ERIC Identifier: ED372358
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Carroll, Michael F.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.

Counselling Supervision: International Perspectives. ERIC Digest.

Supervision is often treated as a "univocal" term meaning the same in whatever context it exists. Unfortunately, such is not the case, and even in instances where there is conceptual agreement on what it means, there are still differences on how it is operationalized. Although there is little data to show in which countries supervision exists and to what extent it is influential, there are some indicators about its breadth. The International Conference on Supervision held in London in 1991 drew participants from the United States, Britain, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Russia, and South Africa with the opportunity to share how supervision was viewed in different countries. In 1993, I was privileged to spend time in four countries other than Britain (Colombia, Denmark, the United States, and South Africa), providing a further chance to compare and contrast supervision in these contexts. Writings on supervision have emerged from a number of countries other than those mentioned above, including Norway and Australia. This Digest is an attempt to summarize some of these ideas on paper, realizing the limitation of how few and how impressionistic rather than experimental are the conclusions.


There seem to be two strands in the history and understanding of supervision, one emerging from the United States and the other from Britain. What distinguishes them is the location of counseling training. In the United States counseling training has largely taken place in and been controlled by the universities, whereas in Britain counseling training has existed almost exclusively within the private domain and only in the past 10 years have universities become involved. As a result, the United States has concentrated on the conceptual and intellectual pursuit of supervision, while Britain has stressed the practice, the training of supervisors, and the supervision of supervision.

The bulk of supervision writing and research comes from the United States. A number of reviews have summarized the research, models, and components of supervision (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992; Holloway, 1992). More recently, an ethical code for supervisors has been published (ACES, 1993) and there are moves to set up training standards for supervisors and training courses for beginning and experienced supervisors. Within the writings on supervision there is some movement away from what are called "counseling-bound" models of supervision (where supervision is conducted along the lines of the counseling model) to a more generic understanding which emphasizes supervision as an educational process in its own right, not tied specifically to counseling orientations. A good example of this integrative, educational approach can be seen in Holloway's (in press) forthcoming book.

In Britain, on the other hand, the focus on training and practice has resulted in a number of supervision training courses (see below), a Code of Ethics and Practice for the Supervision of Counselors (1988), and an accreditation scheme. The theory/research side however, is not entirely missing. A key text written by Hawkins and Shohet (1989) contains a "Process Model of Supervision" and the authors of two new books on supervision (Carroll, in preparation; Wokset & Page, in preparation) hope to make contributions to model-building in supervision. In addition, a number of research projects at masters' and doctoral level on counseling supervision have been completed within the past few years.

The British Association for Counseling has outlined an accreditation scheme for supervisors which has been running for approximately five years and to date has about 40 accredited supervisors. Applicants for these awards are required to write their philosophy of supervision, submit a tape of a supervision session with comments by supervisee and supervisor, and take part in a full day evaluation where they are asked to supervise and be supervised before two assessors and are interviewed on their theory of supervision and how congruent it is with their practice. An interesting new development has occurred with the arrival of the European Association of Psychotherapy (E. A. P.), which is in the process of forming a Committee on Supervision. this Committee will consider standards of training in supervision leading to individual accreditation. Obviously, this venture will have wide-ranging implications for both counseling and counseling supervision throughout Europe.

More recently a number of training courses in supervision have appeared in Britain, some within particular counseling orientations and others viewing themselves as integrative. The curriculum of these courses stresses experiential learning as a key factor in supervisor training but without neglecting the conceptual frameworks. By and large, these trainings are for experienced counselors who are beginning to supervise or see themselves as supervisors in the near future. Training lasts for either one or two years, resulting in a certificate or diploma. There are approximately 10 to 12 such courses in Britain at the moment. Every year there is a one-day British conference on supervision organized by the British Association for Supervision Research and Practice (BASRP).

Unlike the United States, where supervision is a requirement for counselors in training but not for credentialed counselors, supervision in Britain is seen as a life-long commitment (BAC Code of Ethics and Practice for Counselors, 1990). Counselors, both those in training and those qualified, are expected to be in supervision, although consultation is the term often used to designate supervision with a qualified counselor.

The United States and British approaches to counseling supervision exemplify the two strands that seem to characterize supervision in most countries: the conceptual influencing practice as in the United States and practice moving towards theory as in Britain.

What is not known is how well supervision "travels" and how culturally "friendly" are either the conceptual ideas or the specific activities when transferred from one country to another. There is some evidence for caution, however. An attempt to introduce Rogerian counseling and supervision to Taiwan resulted in frustration simply because the culture there expects more direct approaches (P. P. Heppner, University of Missouri, Columbia, private communication). In addition, countries are at various stages in the development of supervision. In some countries counseling is still without formal professional standards, while others have progressed to devising ethical codes and formal training programs.


There seem to be a number of steps through which supervision develops, and internationally countries may be seen at different stages:

1. Counseling and counseling psychology become more professionalized.

2. Supervision is seen as an important part of counselor training and on-going counseling work.

3. Experienced counselors take on the roles, tasks, and functions of supervisors.

4. Models, theories, approaches, and research in supervision begin to be set up and/or are imported from other countries.

5. Codes of ethics for supervisors are outlined.

6. Formal training in supervision is set up and required.

7. Supervision training, practice, and research are viewed as an essential component in counseling work.


There is an increasing amount of contact between counseling supervisors throughout the world. Workshops have been put on in Britain by counseling supervisors from the United States. A small group of black South African students are studying counseling and counseling supervision in London before returning to set up counseling training within the black communities in their home country. International conferences are being held in places such as Hanover, Germany (September, 1994) and St. Petersburg, Russia (International Conference on Supervision, Institute for Psychotherapy and Counselling, September, 1995). These efforts will result in dialogue, correspondence, and personnel exchanges allowing supervision ideas and practice to be disseminated throughout the world. What we need at this stage is more awareness, and indeed more study, on the cultural aspects of supervision so that it can be integrated into different countries with culturally-sensitive adaptations.


Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (1993). Ethical guidelines for counseling supervisors. ACES Publications.

Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (1992). Fundamentals of clinical supervision. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

British Association for Counselling (1988). Code of ethics and practice for the supervision of counsellors. Rugby: BAC.

British Association for Counselling (1990). Code of ethics and practice for counselors. Rugby: BAC.

Carroll, M. (in preparation). Counselling supervision: Theory, skills, and practice. London: Cassell.

Hawkins, P., & Shohet, R. (1989). Supervision in the helping professions. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Holloway, E. (1992). Supervision: A way of teaching and learning. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology (pp. 177-214). New York: Wiley.

Holloway, E. (in press). The strategic approach to supervision. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.

Wosket, V., & Page, S. (in preparation). Supervising the counsellor. London: Routledge.

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