Supervisees' Contributions to Lousy Supervision Outcomes

By Wilcoxon, S. Allen; Norem, Ken et al. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Supervisees' Contributions to Lousy Supervision Outcomes


Wilcoxon, S. Allen, Norem, Ken, Magnuson, Sandy, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


This article features the results of a qualitative study designed to identify supervisors' perceptions of supervisees' attitudes, behaviors, and skills that contribute to unsatisfactory supervision processes and outcomes. The participants' contributions suggest presence of intrapersonal, interpersonal, cognitive, and counselor development factors that manifest themselves as supervisory relationships develop.

Supervisees' Contributions to Lousy Supervision Outcomes

Counselor supervision has been a principal focus for the profession for over four decades. Various authors have proposed models for supervision (e.g., Bernard & Goodyear, 1998; Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Delworth, 1998). Some authors have emphasized selected factors that contribute to effective supervision (e.g., Carifio & Hess, 1987; Leddick & Dye, 1987; Worthen & McNeill, 1996), while others have examined elements of less effective supervision (e.g., Allen, Szollos, & Williams, 1986; Kennard, Stewart, & Gluck, 1987; O'Connor, 2000; Watkins, 1997). The preponderance of these entries in the professional literature addresses supervisors' contributions to ineffective supervision or supervisors' gatekeeping responsibilities (e.g., Baldo, Softas-Nall, & Shaw, 1997; Lumadue & Duffey, 1999; Gaubatz & Vera, 2002; Wiggins-Frame & Smith, 1995).

Magnuson, Wilcoxon, and Norem (2000) contributed to this professional dialogue by examining supervisory approaches and behaviors that impede growth of students and supervisees. These authors interviewed experienced counselors concerning their worst case scenarios in counselor supervision. They asked participants in their study to describe or characterize a "lousy supervisor" (p. 192). Analysis of these interviews yielded the following six overarching principles as descriptive categories for lousy supervisors: (a) "unbalanced," (b) "developmentally inappropriate," (c) "intolerant of differences," (d) "poor model of professional/personal attributes," (e) "untrained," and (f) professionally apathetic" (p. 194). According to Magnuson and her colleagues, these principles manifest themselves in the supervision dimensions of: (a) "organization/administration," (b) "technical/cognitive," and (c) "relational/affective" (p. 194). These authors also suggested "lousy supervision may be uniquely experienced by supervisees and that it may relate to supervisees' previous experiences and attitudes toward supervision" (p. 201).

Though authors have addressed impaired supervisees, student selection, and gatekeeping procedures, less attention has been devoted to identifying qualities of trainees that interfere with their professional growth and impede their attainment of standards or expectations (Goodyear & Bernard, 1998). Pearson (2004) provided guidelines for supervisees to optimize benefits of supervision, and suggested that they avoid certain behaviors such as blaming others for difficulties they encounter with clients, emphasizing planning, and focusing on supervisors' shortcomings. Addressing supervisees' contributions to less than effective supervision, Eichenfield and Stoltenberg (1996) proposed difficulties encountered by prepracticum level counselor trainees in the context of the Integrated Developmental Model of Supervision (Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987). These authors suggested that (a) limited prerequisite skills, (b) cognitive factors, (c) diminished motivation, (d) unresolved personal concerns, and (e) developmental delays impede trainees' ability to achieve professional maturity. Eichenfield and Stoltenberg described supervisees who evidence these impediments as "sub-level I trainees" (p. 25). However, the description was derived from their observations and limited to experiences with prepracticum students.

Believing that broader examination of supervisees' contributions to lousy supervision outcomes would augment the model of lousy supervision proposed by Magnuson, Wilcoxon, and Norem (2000), the current authors initiated this qualitative inquiry to identify counterproductive supervisee qualities, and propose a schema for categorizing these qualities.

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