Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Social Constructionism and Supervision: Experiences of Aamft Supervisors and Supervised Therapists

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Social Constructionism and Supervision: Experiences of Aamft Supervisors and Supervised Therapists

Article excerpt

A phenomenological research process was used to investigate the supervision experience for supervisors and therapists when supervisors use a social constructionist perspective. Participants of the one-to-one interviews were six AAMFT Approved Supervisors and six therapists providing counseling to individuals, couples and families. The findings suggest supervisors were committed to their self-identified supervision philosophy and intentionally sought out congruence between epistemology and practice. The shared experience of therapists indicates they associated desirable supervision experiences with their supervisors' social constructionist perspective. Our findings also indicated that supervisors' and therapists' understanding of social constructionism included the more controversial concepts of agency and extra-discursiveness. This research has taken an empirical step in the direction of understanding what the social constructionist supervision experience is like for supervisors and therapists. Our findings suggest a linkage between epistemology and supervision practice and a satisfaction with the supervision process.

Supervision provided by Approved Supervisors of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is seen as crucial in the development and maintenance of effective and skilled marriage and family therapists, and the supervision relationship is central to this supervisory endeavor (Anderson, Rigazio-DiGilio, & Kunkler, 1995; Lee, Nichols, Nichols, & Odom, 2004; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007; Spence, Wilson, Kavanagh, Strong, & Worrall, 2001). A strong supervisor-therapist relationship is associated with supervisor qualities that include being, knowledgeable, respectful, approachable, transparent about power differences, warm, trustworthy, and available (Anderson, Schlossberg, & Rigazio-DiGilio, 2000; Storm, Todd, Sprenkle, & Morgan, 2001; White & Russell, 1995). The content for supervision embraces the development of therapists' clinical skills and therapists' awareness of and compliance with ethical and professional standards (Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007; Spence et al., 2001).

To provide effective supervision, claiming and articulating a personal philosophy for supervision have been an important expectation of AAMFT Approved Supervisors since 1977 (American Association for Marriage, 2007; Storm et al., 2001). Nevertheless, the connection between supervision practice epistemology and the experience for the participants has received little attention (Anderson et al., 1995; Storm et al., 2001; Whiting, 2007). In particular, research is needed to gain an understanding of how the supervisor's perspective is experienced according to the supervision participants (Anderson et al., 1995; Spence et al., 2001; Storm et al., 2001).

Since the early 1990s, interest in a social constructionist perspective for marriage and family therapy supervision practice has been emerging (see for example, Anderson & Swim, 1995; Bobele, Gardner, & Biever, 1995; Fine & Turner, 1997; Gardner, Bobele, & Biever, 1997; Hardy, 1993; Selicoff, 2006; Whiting, 2007). Although authors talk about the notion of social constructionism and supervisory practice, little is known about how this perspective is experienced by supervision participants. Aside from a case study by Whiting (2007) documenting the use of social constructionist ideas during supervision, there is an absence of published investigations.

The purpose of this study is to take a step in the direction of providing empirical evidence of a social constructionist experience in supervision. This purpose has the potential to add support to social constructionist supervision practice and to the evolving evidence-informed practice trends (Jacobs, Kami, Scott, & Davey, 2010; Patterson, Miller, Carnes, & Wilson, 2004). We begin with a brief description of social constructionism, followed by anecdotal accounts of what supervision could be like when informed by a social constructionist perspective. …

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