What do excellent psychotherapy supervisors do?

Stephen B. Shanfield, Kenneth L. Matthews, Vroni Hetherly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Objective: The authors' goal was to discover strategies used by psychotherapy supervisors judged to be excellent teachers. Method: In an earlier study, experienced teachers of psychotherapy rated the level of excellence of 34 different supervisors in 53 videotaped supervision sessions. In this study, the authors examined the transcripts of the nine videotapes assigned the highest ratings as well as three videotapes assigned mid-level ratings and three videotapes assigned low ratings in the previous study. In analyzing these transcripts, the authors drew from their experience with the complete set of videotapes. Results: Supervisors with high ratings allowed the resident's story about the encounter with the patient to develop. They consistently tracked the most immediate aspects of the resident's affectively charged concerns. Most of their comments were directed toward helping the resident further understand the patient and were specific to the material presented in the session. The resident was invited to speculate about the material, and technical words were used sparsely. Discussions about the relationships between resident and patient and between supervisor and resident were in the context of the resident's concerns. Supervisors with mid-level ratings were less disciplined in tracking the resident's concerns and inhibited the development of the resident's story. Supervisors with low ratings paid little or no attention to the resident's issues. Conclusions: The ability to track residents' concerns is at the center of supervisory activities rated as excellent. The resident provides data about what occurred, and new knowledge is constructed in the supervisory interaction. These findings provide an empirical basis for orienting supervisors to supervision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1084
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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