Academic journal article Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies

The Impact of Supervisor Characteristics on Trainee Outcome in Clinical Supervision: A Brief Report

Academic journal article Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies

The Impact of Supervisor Characteristics on Trainee Outcome in Clinical Supervision: A Brief Report

Article excerpt


Although the study of psychotherapies has been favored over the study of psychotherapists, research investigating psychotherapists' characteristics is nearly as old as psychotherapy research. Still, the literature is rather scarce when it comes to investigating psychotherapists' attributes that may be predict patients' outcome in therapy. The paucity of research in this area is even more marked as far as the supervisor-trainee relation is concerned. The main objective of our study was to investigate supervisor characteristics (i.e. experience, unconditional self-acceptance, self-efficacy, allegiance) hypothesized to predict trainee outcome. A total of 33 trainees and 4 supervisors in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) entered the study. Results showed that experienced supervisors have better outcomes in conducting trainee personal development groups; also, the more allegiant they are, the better the results of their trainees. Unconditional selfacceptance and self-efficacy also seem to play an important role: the more supervisors accept themselves unconditionally and the more they believe in their ability to be efficient therapists, the better their trainees' outcomes. Implications for psychotherapy research, practice and training are discussed.

Keywords: supervisor, trainee, cognitive and behavioral therapy, personal self-development


Almost a century ago, Freud wrote (Freud, 1913; 1963) that "every analyst ought periodically to enter analysis once more, at intervals of, say, five years, and without any feeling of shame in doing so". Other authors also argued that attempting to be a therapist or a counselor without first being a patient is "dangerous" and "unacceptable" (Fromm-Riechman, 1950; Guntrip, 1975). A substantial body of literature emerged during the following years to address various considerations in the provision of therapy to therapists (e.g., Greenberg & Staller, 1981; Kaslow & Friedman, 1984). However, nearly 50 years later, there is little empirical data regarding therapists' psychopathology, the types of problems that may prompt them to seek therapy (Pope & Tabachnick, 1994) or their benefits after entering therapy or personal development sessions (Binder & Strupp, 1993).

Although research is not abundant, there are several studies (Kaslow & Friedman, 1984; Shapiro, 1976) that brought important theoretical and empirical contributions; data indicate that the vast majority of trainees appreciated personal therapy to be more influential than supervision in their development as clinicians and viewed their therapeutic gains favourably. A large study, conducted by Pope and Tabachnick (1994) concluded that 84% of the 800 psychologists included in the sample admitted to have been in therapy and many of them reported various emotional difficulties. By far, the most extensive research done to this date was conducted by Orlinsky and Ronnestad (2005) and included information from more than 7.000 therapists of diverse professions, theoretical orientations, and career levels. Their results cover several dimensions including therapists' professional training, personal development, clinical supervision and therapeutic practice. One conclusion is particularly relevant in this context: the importance of supervision for therapists is reflected in its consistent ranking by practitioners at all career levels as the second most important positive influence on their development (following learning from work with patients) and as the most important influence by novice therapists. Based on their results, the authors' main recommendation for training is to assist trainees in personal development as well as supervision in addition to offering them theoretical and practical education (Orlinsky & Ronnestad, 2005).

Conceptual clarifications

The literature indicates rather inconsistent data in terms of therapists' attributes that best predict outcome; therapist gender, age or theoretical orientation have been generally found to have a remarkably limited capacity to predict outcome (Beck, 1988; Beutler, Machado, & Neufeldt, 1994; Beutler, Malik, Alimohamed, Harwood, Talebi, Noble, & Wong, 2004; Lambert, 1989). …

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