ERIC Identifier: ED347476
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Benshoff, James M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Peer Consultation for Professional Counselors. ERIC Digest.
The importance of extensive, high-quality counseling supervision has become
recognized as critical to both learning, maintaining, and improving professional
counseling skills. In counselor training, supervision is a required experience
designed to help students integrate academic training with practical experience
and self-examination of their individual counseling styles and strengths (Wagner
& Smith, 1979). Once new counselors are graduated into the "real world" of
working counselors, however, their access to counseling supervision is often
much more restricted. Counselors may be the only counselor in a school or agency
or may be in individual private practice. Even where supervision exists, the
designated supervisor may be an administrator who may have little expertise or
interest in supervising the counselor's work with clients. In work settings
where a willing and qualified counseling supervisor is present, differences in
personality, theoretical orientations, and time schedules may preclude adequate
PEER CONSULTATION VS. PEER SUPERVISION
which peers work together for mutual benefit are generally referred to in the
literature as peer supervision. Peer consultation, however, may be a more
appropriate descriptor for this process in which critical and supportive
feedback is emphasized while evaluation is deemphasized. "If the therapist has
the right to accept or reject the suggestions [of others], the model becomes, by
definition, one of consultation rather than supervision" (Bernard &
Goodyear, 1992, pp. 103-104). In this digest, "peer supervision" and "peer
consultation" will be used interchangeably to describe similar nonhierarchical
relationships in which participants have neither the power nor the purpose to
evaluate one another's performance.
PEER CONSULTATION DEFINED
(Benshoff, 1989; Remley, Benshoff, & Mowbray, 1987) has been proposed as a
potentially effective approach to increasing the frequency and/or quality of
supervision available to a counselor. Wagner and Smith (1979) defined peer
supervision as a process through which counselors assist each other to become
more effective and skillful helpers by using their relationships and
professional skills with each other. Counselors can develop their own peer
consultation relationships to fill a "supervision void" or to augment
traditional supervision by providing a means of getting additional feedback from
BENEFITS OF PEER CONSULTATION
experiences can offer a number of benefits to counselors (Benshoff, 1989; Remley
et al., 1987; Houts, 1980; Seligman, 1978; Spice & Spice, 1976; Wagner & Smith, 1979), including:
reciprocal benefits received through sharing in the peer supervision experience
to choose one's peer consultant and to determine one's own goals for the
dependency on "expert" supervisors
skills and responsibility for assessing their own skills and those of their
peers as well as for structuring their own professional growth
self-confidence, self-direction, and independence
of consultation and supervision skills
of peers as models.
PEER SUPERVISION/CONSULTATION MODELS
Although several peer
supervision models have been proposed, not all of them are "peer" in the pure
sense, since some incorporate expert leaders or supervisors in the process
(e.g., Wagner & Smith, 1979). One significant approach to peer supervision
is a triadic model proposed by Spice and Spice (1976). In this model, counselors
work together in triads, rotating the roles of commentator, supervisee, and
facilitator through successive peer supervision sessions.
The Structured Peer Consultation Model (SPCM; cf., Benshoff, 1992; 1989) is
based on a model for peer supervision proposed by Remley et al. (1987). This
model was developed to provide counselors and counselor trainees with additional
feedback and assistance in developing their counseling skills and implementing
them effectively with clients. SPCMs have been developed and implemented with a
variety of counseling professionals, including counselor trainees, practicing
school counselors, and counseling supervisors (Benshoff, 1991).
In the SPCMs, peers work together in dyads to provide regular consultation
for one another (usually on a weekly or biweekly basis). The SPCMs include many
traditional supervision activities such as goal-setting, tape review, and case
consultation. In these models, however, the emphasis is on helping each other to
reach self-determined goals, rather on evaluating each other's counseling
performance. Other activities that are emphasized include discussion of
counseling theoretical orientations, examination of individual approaches to
working with clients, and exploration of relevant counseling issues. The SPCMs
provide a clear and detailed structure which "walk counselors through" the peer
consultation process. This structure is designed to keep peers focused on
specific consultation tasks, yet also allow for modifications to fit individual
needs and styles.
RESEARCH ON PEER CONSULTATION
A growing body of empirical
evidence exists to support the potential contributions of peer consultation. As
counselors gain skills and experience, they express a preference for collegial
supervision relationships (Hansen, Robins, & Grimes, 1982). Seligman (1978)
found that peer supervision helped to increase counselor trainees' levels of
empathy, respect, genuineness, and concreteness. Wagner and Smith (1979)
reported that counselor trainee participation in peer supervision resulted in
greater self-confidence, increased self-direction, improved goal-setting and
direction in counseling sessions, greater use of modeling as a teaching and
learning technique, and increased mutual, cooperative participation in
supervision sessions. Houts (1980) described participants in peer consultation
teams as reporting greater feelings of professional competency and increased
independence and autonomy.
Three studies have been conducted using the SPCMs. In one (Benshoff, 1992),
participants overwhelmingly (86%) rated peer supervision as being very helpful
to them in developing their counseling skills and techniques and deepening their
understanding of counseling concepts. Two aspects of peer supervision were cited
as being especially valuable: (1) feedback from peers about counseling approach
or techniques, and (2) peer support and encouragement. Another study using an
SPCM with counselor trainees (Benshoff, 1989) suggested that, while the model
may be useful for counselor trainees regardless of level of counseling
experience, participation in peer consultation may have a greater impact on
factors such as self-confidence and comfort level (which were not assessed) than
on actual counseling effectiveness. A third study, which examined the types of
verbalizations used by peer consultants (beginning counselors), confirmed that
peer consultants were, in fact, able to use basic helping skills to provide
consultation to their colleagues. The most frequently used verbalizations
(directives, closed questions, interpretation, minimal encouragers) seem
consistent with the developmental level and skills of beginning counselors.
Peer consultation models offer counselors a
viable adjunct or alternative experience to traditional approaches to counseling
supervision. Research to date provides accumulating support for the value of
peer consultation/supervision experiences for professional counselors. Future
research needs and directions in this area include:
and implementing appropriate outcome measures
multiple measures (both qualitative and quantitative) to assess the impact and
contributions of peer consultation models
peer models to other supervision and consultation approaches
appropriate research instruments and procedures.
Benshoff, J. M. (1992). Peer supervision in
counselor training. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Benshoff, J. M. (1991). Structured peer consultation: A model for developing
counseling supervision skills. In L. D. Burlew, P. M. Emerson, J. Disney, E.
Folse, C. Roland, & J. M. Benshoff, Counseling supervision: A training
manual. New Orleans: Louisiana Association for Counselor Education and
Benshoff, J. M. (1989). The effects of the Structured Peer Supervision Model
on overall supervised counseling effectiveness ratings of advanced counselors in
training. Dissertation Abstracts International, 49, 11A.
Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (1992). Fundamentals of clinical
supervision. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Hansen, J. C., Robins, T. H., & Grimes, J. (1982). Review of research on
practicum supervision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 22, 15-24.
Houts, D. C. (1980). Consultation teams: A supervisory alternative. Journal
of Supervision and Training in Ministry, 3, 9-19.
Remley, T. P., Jr., Benshoff, J. M., & Mowbray, C. (1987). A proposed
model for peer supervision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 27, 53-60.
Seligman, L. (1978). The relationship of facilitative functioning to
effective peer supervision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 17, 254-260.
Spice, C. G., Jr., & Spice, W. H. (1976). A triadic method of supervision
in the training of counselors and counseling supervisors. Counselor Education
and Supervision, 15, 251-280.
Wagner, C. A., & Smith, J. P., Jr. (1979). Peer supervision: Toward more
effective training. Counselor Education and Supervision, 18, 288-293.