Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Psychotherapy-Driven Supervision: Integrating Counseling Theories into Role-Based Supervision

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Psychotherapy-Driven Supervision: Integrating Counseling Theories into Role-Based Supervision

Article excerpt

Mental health counselors often play an integral part in the training and supervision of students and new practitioners. Whether they are teaching clinical skills in academic settings, providing on-site supervision for practicum and internship students, or serving as clinical supervisors for unlicensed or less experienced counselors, supervision is a relevant component of mental health practice. Designed as a practical approach that builds on the clinical strengths of mental health counselors, psychotherapy-driven supervision advocates blending psychotherapy-based approaches to supervision with role-based models of supervision. Strengths and weaknesses of psychotherapy-based approaches are discussed. Detailed descriptions of the teacher, counselor, and consultant roles of supervisors are presented. Psychotherapy-driven supervision is illustrated for three theoretical approaches: humanistic-relationship oriented, cognitive-behavioral, and solution-focused.


For many mental health counselors, their practice goes beyond direct service with clients and extends into the clinical supervision and training of students and new counselors. Clinical supervision is defined as "an intervention provided by a more senior member of a profession to a more junior member" (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004, p. 8) in which the focus is on "the supervisee's clinical interventions that directly affect the client, as well as, those behaviors related to the supervisee's personal and professional functioning" (Bradley & Kottler, 2001, p. 5). Implicit within these definitions are two major elements that are sometimes construed as conflicting. First, the theories of counseling and psychotherapy are integral to developing skilled counselors (Corey, 2005; Day, 2004), and removing psychotherapy theory and practice from supervision is neither feasible nor desirable. Second, clinical supervision is more than an extension of counseling theory. It is a specialty in its own right, complete with established models, practices, and interventions (e.g., Bernard, 1997; Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Delworth, 1998). The purpose of this article is to present a case for psychotherapy-driven supervision, an inclusive model of supervision that incorporates and integrates two elements: counseling theory and practice with role-based supervision approaches.


Commonly referred to as psychotherapy-based models (Bernard, 1992; Bradley & Gould, 2001; Watkins, 1995) and more recently described as supervision models grounded in psychotherapy theory (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004), the supervision literature is replete with specific examples of psychotherapy-based approaches to supervision. A small sample of these approaches includes psychodynamic (Frawley-O'Dea & Sarnat, 2001); person-centered (Freeman, 1992; Tudor & Worrall, 2004a); experiential (Cummings, 1992); psychodrama (Coren, 2001; Wilkins, 1995); cognitive (Safran & Muran, 2001); cognitive-behavioral (Rosenbaum & Ronen, 1998); multimodal (Ponterotto & Zander, 1984); solution-focused (Presbury, Echterling, & McKee, 1999; Thomas, 1994); and narrative (Bob, 1999).

In his article reflecting on psychotherapy supervision trends, Watkins (1995) presented definitions of psychotherapy-based supervision by Bernard and Goodyear (1992) and Russell, Crimmings, and Lent (1984). While Russell et al. described psychotherapy-based supervision as stemming "directly from the major theoretical schools of counseling" (p. 627), Bernard and Goodyear described it as supervision "based totally and consistently on the supervisor's theory of psychotherapy and counseling" (p. 11).

Without a doubt, psychotherapy-based models of supervision have many strengths. The strengths that each theoretical approach brings to the counseling setting are echoed in the strengths they bring to the supervision environment. …

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