Counseling Supervisors' Assessment of Race, Racial Identity, and Working Alliance in Supervisory Dyads

By Bhat, Christine Suniti; Davis, Thomas E. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Counseling Supervisors' Assessment of Race, Racial Identity, and Working Alliance in Supervisory Dyads


Bhat, Christine Suniti, Davis, Thomas E., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


The authors investigated the role of race, racial identity attitudes and working alliance in counseling supervision using data obtained from supervisors in supervisory dyads. Results revealed the strongest working alliance for supervisor--supervisee pairs with high racial identity development and the weakest working alliance for pairs with low racial identity development.

Los autores investigaron el papel que juegan la raza, las actitudes de identidad racial y la alianza de trabajo en la supervision de consejeria, empleando datos obtenidos de supervisores involucrados en diadas de supervision. Los resultados revelaron que la alianza de trabajo mas solida se da en parejas de supervisor--supervisado con un desarrollo alto de identidad racial, y la alianza de trabajo mas debil en parejas con un desarrollo bajo de identidad racial.

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Supervision is the primary vehicle in the counseling profession through which trainees provide services to clients in a monitored environment. Supervisors provide an endorsement of their supervisees' fitness and ability to work as counseling practitioners. The centrality of supervision in counselor training is acknowledged by professional and credentialing organizations (e.g., Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, 2001). Supervisors are considered to be "crucial catalysts" in facilitating their supervisees' growth and awareness of racial and cultural issues (Constantine, 2001).

Counseling supervision takes place in a relational context, making the supervisory relationship of paramount importance (Watkins, 1997). This relationship has been viewed as a working alliance, with specific components being the goals, tasks, and bond in the interactions (Bordin, 1983). In Bordin's model, the supervisory working alliance is viewed as a collaboration for change that involves mutual agreement and understanding between supervisor and supervisee on the (a) goals of supervision, (b) tasks of supervision, and (c) emotional bond between supervisor and supervisee.

There are eight types of goals in Bordin's (1983) supervisory working alliance model, including aspects such as supervisees' mastery of specific skills and increased understanding of clients with whom they are working. Three types of supervision tasks are defined by Bordin: preparing reports of the sessions under review, participating in objective observation of sessions, and selecting problems or issues for presentation. Emotional bonds in the supervision relationship, according to Bordin, are considered to fall somewhere between those of the teacher-student relationship and the therapist-patient relationship. Focusing on specific aspects of the supervisory relationship, such as the working alliance, allows a more manageable view of this complex relationship (Muse-Burke, Ladany, & Deck, 2001).

Helms and Cook (1999) observed that racial and cultural issues in supervision receive scant empirical attention. These authors also noted that given the power differential in favor of supervisors in the supervisory relationship, it is the supervisor's racial identity status that has a more powerful role in shaping interactions between supervisor and supervisee and between supervisee and client. Empirical studies have focused more on multicultural counseling competence and supervision experiences of supervisees (Burkard, Ponterotto, Reynolds, & Alfonso, 1999; Constantine, 2002; Gatmon et al., 2001; Utsey & Gernat, 2002) than on supervisors.

Some researchers have focused on both supervisors and supervisees. Constantine (1997) reported a high percentage of supervisors (70%) who had not received formal training in multicultural counseling, thus contributing to difficulties in raising such issues in supervision. Duan and Roehlke (2001) found that although supervisors reported that they were paying attention to cultural issues, their supervisees did not share that view. …

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Counseling Supervisors' Assessment of Race, Racial Identity, and Working Alliance in Supervisory Dyads
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