Using Greek Mythology as a Metaphor to Enhance Supervision. (Innovative Methods)

Article excerpt

The authors review some uses of myths and stories in counselor education and supervision. They note that collaborative supervision is especially relevant to the exploration of alternative views of supervisee growth that may be mirrored in myths and stories and in their multiple interpretations. The interpretation of the Greek myth of Psyche is examined as a possible vehicle for enhancing counselor growth in supervision.


At first glance, it may seem that mythology and counselor supervision have little to do with each another. A link can be formed, however, if the symbolic messages often found in myths are used to stimulate exploration and understanding of the many facets of supervision. Characters from myths and folklore are frequently used in depth psychology. Freud's use of the Oedipal myth to explain psychosexual development and Jung's description of archetypes both relied heavily on mythical motifs. In this article, we further explore this technique of using stories in counseling and counselor education, as well as the link between story and supervision. Finally, we examine the myth of Psyche as one possibility of using story to enhance counselor growth in supervision.

There are many examples of the use of myth or story within the field of counseling. Recently, Henderson (2000), drawing on Campbell's (1988) work on the myth of the hero's journey, used stories to examine career happiness. The use of stories and storytelling is prominent in Savickas's (1995) constructivist approach to career indecision. Bolen (1984, 1989) used Greek myths extensively in her exploration of personality development. Bibliotherapy emphasizes the use of stories in counseling (Gladding, 1992; Myers, 1998). Finally, narrative therapy is distinguished for its use of story (White & Epston, 1990).

Counselor education includes further applications of the use of story. Popular films have been used as a teaching tool in the classroom to stimulate discussion about couple and family issues (Higgins & Dermer, 2001), to provide examples of counseling theory (Koch & Dollarhide, 2000), and to explore postmodern interpretations of diagnosis (Gorman, 2001). Fiction has also been used as a vehicle for encouraging counselors-in-training to reflect on human complexity (Boughner & Logan, 1998).

Awareness of the applications of myth and stories to counseling and counselor education may lead one to consider their use in supervision. Bolen (1984, 1989) posited that because most myths portray some recognizable element of the human situation, they might provide a fresh perspective on an individual's experience. The application of myth to the process of counselor supervision may similarly allow supervisors and counselors-in-training to gain alternative perspectives on the supervisee's strengths and ways to transform potential weaknesses into assets. One example, which we explore later in this article, examines Psyche's tasks to see what they offer the developing counselor.

Model of Supervision

Two methods of supervision, a collaborative model and Stoltenberg and Delworth's (1987) Integrated Developmental Model (IDM), provide possible frameworks for incorporating the use of stories in supervision. In their work on the IDM, Stoltenberg and Delworth used the story of a difficult journey to describe counselor growth. As with most journeys into unfamiliar territory, the presence of a guide is often both helpful and necessary. For new counselors, the supervisor serves as a guide.

The basic premise of many developmental models is that as supervisees develop in their careers as counselors, they encounter changes along the way. Bernard and Goodyear (1998) noted that the primary focus of developmental theories is the manner in which "supervisees change as they gain training and supervised experience" (p. 22). For our article, one of the most helpful connections between a developmental theory and using myth as a metaphor for supervision is not a linear, lockstep notion of stages, but rather a series of tasks that provide opportunities for growth and development. …