic relationship is being good for both supervisee and client, or whether something needs to be changed in the way the supervisee interacts with their client.


Reference:

Scaife, J. (2013). Supervision in Clinical Practice: A Practitioner’s Guide. Routledge. 19 Dec 2013. Psychology.


I hold a Certificate in Clinical Supervision from the University of Derby.I offer Clinical Supervision to qualified counsellors, and support during the course for trainee counsellors. (1


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One response

  1. Pingback: In Supervision: Model series round-up « Insights…from the desk of Karin Brauner

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