Cybersupervision: Further Examination of Synchronous and Asynchronous Modalities in Counseling Practicum Supervision

By Chapman, Russell A.; Baker, Stanley B. et al. | Counselor Education and Supervision, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Cybersupervision: Further Examination of Synchronous and Asynchronous Modalities in Counseling Practicum Supervision


Chapman, Russell A., Baker, Stanley B., Nassar-McMillan, Sylvia C., Gerler, Edwin R., Jr., Counselor Education and Supervision


The authors used an intensive single-subject quantitative design to examine cybersupervision of counseling practicum students in a university setting. Five female supervisees volunteered to receive their required weekly supervision online during a 14-week, semester-long counseling practicum. Following a face-to-face orientation meeting, all remaining interactions among the supervisees and with the supervisor occurred electronically. Data were collected about the utility of the synchronous and asynchronous modalities, changes in supervisee competence and confidence during the practicum, and supervisee attitudes about the cybersupervision approach. The findings offered evidence that the web-based modality could be used in similar settings.

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The growing influence of distance education programs in counselor education, such as those for Argosy, Capella, and Walden universities, seems to be well established. Yet, the distance education model poses special challenges for counselor educators in the professional practice domain because the traditional approach in counseling practicum supervision does not seem to lend itself easily to anything other than a face-to-face (FtF) interaction between supervisors and supervisees. On the other hand, there are practical and conceptual reasons to determine whether counseling practicum supervision can be conducted successfully via the distance education model. The goal of the present study was to evaluate a 14-week counseling practicum supervision conducted via the World Wide Web.

Watson (2003) investigated the potential of applying technology-based instructional methods to counseling practicum interactions between supervisors and supervisees. Watson referred to this process in which interactions occur via the World Wide Web as cybersupervision. According to Watson, the advantages of cybersupervision were (a) more productive supervision sessions because of the convenience of scheduling, (b) the opportunity to experience a better selection of more advantageous supervision sites, (c) more effective use of supervisee time, and (d) a larger pool of available supervisors. Disadvantages included (a) the expense of the technology, (b) reliance on the technological sophistication of both the supervisors and the supervisees, and (c) the lack of face-to-face contact between supervisors and supervisees. Watson predicted that technology would revolutionize and play an increasingly more significant role in the counseling supervision process.

Previous research related to components of cybersupervision has been promising. The findings have highlighted the potential of both synchronous (real time; e.g., web chats and web camera) and asynchronous (delayed time; e.g., discussion threads and e-mail) personal communication in counseling and therapy and in teaching and learning. The present study evolved from three previous cybersupervision studies that are highlighted in the following paragraphs.

Stebnicki and Glover (2001) conducted an exploratory qualitative study of a small sample (N = 5) of master's-level rehabilitation counseling trainees during their counseling practicum. The form of cybersupervision studied was asynchronous, that is, it entailed the use of e-mail communications during the supervision process. The participants received FtF group and individual supervision from a doctoral-level supervisor over 16 weeks. They were instructed to send weekly email messages (preferably during the time between the FtF sessions) to the faculty clinical supervisor about practicum site issues, issues regarding clients or their therapeutic treatment, or personal insight reactions. One hundred and fifty-eight e-mail messages were received and submitted to a thematic analysis. Supervisees benefited from the experience in the following ways: (a) increased support through their access to supervisors, (b) more relaxed and informal communications with supervisors, (c) increased comfort when disclosing personal feelings related to the practicum experience, and (d) a greater commitment from both supervisees and supervisors to process and clarify their thoughts. …

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