City Research Online

Supervision in the Psychological Therapies

Dartnall, Elizabeth (2013). Supervision in the Psychological Therapies. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The purpose of this study was to investigate supervisors’ perceptions of the relationship between supervision and therapeutic outcomes in the psychological therapies. Research investigating the contribution of supervision to therapeutic outcomes is limited and often methodologically weak (e.g. Freitas, 2002; Inman & Ladany, 2008; Watkins, 2011b; Wheeler & Richards, 2007a, 2007b). Watkins (2011b) identified only three methodologically robust research studies in this area in a period spanning thirty years, from 1981 to 2011 and only one of the three was situated within the psychological therapies (Bambling, King, Raue, Schweitzer, & Lambert, 2006). This qualitative study used a constructivist version of Grounded Theory to analyse the data collected from individual semi-structured interviews with ten participants, and a focus group with three participants. All participants were experienced supervisors and qualified psychological therapists based in the South West of the UK. Findings suggest that supervisors perceive the relationship between supervision and therapeutic outcomes to be indirect and that enabling the supervisee to become a better therapist is how supervision is perceived to indirectly contribute to improved outcomes for the supervisee’s clients. A number of issues emerged from the findings including difficulties in finding a common language for the term ‘therapeutic outcome’ and difficulty in ascertaining supervisory responsibility for therapeutic outcome, particularly where the supervisor did not have the ‘full picture’ of the supervisee’s caseload. These findings are captured in the core connecting category, which is conceptualised as ‘making sense of paradox and inconsistency in an indirect relationship between supervision and therapeutic outcomes’. An explanatory theory of the relationship between supervision and therapeutic outcomes, together with a diagrammatic theoretical model, is presented and recommendations for supervision practice and supervisor training in the psychological therapies are proposed. The study concludes that future research investigating the efficacy of supervision and its influence on client outcomes should first take account of supervisors’ frame of reference in relation to client outcomes and its application in supervision practice.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher Keywords: supervision; psychological therapies; therapeutic outcomes; grounded theory; recommendations for practice
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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