ERIC Identifier: ED372351
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Werstlein, Pamela O.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Fostering Counselors' Development in Group Supervision. ERIC
A counselor's learning and continued development typically is fostered
through concurrent use of individual and group supervision. Group supervision is
unique in that growth is aided by the interactions occurring among group
members. Counselors do not function in isolation, so the group becomes a natural
format to accomplish professional socialization and to increase learning in a
setting that allows an experience to touch many. Supervision in groups provides
an opportunity for counselors to experience mutual support, share common
experiences, solve complex tasks, learn new behaviors, participate in skills
training, increase interpersonal competencies, and increase insight (MacKenzie,
1990). The core of group supervision is the interaction of the supervisees.
Collaborative learning is a pivotal benefit, with the supervisees having
opportunities to be exposed to a variety of cases, interventions, and approaches
to problem solving in the group (Hillerband, 1989). By viewing and being viewed,
actively giving and receiving feedback, the supervisee's opportunities for
experimental learning are expanded; this characterizes group supervision as a
social modeling experience. From a relationship perspective, group supervision
provides an atmosphere in which the supervisee learns to interact with peers in
a way that encourages self-responsibility and increases mutuality between
supervisor and supervisee.
Groups allow members to be exposed to the cognitive process of other
counselors at various levels of development (Hillerband, 1989). This exposure is
important for the supervisee who learns by observing as well as speaking.
Finally, hearing the success and the frustrations of other counselors gives the
supervisee a more realistic model by which they can critique themselves and
MODELS OF GROUP SUPERVISION
Bernard and Goodyear (1992)
summarized the typical foci of group supervision: didactic presentations, case
conceptualization, individual development, group development, organization
issues, and supervisor/supervisee issues. Models for conducting group
supervision detail experiential affective approaches designed to increase the
supervisees' self-concept and ability to relate to others, and/or cognitively
focused activities, such as presenting cases which broaden the counselor's
ability to conceptualize and problem-solve. While the literature provides
information on how to conduct these activities, less obvious are the reasons why
certain activities are selected and when the activities are most appropriate to
Borders (1991) offered a model that details reasons with the suggested
activities. Groups may be used to increase feedback among peers through a
structured format and assignment of roles (e.g., client, counselor, and other
significant persons in client's life) while reviewing tapes of counseling
sessions. "Role-taking" encourages supervisees to assume more responsibility in
the group as feedback is offered from several viewpoints.
Models provide almost no attention to how the supervisor is to make judgments
about the use of "group process." The supervisor has little guidance about how
to use the collective nature of the group to foster counselor development.
Similarly, the development of the group has not been the focus of
researchers--only a few empirical studies have been conducted to examine group
supervision. Holloway and Johnston (1985), in a review of group supervision
literature from 1967 to 1983, suggested that peer review, peer feedback, and
personal insight are all possible to achieve while doing supervision in groups.
Focus on the development of the group is not apparent in these studies, yet the
term "group supervision" is defined with an emphasis on the use of group process
to enhance learning.
GROUP SUPERVISION PROCESS
As above indicates, the group
supervision format requires that supervisors be prepared to use their knowledge
of group process, although how this is to be done is very unclear. A recent
naturalistic study of four groups across one semester provided some initial
insights. Werstlein (1994) found that guidance and self-understanding were cited
by supervisor and supervisees as the most important "therapeutic factors" (Yalom, 1985) present in their group. In addition, the initial stages of group
development were apparent. Less noticeable were the later stages of group
development which are characterized by higher risk behaviors that increase
learning (Werstlein, 1994). Clearly, additional work is needed to clarify the
process variables of group supervision and the role of the group leader
SUPERVISOR AS GROUP LEADER
Based on existing group
supervision literature and small group literature, the following guidelines are
offered to supervisors who wish to address process in group supervision:
1. Five to eight supervisees meeting weekly for at least
one and one half hours over a designated period of time (i.e., semester)
provides an opportunity for the group to develop.
Composition of the supervision group needs to be an intentional decision made to
include some commonalities and diversities among the supervisees (i.e.,
supervisee developmental level, experience level, or interpersonal
A pre-planned structure is needed to detail a procedure for how time will be
used and provide an intentional focus on content and process issues. This
structure can be modified later in accordance with group's climate.
A pre-group session with supervisees can be used to "spell-out" expectations and
detail the degree of structure. This session sets the stage for forming a group
norm of self-responsibility and does not interfere with group development.
Supervisors may use "perceptual checks" to summarize and reflect what appear to
be occurring in the here-and-now in the group. Validating observations with the
supervisees is using process. Be active, monitor the number of issues, use
acknowledgements, and involve all members.
Supervisees' significant experiences may be the result of peer interaction that
involves feedback, support, and encouragement (Benshoff, 1992). Exploring
struggles supports learning and problem-solving.
Bernard and Goodyear (1992) provided an excellent overview of the group
supervision literature. Many ideas are available for structuring case
presentations and the entire group sessions. Also, reviewing materials on group
facilitation with a particular focus on dealing with process is essential.
Competition is a natural part of the group experience. Acknowledge its existence
and frame the energy in a positive manner that fosters creativity and
In preparation for group supervision, communicate the following to the
supervisees about how to use group process:
Learning increases as your listening and verbal involvement increases. Take
risks and reveal your responses and thoughts.
Decrease your personalization of frustration by sharing with your peers. You
will be surprised how often other supervisees are experiencing the same thoughts
Intentionally look for similarities as you contemplate the relationships you
have with your peers in the group with the relationships you are having with
clients. Discuss similarities and differences.
Progress from client dynamics to counselor dynamics as you present your case.
Know ahead of time what you want as a focus for feedback and ask directly.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Integration of knowledge and
experience is greatly enhanced by group supervision. Existing literature
emphasizes the importance of a structure that outlines procedures for case
presentation and supervisee participation; less obvious are approaches to
address group development. It is essential the we fill in these gaps in the
literature by systematically gathering data that establishes the unique aspects
of using groups for supervision.
Benshoff, J. B. (1992). Peer consultation for
professional counselors. Ann Arbor, MI: Clearinghouse on Counseling and
Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (1992). Fundamentals of clinical
supervision. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Borders, L. D. (1991). A systematic approach to peer group supervision.
Journal of Counseling and Development, 69, 248-252.
Hillerband, E. (1989). Cognitive differences between experts and novices:
Implications for group supervision. Journal of Counseling and Development, 67,
Holloway, E. L., & Johnston, R. (1985). Group supervision: Widely
practiced but poorly understood. Counselor Education and Supervision, 24,
MacKenzie, K. R. (1990). Introduction to time-limited group therapy.
Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Werstlein, P. O. (1994). A naturalistic study of process variables in group
supervision. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at
Greensboro, Greensboro, NC.
Yalom, I. (1985). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. NY: Basic