A Supervisor's Journal
Clinical Supervision
, Law and Ethics

Part I- Supervising a first year intern

Fulfills CA BBS Supervision Training Requirements
Includes Play Therapy Supervision

by Anonymous, PsyD, MFT

(Note: This journal appeared anonymously in our e-mail box)

Revised 2009
A continuing education course for 6 ces

meeting the CA BBS requirements for Supervision and Law & Ethics

Faster than a speeding bullet
More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!
Look! Up in the sky!
It's a bird! It's a plane!
It's Super...visor!
(You are kidding, right? No one can live up to that!)

In this course, we will cover aspects of supervision, including:

Legal and ethical issues in clinical supervision

Current laws and regulations pertaining to supervision

Supervisor's responsibilities

Records to keep

Roles and functions of Clinical Supervisor

Models of clinical supervision

Mental health related professional development

Methods and techniques in clinical supervision

Supervisory relationship issues

Cultural issues in clinical supervision

Evaluation of supervisee competence and the supervision process

Reverberations in the 3-dimensional Interpersonal Field between supervisor and supervisee as it parallels the field between supervisee and his or her patient

And, in blue, the Journal of an anonymous supervisor, including raw and unedited countertransference material, as well as examples of Parallel Process in action

Featuring excerpts from DSM-S - The DSM-Supervisors, with a special examination of DSM-S 004.78 -Engaging in an Act of Desperation by Desperate Supervisor

Contains an extensive Supervision Bibliography

Please note that many of the legal and ethical considerations are repeated in Parts II & III of the Clinical Supervision series.

Applies to supervising interns, trainees, social work associates, psychological assistants; to anyone in the Helping Professions of psychology, social work, counseling, psychotherapy, etc.


Note: This journal appeared anonymously in our e-mail box. With it was this note:

"Please use this as a supervision course. I am staying anonymous, because it contains very raw and honest countertransference material, and I am afraid that it will ruin my reputation when therapists see how my shadow emerged when I was supervising. I am particularly embarrassed about the times when I had an urge to 'throttle my intern'. I do hope that you will publish this as a course, however. I think it will help supervisors to hear about a truthful account of supervision. I also included the law and ethics stuff, but the journal is mostly about my experience as a supervisor. Thank you."


A Supervisor's Journal
Clinical Supervision
, Law and Ethics

Part I- Supervising a first year intern

by Anonymous, PsyD, MFT


(Choose one or both of the following statements as true:)

I sat down, eager to meet my new supervisee. I remembered, over the years, supervising many, many interns and trainees, with varying degrees of experience. I always looked forward to the first session, as everyone who I have supervised to date has brought me new awareness and insight into the art and science of psychotherapy.
I sat down, reluctant to meet my new supervisee. I remembered, over the years, supervising many, many interns and trainees, with varying degrees of experience.
I always dreaded the first session, as everyone who I have supervised to date has brought me new awareness and insight into my own shadow.
(I think I would have to choose both!)
'Daniel' (all names and identifying details have been changed) followed me into the consultation room, glancing at me through wire-rimmed glasses, not really making eye contact. He immediately took out a pen, to start taking notes. He looked scared; no doubt concerned that I would judge him, finding him inexperienced, incompetent, and whatever else his self-doubt could throw at him. (Boy, was I wrong about Daniel! After our session, I ran to my well-thumbed copy of the DSM-S - The DSM-Supervisors, and realized that I had succumbed to DSM-S 378 -Engaging in an Act of Projection onto Intern by Supervisor.) He had been assigned to me by the Counseling Center, and this was our first meeting. My agenda was to begin to get to know him, to put him at ease, and to review the legal and ethical implications of being an intern.
He looks awfully serious, I think. Maybe in his early thirties. This is his first placement; I remember when I first started seeing clients, in my first internship, when I was 24. I felt so scared! I knew I didn't know anything, although I would never admit it to my supervisor. I hope Daniel's in therapy; and, unfortunately, the Counseling Center cannot require therapy for its interns. Learning to be a therapist is really painful at times. I think the closest model is that of initiation. If it feels excruciating, and that every bone is broken, and every part of your psyche activated, then you will probably end up being a good therapist. If you just cruise through, you won't ever be able to go to the depths with your clients. Poor Daniel! I bet he doesn't have a clue what he is in for!
There is a resonance in the field between supervisee and supervisor, a 'parallel process' that occurs in supervision, so I wanted to model for Daniel the feeling of an initial session, as he would soon be starting to see clients. Initial sessions can be problematic in supervision, as there is a lot of ground to cover regarding responsibilities, law and ethics, paperwork, things to review, as well as the most important part, which is beginning to get a sense of the person. In some ways this is akin to an initial therapy session, particularly in a clinic setting where there are intake forms, releases, notification of intern status, etc.
Kaiser (1992), addressing the issue of supervisory relationship in family therapy supervision, highlighted the “phenomenon of isomorphism; what happens in supervision is reflected in the therapy” (p. 284). This is referred to later in this entry as the “parallel process,” in which the interaction between supervisor and supervisee directly affects the relationship between the social worker and the client. In reviewing the literature from the fields of social work, psychology, and marriage and family therapy, Kaiser identified four consistently cited issues: “the process of accountability (maintaining objectivity), the need for promoting the supervisee's personal awareness, the importance of establishing trust, and the need to attend to power and authority issues” (p. 284). (Shulman, L., “Supervision and Consultation”, From: A Social Policy Course at University of North Carolina, at Pembroke, taught by Stephen M. Marson, Ph.D., ACSW)
The concept of parallel process has its origin in the psychoanalytic concepts of transference and countertransference. The transference occurs when the counselor recreates the presenting problem and emotions of the therapeutic relationship within the supervisory relationship. Countertransference occurs when the supervisor responds to the counselor in the same manner that the counselor responds to the client. Thus, the supervisory interaction replays, or is parallel with, the counseling interaction. (Sumerel, Marie B., 1994, Parallel Process in Supervision. ERIC Digest ED372347)
I also wanted Daniel to get a sense of who I was, as we would be spending one hour a week for the next nine months together, unless something drastic happened. Whenever I consider this, my thoughts go to the other nine months in our lives, the time in the uterus. My job was perhaps like that of the mother, to create the 'free and protected place' as Dora Kalff used to say, for a therapist to develop. There are many ways in which therapists and supervisors err with regard to boundaries. One way to guard against this is to imagine that the therapeutic container is "sacred space", a temenos or 'free and protected' place. Conceptualize psychotherapy and supervision as a 'safe harbor' in which competent help is given in a clear and respectful manner, a place where the psyche of the client is honored above all. Anything that interferes with this is unethical and possibly illegal. That includes most contact outside of the therapeutic hour, including having coffee or lunch with a client or supervisee, bartering with a client for supervision or therapy in exchange for services or products, working with a client in more than one capacity, and most certainly, having a sexual relationship with a client.

My first supervisor was brutal; supervision with him was the opposite of the 'free and protected' place. When I reported to him after my first session as an intern, he told me that it was the "worst session he had ever supervised." It didn't help that all my friends had raved about him as a professor, although, years later, I realized that none had had him as a supervisor. Teaching, doing therapy and supervision are quite different at times! The person who creates the unconditional safe space of therapy may in fact be a lousy supervisor, unwilling to confront the supervisee. By the same token, the professor with many publications, who is his or her own harshest critic, may also be a poor supervisor. Such was the case with Dr. M and me. His blunt style and high expectations were a poor match for a feeling type, brand new baby therapist. I never wanted to do that to anyone I supervised.
Years later I realized that those who have been initiated cruelly will tend to be cruel in their initiation of others. It is the 'wounded who wound', unless they find within themselves the archetype of the wounded healer. Having been hurt by my first supervisor, I knew to be careful, to not repeat history. In fact, I tell my students and interns "It is a 'practice' that we do, not a perfect!"
I introduced myself to Daniel, and asked him to tell me about himself. I knew that if I had been interviewing him to be my intern (rather than him being assigned to me by the counseling center) that I could not ask his age, marital status, ethnic background, whether he has children, his religion, whether he has any disabilities or health problems, etc.; basically anything that could be considered discriminatory. In fact, a supervisor cannot even ask if an intern or supervisee is in therapy!!! (source: Riemersma, Mary, The Do's and Don't of Interviewing Interns and Trainees, May/June 1992 issue of The California Therapist)
I follow these guidelines when students are assigned to me, as I think they serve three purposes: they protect the intern against feeling judged unfairly or discriminated against; they protect the psyches of both the intern and supervisor from any prejudice, conscious or unconscious that might be there, and they afford some legal protection. I always notice (much like in a therapy session) at what point the intern trusts me enough self disclose about who he or she is.
Daniel didn't tell me much about himself, other than that he felt quite ready to see clients. I asked him what part of seeing clients excited him, and he responded that actually he was not very excited about seeing children, that this placement had been his second choice. He had applied to a Psychoanalytic Center, but they turned him down, saying he needed experience before he could be accepted there.
Great! Just what I need! A person who doesn't want to be here!
But then I got a little bingo in my brain, and realized in some ways this was perfect, because many of the children and adolescents Daniel would be seeing would not want to go to therapy; but rather it was imposed on them from outside sources: school or parents.
So, I asked Daniel how it felt to be here, when he really didn't want to be here.
I knew I had to be careful here, as I didn't want to cross the boundary between supervisor and therapist. I tried the old open-ended question, and Daniel stammered a bit, and was clearly uncomfortable with my question about how he felt. It seemed that, so far, in this initial session, that I was doing a lousy job of establishing rapport with Daniel. I reminded myself to trust that when and if I needed to know more, it would be revealed. But I do hope whatever ambivalence he has about being here has been worked through in therapy.
This is an issue in supervision that comes up again and again; where is the line between supervision and therapy? How much does a supervisor need to know about an intern in order to be an effective supervisor?
So, I tried again. "Daniel, can you please tell me something about yourself?" I asked.
He bent down to his briefcase and pulled out his resumé. It stated that he was 33 years old, had graduated with honors, from a very prestigious school, with a major in electrical engineering. His job experience had been in the field of computers, and he had entered Psychology graduate school one year ago. There were references listed, all in his former field. He stated on the resumé that he was single, with no children. There was nothing in his resumé at all related to psychotherapy. I had no idea how he had gotten from computers to psychology. I was wary, however, in the process of what had occurred. Not red flag alarmed; more like a yellow warning sign. It seemed as if he was being very open, and self-disclosing, by offering his resumé; but in fact, it told me nothing.
The Interactive Field
Here I fell back on my trusting the process. By and large, whatever needs to be revealed, will be revealed. If Daniel's issues regarding changing fields were to become a factor in his work, I trusted that I would know about them when I needed to. I also tuned into my own process as Daniel and I were talking, and realized all my images were about my own scientific and technical ineptness. I know that I am what is considered to be a 'feeling type', and Daniel was certainly presenting like a 'thinking' type. This would explain the blank expression he had when I asked how he felt about being here.
So, taking a deep breath, I tried a different tactic.
"Daniel, what do you think about being here?" Suddenly, Daniel was speaking about being at the counseling center, and all that he had done to prepare for his internship. Time and time again, when I reflexively asked him how he felt, he drew a blank. When I asked about the exact same issue, but instead remembered to ask him what he thought, then he would address the issue at hand. This is a type of diversity, I feel, that often is overlooked. "Typology Diversity" seems largely ignored, yet in some ways typology seems to be 'hardwired 'into how we process information. A smart feeling type (DSM-S 133.33, Supervisor talking about self in a way that no one is supposed to know that she is talking about herself) is often considered not bright, because abstract thinking can take a back seat to feeling in our schools and Western culture. While it is much easier to supervise someone of one's own typology, supervising those who are different stretches us. An example is with one intern I had years ago. When it came time to evaluate her, I marked her as somewhat defensive and oppositional. When she asked why, I told her it was because she seemed to fight me on everything I said. She looked puzzled, and asked for an example. I gave her one, and then she said, "That's thinking! I was thinking about it." (Thank you, Annabelle!) And she was right!
What I had felt to be oppositional, was really her thinking about what I was saying.
For an online typology test, please go to: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp
I asked Daniel if he had any other thoughts or concerns about becoming a therapist. "No" he said. "I feel ready, I already have the first session mapped out." The little red warning light went off in my brain. I was psychically starting to hyperventilate, as can happen in the presence of the opposite type. I pulled myself back from the edge of hysteria. I cannot imagine how someone could have a treatment plan without having seen the client, nor know anything about him or her!!!
Fortunately, my training stood me in good stead, as I assumed the 'poker face' of the therapist or supervisor who has been taken off guard. "Hmmm.." I said to Daniel. No response. So I tried again. "Hmmm..can you say more about that?"
Daniel again bent down to his briefcase, pulling out a bibliography of many pages. "You see", he said, "I made a quantitative analysis of initial sessions, and have figured out exactly what has the best chance of success. You see, here it says you need a complete developmental history, and here is the diagram that you need to figure out the core issue. It is an equation with .333 weight given to the symptom, .333 to the family history or family of origin, and .333 to how the client is while in the session. Then you find out what these issues have in common, and when that is isolated, then you have the 'core' issue. From there, every thing you say or do relates to the core issue."
"Hmmm.."I said. "Daniel, have you given any THOUGHT to how this will apply with a seven year old? Or a teenager?"
"Well," he said, "that was my reason for wanting to work with adults at the psychoanalytic institute. But I have prepared this form to get an accurate history." Here he handed me a copy of his 20 page developmental history form. "I think with young children, I will send home the developmental history form for the parents to fill out. Latency age children might need some assistance, but they could do it primarily by themselves. I know I could have, when I was that age. Adolescents would certainly have the capacity to complete the questionnaire on their own."
Now, many of the children who he would be seeing in the schools had parents who had recently immigrated, and spoke little or no English. When I looked over the form, mentally filling it out regarding my 11 year old son, I realized that there was no way that my son could do it, and doubtful that I could fill it out. Maybe I have no memory left, but I cannot imagine why it would be relevant to know at what age his third tooth came in! I actually feared asking Daniel why that was on his developmental history, not wanting another bibliography to come out of his briefcase.
"Hmmm..." I said. And wondered what trickster had assigned Daniel to me!
And because, quite frankly, I didn't know what to say, I brought the interview back to his tasks, and general issues about being an intern.
We spent the rest of the first hour talking, and I reviewed with Daniel the basics of being an intern. We would have at least one other session before Daniel was assigned any clients, so I hoped in the next session I could develop some rapport with Daniel and we could begin to get to know each other. I went over my expectations of him, and I made sure he knew of the legal and ethical aspects of being an intern.
Legal and ethical aspects
Daniel realized that he would be telling people that he was an intern, not a licensed therapist, and working under supervision. I stressed to him that personal relationships with patients and dual relationships would not be condoned. We talked about what would constitute a dual relationship. I also asked him, once he started seeing patients, to please let me know if he had any fantasies or dreams about a patient.
I reminded myself about the importance of therapeutic boundaries in the supervisory relationship, to avoid all dual relationships with my supervisees. I keep my own journal of feelings, fantasies and my reactions regarding about my supervisees, and discuss them in my consultation group. I had learned that the unconscious feelings stirred up in me by my supervisees and my patients can lead to the very heart of the supervisory and therapeutic process, if I have the courage to really look at them.
Therapeutic boundaries
Daniel and I discussed why a sexual boundary should never be crossed.  Both therapy and supervision are relationships of power. If we become unconscious of the power shadow, then it wreaks havoc upon us! 

According to California laws:
 Any kind of sexual contact, asking for sexual contact, or sexual misconduct by a therapist with a patient is illegal, as well as unethical, as set forth in Business and Professions
Code sections 726, 729, 2960(o), 4982(k) and 4992.3(k).
 “Sexual contact” means the touching of an intimate part of another person, including sexual intercourse.
 “Touching” means physical contact with another person, either through the person’s clothes or directly with the person’s skin (Business and Professions Code section 728).
Sexual contact can include sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, fondling and any other kind of sexual touching. Sexual misconduct also covers a broader range of activity, including nudity, kissing, spanking, verbal suggestions, innuendoes or advances.
This kind of sexual behavior by a therapist with a patient is sexual exploitation. It is unethical, unprofessional and illegal.

In California there is a pamphlet that we are required to give to our clients who have had a sexual relationship with a therapist. It is a Department of Consumer Affairs publication entitled "Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex".  It is available on-line at: www.psychceu.com/proftherapy.pdf.
The contents include:

Patient Bill of Rights

Definitions and warning Signs

Where to Start

What Can You Do?

Reporting Options

Administrative Action

How the Complaint Process Works

Professional Association Action

Civil Action

Finding an Attorney

Criminal Action

Where to Get Help Finding a Therapist

Self-Help Support Groups

Frequently Asked Questions

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Therapists have been disciplined by their licensing boards for not supplying this pamphlet to clients who have had a sexual relationship with a previous therapist. Single copies of the publication are available at no charge from Publications Office, California Department of Consumer Affairs, PO Box 310, Sacramento California 95802. 
Daniel and I talked about confidentiality, and how he was going to handle questions from parents, teachers, other children (which is a very common occurrence working in a school setting), as well as outside agencies (foster homes, protective services, etc.).
We talked about laws and ethics, including:
5150 (involuntary psychiatric holds)
informed consent,
scope of practice,
client welfare,
what constituted an emergency, and
how emergencies would be handled.

Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Supervision. ERIC Digest.


In recent years, it has become generally accepted that supervision draws upon knowledge and skills that are different than, and go beyond, those of psychotherapy. Similarly, the ethics and legal imperatives regarding supervision both encompass psychotherapy issues and go beyond them. Furthermore, because supervision is a triadic rather than a dyadic relationship, the supervisor must always attend to the need for balance between the counseling needs of clients and the training needs of the counselor.

With the increase of litigation in American society over the past generation, ethics and law have become intermingled (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992). It is important for the supervisor to remember, however, that ethics call the supervisor to a standard of practice sanctioned by the profession while legal statutes define a point beyond which a supervisor may be liable. For our purposes here, the functional interconnectedness between ethics and the law will be accepted.


Competence is an increasingly complex issue as mental health and supervision have become more sophisticated enterprises. Implications of both counselor competence and supervisor competence will be described here briefly.


By definition, a supervisee is a person who is not yet ready to practice independently. It is for this reason that supervisors are held responsible for what happens with clients being seen by the supervisee (Harrar, VandeCreek, & Knapp, 1990). At the same time, counselors must be challenged in order to become more expert. This, then, is the supervisor's tightrope: providing experiences that will stretch the counselor's ability without putting the client in danger or offering substandard care. Whenever a close call must be made, supervisors must remember that their obligation is to the client, the public, the profession, and the supervisee -- in that order (Sherry, 1991). Therefore, the supervisor continually decides if the supervisee is good enough on a consistent basis to work with any particular client (ACES, 1993).


First, the supervisor needs to know everything, and more, than is expected of the supervisee. Secondly, the supervisor must be expert in the process of supervision. It is not enough that clients are protected as a result of supervision; the contract between supervisor and supervisee dictates that supervision must ultimately result in better counseling skills for the supervisee. In order to accomplish this, it is generally accepted that the supervisor receive training in performance of supervision as well as supervision of supervision.


For both counselors and supervisors, any dual relationship is problematic if it increases the potential for exploitation or impairs professional objectivity (Kitchener, 1988). There has been greater divergence of opinion about what constitutes an inappropriate dual relationship between supervisor and counselor than between counselor and client. Ryder and Hepworth (1991), for example, stated that dual relationships between supervisors and supervisees are endemic to many educational and work contexts. Most supervisors will, in fact, have more than one relationship with their supervisees (e.g., graduate assistant, co-author, co-facilitator). The key concepts remain "exploitation" and "objectivity." Supervisors must be diligent about avoiding any situation which puts a supervisee at risk for exploitation or increases the possibility that the supervisor will be less objective. It is crucial, however, that supervisors not be intimidated into hiding dual relationships because of rigid interpretations of ethical standards. The most dangerous of scenarios is the hidden relationship. Usually, a situation can be adjusted to protect all concerned parties if consultation is sought and there is an openness to making adjustments in supervisory relationships to benefit supervisee, supervisor and, most importantly, clients.


As part of the mandate of competence, the supervisor must determine not only if the supervisee has the knowledge and skill to be a good counselor, but if he or she is personally ready to take on clinical responsibility (Kurpius, Gibson, Lewis, & Corbet, 1991). The issue of personal readiness can lead the supervisor to blur the roles of supervisor and therapist in an attempt to keep the supervisee functional as a counselor. This is problematic for two reasons: (1) it compromises the objectivity of the supervisor, especially in terms of evaluation; (2) it may allow an impaired counselor to continue to practice at the risk of present and future clients.


Informed consent is key to protecting the counselor and/or supervisor from a malpractice lawsuit (Woody, 1984). Simply, informed consent requires that the recipient of any service or intervention is sufficiently educated about what is to transpire, the potential risks, and alternative services or interventions, so that he or she can make an intelligent decision about his or her participation. Supervisors must be diligent regarding three levels of informed consent (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992): (1) the supervisor must be confident that the counselor has informed the client regarding the parameters of counseling; (2) the supervisor must be sure that the client is aware of the parameters of supervision (e.g., that audiotapes will be heard by a supervision group); and (3) the supervisor must inform the supervisee about the process of supervision, evaluation criteria, and other expectations of supervision (e.g., that supervisees will be required to conduct all intake interviews for a counseling center in order to increase interview and writing skills).


Due process is a legal term that insures one's rights and liberties. While informed consent focuses on the entry into counseling supervision, due process revolves around the idea that one's rights must be protected from start to finish. Again, supervisors must protect the rights of both clients and supervisees. An abrupt termination of a client could be a due process violation. Similarly, a negative final evaluation of a supervisee, without warning and with no opportunity to improve one's functioning, is a violation of the supervisee's due process rights.


Confidentiality is an often-discussed concept in supervision because of some important limits of confidentiality both within the therapeutic situation and within supervision. It is imperative that the supervisee understands both the mandate of honoring information as confidential (including records kept on the client) as well as understanding when confidentiality must be broken (including the duty to warn potential victims of violence) and how this should be done. Equally important is a frank discussion about confidentiality within supervision and its limits. The supervisee should be able to trust the supervisor with personal information, yet at the same time, be informed about exceptions to the assumption of privacy. For example, supervisees should be apprised that at some future time, their supervisors may be asked to share relevant information to State licensure boards regarding their readiness for independent practice; or supervisors may include supervision information during annual reviews of students in a graduate program.


Supervisors should not shun opportunities to supervise because of fears of liability. Rather, the informed, conscientious supervisor is protected by knowledge of ethical standards and a process that allows standards to be met consistently. There are three safeguards for the supervisor regarding liability: (1) continuing education, especially in terms of current professional opinion regarding ethical and legal dilemmas; (2) consultation with trusted and credentialed colleagues when questions arise; and (3) documentation of both counseling and supervision, remembering that courts often follow the principle "What has not been written has not been done" (Harrar, Vandecreek, & Knapp, 1990).


As gatekeepers of the profession, supervisors must be diligent about their own and their supervisees' ethics. Ethical practice includes both knowledge of codes and legal statutes, and practice that is both respectful and competent. "In this case, perhaps more than in any other, supervisors' primary responsibility is to model what they hope to teach" (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992, p. 150).


Bernard, J.M., & Goodyear, R.K. (1992). Fundamentals of clinical supervision. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. (Summer, 1993). Ethical guidelines for counseling supervisors. ACES Spectrum, 53 (4), 5-8.

Harrar, W.R., VandeCreek, L., & Knapp, S. (1990). Ethical and legal aspects of clinical supervision. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 21, 37-41.

Kitchener, K.K. (1988). Dual role relationships: What makes them so problematic? Journal of Counseling and Development, 67, 217-221.

Kurpius, D., Gibson, G., Lewis, J., & Corbet, M. (1991). Ethical issues in supervising counseling practitioners. Counselor Education and Supervision, 31, 58-57.

Ryder, R., & Hepworth, J. (1990). AAMFT ethical code: Dual relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 16, 127-132.

Sherry, P. (1991). Ethical issues in the conduct of supervision. The Counseling Psychologist, 19, 566-584.

Woody, R.H. (1984). The law and the practice of human services. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Janine M. Bernard, Ph.D. is professor and program director of the Counseling Program at Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.


ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of OERI or ERIC/CASS.

Title: Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Supervision. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Competence, Counselor Training, Counselors, Ethics, Legal Responsibility, Supervision, Supervisors
Identifiers: ERIC Digests


We reviewed child abuse reporting, and that reports must be made immediately by telephone and in writing, within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident. I started to give Daniel the California form for reporting child abuse so he could become familiar with it, but he pulled one out of his briefcase. I also told him, that in addition to the legal requirements that suspected abuse must be reported, that he must also notify me, as his supervisor.

Child Abuse is a Serious Problem

  • There are 3 million cases of child maltreatment reported each year and 33% are substantiated. Some 1,300 children die each year and the rest sometimes carry physical and emotional scars for the rest of their lives.

  • What is Child Abuse?
    Child Abuse is mistreatment or neglect of children by parents or caretakers resulting in injury or harm. It includes: Non-accidental Physical injuries, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation, Physical Neglect, Inadequate Supervision, Mental Cruelty

    Who Should Report Child Abuse? Any citizen is encouraged to report child abuse. All professionals who have a special working relationship or contact with children are mandated by law to report actual and suspected abuse. Reports must be made immediately by telephone and in writing, within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident. Professionals required to report include medical personnel, teachers, mental health workers, social workers, childcare personnel, commercial film and photographic print processors and law enforcement officers. Failure to report may result in criminal action. Mandated reporters are not liable for civil damages or criminal prosecution as a result of making a report. Other persons are not liable unless it can be proven that an intentionally false report was made.

If child abuse is suspected in the clinical situation we are mandated to report these suspicions to the local Child Protective Agency.  We want to always act in the best interest of our client.  As stated, that can require outside referrals, consultation, referrals to CPS or hospitalization.  It always requires a commitment to stay current with the state of treatments available in our profession.  When dealing with a CPS referral it is generally best to approach the issue gently and firmly.  As we address the parameters of confidentiality, in the intake and informed consent process, we can refer to that discussion and explain that we are bound to protect the child and parent in these situations.  Acting in their best interest is to make the referral and get the extra support these agencies can provide.  CPS is usually grateful to have a therapist already involved and will align with the established clinical goals.


Elder abuse
Elder abuse is a serious problem in our society, and must be reported, under California law, by therapists.  California Laws Chapter 769, Statutes of 1986, Chapter 637, Statutes of 1987, and Chapter 1396, Statutes of 1987 provides for mandatory reporting of physical abuse when:
the victim reports that abuse has occurred or if you observe the incident when an injury or condition reasonably leads one to suspect that abuse has occurred.
The law requires mandated reporters to make a verbal report immediately, or as soon as possible, followed by a written report within two (2) working days."
Elder Abuse
Elder Abuse is under a provision of mandatory reporting. The following is from Oaktrees.org.
"The following indicators, by themselves, do not necessarily signify abuse or neglect. They may be clues, however, and thus helpful in assessment of abuse.
* Possible indicators of Physical Abuse
o Cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds

o Bruises, welts, discoloration

o Any injury incompatible with history

o Any injury which has not been properly cared for (injuries are sometimes hidden on areas of the body normally covered by clothing)

o Poor skin condition or poor skin hygiene

o Absence of hair and/or hemorrhaging below scalp

o Dehydration and/or malnourished without illness-related cause

o Loss of weight

o Burns: may be caused by cigarettes, caustics, acids, friction from ropes or chains, or contact with other objects o Soiled clothing or bed
* Possible indicators of Psychological/Emotional Abuse


Hesitation to talk openly


Implausible stories


Confusion or disorientation

Denial Anger Agitation
* Possible indicators of Financial Abuse
o Unusual or inappropriate activity in bank accounts

o Signatures on checks, etc., that do not resemble the older person's signature, or signed when older person cannot write

o Power of attorney given, or recent changes or creation of will, when the person is incapable of making such decisions

o Unusual concern by caregiver that an excessive amount of money is being expended on the care of the older person

o Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent, when someone is supposed to be paying the bills for a dependent elder

o Placement in nursing home or residential care facility which is not commensurate with alleged size of estate

o Lack of amenities, such as TV, personal grooming items, appropriate clothing, that the estate can well afford

o Missing personal belongings such as art, silverware, or jewelry

o Deliberate isolation, by a housekeeper, of an older adult from friends and family, resulting in the caregiver alone having total control
* Possible indicators of Neglect by Caregiver
o Dirt, fecal/urine smell, or other health and safety hazards in elder's living environment.

o Rashes, sores, lice on elder o Elder is inadequately clothed

o Elder is malnourished or dehydrated

o Elder has an untreated medical condition
* Possible indicators of Self-Neglect
o Inability to manage personal finances, e.g. hoarding, squandering, giving money away or failure to pay bills
o Inability to manage activities of daily living, including personal care, shopping, meal preparation, housework, etc.

o Suicidal acts, wanderings, refusing medical attention, isolation, substance abuse

o Lack of toilet facilities, utilities or animal infested living quarters (dangerous conditions)

o Rashes, sores, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing, malnourished, dehydration, etc.

o Changes in intellectual functioning, e.g. confusion, inappropriate or no response, disorientation to time and place, memory failure, incoherence, etc.

o Not keeping medical appoints for serious illness
* Possible indicators of Abuse from the Caregiver
o The elder may not be given the opportunity to speak for him or herself, or see others, without the presence of the caregiver (suspected abuser)

o Attitudes of indifference or anger toward the dependent person, or the obvious absence of assistance

o Family member or caregiver blames the elder (e.g. accusation that incontinence is a deliberate act)

o Aggressive behavior (threats, insults, harassment) by caregiver toward the elder

o Previous history of abuse of others

o Problems with alcohol or drugs

o Inappropriate display of affection by the caregiver

o Flirtations, coyness, etc. as possible indicators of inappropriate sexual relationship

o Social isolation of family, or isolation or restriction of activity of the older adult within the family unit by he caregiver

o Conflicting accounts of incidents by family, supporters, or victim

o Unwillingness or reluctance by he caregiver to comply with service providers in planning for care an implementation

o Inappropriate or unwarranted defensiveness by caregiver
California Laws Chapter 769, Statutes of 1986, Chapter 637, Statutes of 1987, and Chapter 1396, Statutes of 1987 provides for mandatory reporting of physical abuse when: the victim reports that abuse has occurred or if you observe the incident when an injury or condition reasonably leads one to suspect that abuse has occurred. The law requires mandated reporters to make a verbal report immediately, or as soon as possible, followed by a written report within two (2) working days.
I asked Daniel about how we (notice the 'we', not 'he') could protect a client's confidentiality. It is a paradox of supervision that we are training our interns to uphold the confidentiality of their clients as we ask them to break it in supervision. We talked about how to inform clients about confidentiality, and what would be grounds for breaking it. We discussed Tarasoff (which in 25 years of practice, I have never had to use); child abuse; elder abuse; suicide; and 5150, in which a client needs to be involuntarily hospitalized for their own protection.

I told Daniel a bit about my experiences breaking confidentiality, and how kind and supportive both child protective services and the local police (when I had to 5150 someone) have been. I wanted him to realize that therapists only break confidentiality for very good reasons: abuse, and life or death issues. When we do break the container, it is our task, as much as possible, to ensure that the people who are called to intervene are compassionate and truly protective.

There is however another paradox of supervision, which is something I wrestle with every semester. How confidential is supervision? How can I create a safe and protected place for my interns when I have to evaluate them, and report on our work in the supervisors' meetings?

We discussed the agency policy that patient files are not to be removed from the office, under any circumstances, nor did the agency permit photocopies of records, due to the possible breach of confidentiality and the difficulty safeguarding these records.

We went over how clients were to pay, that any checks received would not be made out to him, but to the Counseling Center. (If he had been a private practice intern, the client checks would be made out to me, as the supervisor, not to the intern.)
I had to be very conscious not to get into "robot" mode as we went over laws, rules, regulations, paperwork, etc. (While these are my least favorite parts of supervision, I know the importance of establishing an intern's knowledge of the laws and ethics regarding psychotherapy. Ultimately, our laws and ethics are there for the protection of the client, the therapist, the supervisor, and the therapeutic process. Clear boundaries make possible the creation of the 'free and protected' space.)
In a study of supervision, Kadushin (1974) conducted a national survey of 750 supervisors and an equal number of supervisees. The purpose was to identify the sources of satisfaction for both supervisors and supervisees. Supervisors in the study took great satisfaction in helping supervisees grow and develop professionally; their greatest source of dissatisfaction related to dealing with administrative red tape. Supervisees identified being able to share responsibility with supervisors and being able to obtain support for difficult cases as their greatest source of satisfaction. A majority of both the supervisors and supervisees in Kadushin's study believed that as the supervisee gained experience, the relationship became one of consultant–consultee, a form of supervision preferred by many social workers. Strong dissatisfaction with supervision was reported by many social workers, who believed the authority of the supervisor was exercised in a negative manner. (Shulman, L., “Supervision and Consultation”, From: A Social Policy Course at University of North Carolina, at Pembroke, taught by Stephen M. Marson, Ph.D., ACSW)

I reviewed with him the Counseling Center's grievance policy if either of us found it impossible to work with each other. If Daniel had been a private practice intern, I would have made it clear (both in writing and verbally) that he was hired "at will." (At this point, though, I thought that Daniel would be the least likely person who I would hire in my practice! - See the DSM-S 899.99 Negative Countertransference from Feeling type Supervisor to Thinking Type Student in the Initial Session.) "At will," means that I could "fire" him, "at will", or for any reason whatsoever, with or without cause. I have had to do this once, for severe ethical lapses on the part of a private practice supervisee, who simply would not respect therapeutic boundaries with her clients. I never want to go through that again!
ERIC Identifier: ED372354
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Cryder, Annette Petro - And Others
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.

Supervision of Marriage and Family Counselors. ERIC Digest.



The adage "training shapes practice" describes the work of most marriage and family supervisors. Taking this metaphor one step backward, most marriage and family supervisors also believe that "theory shapes training." In terms of theory, the defining hallmark of marriage and family supervision during its brief history has been a systemic orientation (Smith, 1993). Other distinguishing features include a reliance on live forms of supervision, and the viewing of ethical issues within larger familial, cultural, and societal contexts (Smith, 1993).


A family system is often described as constantly evolving and self-regulating. During counseling, systemic change occurs via interactions among family members and via interactions with other systems (e.g., the supervisor, the counseling team, social service agencies, legal systems, and others) (Pirrotta & Cecchin, 1988). Furthermore, each client family can be understood as a special group of people sharing a unique history, and featuring unique operating rules and social behaviors.

For these reasons, marriage and family supervisees face a particularly complex and powerfully dynamic counseling situation in which they may experience a high level of anxiety (Pirrotta & Cecchin, 1988). Commonly used supervisory approaches, described below, may be thought of as avenues to effectively manage both the complexity and power of the family system, and any resulting supervisee anxiety (Pirrotta & Cecchin, 1988).

Anxiety also may occur when supervisees face counseling situations that parallel their own family backgrounds. Typically, rather than helping supervisees resolve family of origin concerns, marriage and family supervisors focus on helping supervisees develop clinical skills (AAMFT, 1993). Accepted practice among marriage and family supervisors is to provide competency-based supervision that is "clearly distinguishable from personal psychotherapy" (AAMFT, 1993, p. 17). This practice speaks to the general belief that with a solid repertoire of clinical goals and skills, supervisees can manage both their own emotions and issues and those of the families they counsel.



Marriage and family supervisors regard live supervision as particularly effective, because the supervisor can assist both the supervisee and the family by altering the course of counseling as it occurs. Modalities include telephone interventions, consultation breaks with trainees, and supervisor-as-co-counselor. Other conventional supervisory methods include delayed video or audiotape review, and verbal reports.

One goal of videotape review is to help trainees improve what Tomm and Wright (1979) described as perceptual and conceptual skills. After watching part of a videotaped session, supervisees might be asked, for example, to describe family members' common themes or behavioral interactions, to reflect on interventions that might work in similar future situations with client families, or to describe what they have learned about marriage and family counseling from the session. Using the supervisee's verbal reports also encourages clinical growth. Verbal reporting allows a mutual questioning process between supervisor and supervisee that helps the supervisee organize information about client families into useful frameworks for consideration (West, Bubenzer, Pinsoneault, & Holeman, 1993).


As societal perspectives change, so do marriage and family counseling and supervision. Because marriage and family supervisors view families within the larger social context, the field of marriage and family supervision may be more immediately influenced by changes in the social fabric than other related disciplines. Emerging forces affecting marriage and family counseling and supervision include the evolution of social constructionist ideas, the challenge of the feminist critique, a growing awareness and recognition of cultural diversity, and the assimilation of current research into training (Smith, 1993).



Many ideas changing marriage and family supervision arose from a social constructionist perspective. This is the perspective that "realities are created and formed by our views of the world" (West et al., 1993, p. 136). Imbedded in this view is the assumption that there is no one "correct" reality; that there may exist a multiplicity of useful opinions concerning how to live life, and how to view the world. Counseling interventions informed by social constructionism often involve questioning sequences that illuminate new perspectives on life and new possibilities for living. Still, despite these more collaborative supervisory approaches, it continues to be true that supervisors oversee the work of supervisees, and "should recognize their legal responsibilities for cases seen by their supervisees" (AAMFT, 1993, p. 12).


One constructionist supervision method uses a reflecting team of peers. The process often begins with an interview in which one person questions a supervisee about a counseling-related case or dilemma while the team silently observes. Afterwards, team members share a variety of observations and thoughts they believe may help the supervisee in working with families. Some purposes of reflecting teams include a) having supervisees actively engage in co-constructing realities through the isomorphic form-follows-function reflecting process, b) creating a collaborative and supportive training atmosphere, and c) encouraging the sharing of alternative perspectives that may help supervisees solve counseling impasses or dilemmas (Davidson & Lussardi, 1991). Team members' thoughts are shared with the supervisee in a speculative manner, and are often posed using question stems such as "I wonder what would happen if..." "Could it be that..." or "How would things be different if...."


Another constructionist perspective increasingly used in marriage and family supervision emphasizes the self-defining nature of narratives. This perspective has been most fully developed by White (1992), who believes that the narratives we construct reflect and shape our reality and the way we live our lives. During supervision, White highlights supervisees' useful narratives about their "life as a therapist" (White, 1992, p. 86). The supervisor (or a reflecting team) helps the trainee in identifying and expanding "unique outcomes" (White, 1992) in counseling sessions, those breakthrough times when the trainee did something pivotal that helped the client family. The supervisor helps the supervisee weave these unique outcomes into an evolving narrative about the trainee's "preferred way of being a counselor." Examples of possible questions are "What does this [unique outcome] say about you as a counselor?" "What do you think the family members might tell me about how you helped them?" "What does this suggest about the future direction of your work?" (White, 1992).


Throughout its history, the field of marriage and family supervision has been shaped by the systemic orientation of its practitioners. Some prominent features of this orientation are a reliance on live forms of supervision, a contextual view of client families, and an educational supervisory role that emphasizes supervisee skill-building. Promising additions to the field of marriage and family supervision involve questioning and collaborative team approaches that aid trainees in exploring and living out their ideal ways of being counselors.


American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. (1993). Approved supervisor designation: Standards and responsibilities. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Davidson, J., & Lussardi, D. J. (1991). Reflecting dialogues in supervision and training. In T. Andersen (Ed.), The reflecting team: Dialogues and dialogues about the dialogues (pp. 143-154). New York: Norton.

Pirrotta, S., & Cecchin, G. (1988). The Milan training program. In H.A. Liddle, D.C. Breunlin, & R.C. Schwartz (Eds.), Handbook of family therapy, training & supervision (pp. 78-92). New York: Guilford.

Smith, R. L. (1993). Training in marriage and family counseling and therapy: Current status and challenges. Counselor Education and Supervision, 33, 89-101.

Tomm, K. M., & Wright, L. M. (1979). Training in family therapy: Perceptual, conceptual and executive skill. Family Process, 18, 227-250.

West, J. D., Bubenzer, D. L., Pinsoneault, T., & Holeman, V. (1993). Three supervision modalities for training marital and family counselors. Counselor Education and Supervision, 33, 127-138.

White, M. A. (1992). Family therapy training and supervision in a world of experience and narrative. In D. Epston & M. A. White (Eds.), Experience, contradiction, narrative & imagination. South Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.


Donald L. Bubenzer, Ph.D., is coordinator, John D. West Ed.D., is a professor, and Annette P. Cryder, M.Ed., is a doctoral student in the Counseling and Human Development Services Program at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.


ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of OERI or ERIC/CASS.

Title: Supervision of Marriage and Family Counselors. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Counselor Training, Counselors, Family Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Supervision, Supervisors, Supervisory Methods
Identifiers: ERIC Digests


I gave Daniel the website address of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, (which, of course, he already had...) He found the Frequently Asked Questions for MFT Interns and Trainees.
If you are not a California therapist, please go to your Licensing Board for relevant information. We have some links listed in our website at http://www.psychceu.com/statece1regs.html.
Please e-mail us your state information, so that we may include it in future versions of this course! Thank you!
Note for California Therapists:
Although the information regarding BBS and BOP supervisor requirements are current at the time of this writing, it is your responsibility to stay current with the regulations. We recommend that you periodically check with your professional organization and licensing board for updates.
The California BBS has a page on their website of "Forms and Publications at: http://www.bbs.ca.gov which includes the following:
  • MFT Experience Verification
  • MFT Weekly Summary of Hours of Experience
  • MFT Supervisor Responsibility Statement
  • Clinical Social Worker Experience Verification
  • LCSW Supervisor Responsibility Statement
  • Supervisory Plan
  • Termination of Supervision
Being a believer in "as above, so below", meaning that in order to keep the power dynamic balanced, I gave myself the same homework assignment. When I got home, I went to the CA BBS site and reviewed the:
California Board of Behavioral Science Laws And Regulations Relating To The Practice Of Marriage, Family, And Child Counseling, Licensed Clinical Social Work, And Licensed Educational Psychology.
Mandatory Continuing Education
(A) Effective January 1, 2000, supervisors who are licensed by the board shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework every two years. This training or coursework may apply towards the continuing education requirements set forth in Sections 4980.54 and 4996.22 of the Code. (B) Supervisors who are licensed by the board who have completed a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework between January 1, 1997, and December 31, 1999, may apply that training towards the requirement described in subsection (A).
(C) Supervisors who are licensed by the board who commence supervision on and after January 1, 2000, and have not
met requirements of subsection (A), shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework within sixty (60) days of commencement of supervision.

The Responsibility Statement for Supervisors (Section 1833.1 of the California Code of Regulations)


(a) Any person supervising an intern or trainee (hereinafter "supervisor") within California shall comply with the
requirements set forth below and shall, prior to the commencement of such supervision, sign under penalty of perjury the “Responsibility Statement for Supervisors of a Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor Trainee or Intern” (see below) revised 1-00 requiring that:
(1) The supervisor possess and maintains a current valid California license as either a marriage, family, and child
counselor, licensed clinical social worker, licensed psychologist, or physician who is certified in psychiatry as specified in Section 4980.40 (f) of the Code and has been so licensed in California for at least two years prior to commencing any supervision; or

(A) Provides supervision only to trainees at an academic institution that offers a qualifying degree program as specified
in Section 4980.40 (a) of the Code; and
(B) Has been licensed in California as specified in Section 4980.40 (f) of the Code, and in any other state, for a total of
at least two years prior to commencing any supervision.

(2) If such supervisor is not licensed as a marriage, family, and child counselor, he or she shall have sufficient
experience, training, and education in marriage, family, and child counseling to competently practice marriage, family, and c)child counseling in California.


(3 The supervisor keeps himself or herself informed of developments in marriage, family, and child counseling and in California law governing the practice of marriage, family, and child counseling.


(4) The supervisor has and maintains a current license in good standing and will immediately notify the intern or trainee of any disciplinary action, including revocation or suspension, even if stayed, probation terms, inactive license status, or lapse in licensure, that affects the supervisor's ability or right to supervise.

(5) The supervisor has practiced psychotherapy for at least two (2) years within the five (5) year period immediately preceding any supervision and has averaged at least five (5) patient/client contact hours per week.

(6) The supervisor has had sufficient experience, training, and education in the area of clinical supervision to competently supervise trainees or interns.

(A) Effective January 1, 2000, supervisors who are licensed by the board shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours
of supervision training or coursework every two years. This training or coursework may apply towards the continuing education requirements set forth in Sections 4980.54 and 4996.22 of the Code. (B) Supervisors who are licensed by the board who have completed a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework between January 1, 1997, and December 31, 1999, may apply that training towards the requirement described in subsection (A).
(C) Supervisors who are licensed by the board who commence supervision on and after January 1, 2000, and have not
met requirements of subsection (A), shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework within sixty (60) days of commencement of supervision.


(7) The supervisor knows and understands the laws and regulations pertaining to both the supervision of trainees and interns and the experience required for licensure as a marriage, family, and child counselor.

(8) The supervisor shall ensure that the extent, kind, and quality of counseling performed is consistent with the education, training, and experience of the intern or trainee.

(9) The supervisor shall monitor and evaluate the extent, kind, and quality of counseling performed by the intern or trainee by direct observation, review of audio or video tapes of therapy, review of progress and process notes and other treatment records, or by any other means deemed appropriate by the supervisor.

(10) The supervisor shall address with the intern or trainee the manner in which emergencies will be handled.

(11) The supervisor agrees not to provide supervision to a trainee unless the trainee is a volunteer or employed in one of the following work settings permitted by law: (A) a governmental entity (B) a school, college, or university (C) a nonprofit and charitable corporation (D) a licensed health facility (Health and Safety Code Sections 1250, 1250.2 and 1250.3) (E) a social rehabilitation facility or a community treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1502(a)) (F) a pediatric day health and respite care facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1760.2) (G) a licensed alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 11834.02)

(12) The supervisor agrees not to provide supervision to an intern unless the intern is a volunteer or employed in one of the following work settings permitted by law:

(A) a governmental entity

(B) a school, college, or university

(C) a nonprofit and charitable corporation

(D) a licensed health facility (Health and Safety Code Sections 1250, 1250.2 and 1250.3)

(E) a social rehabilitation facility or a community treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1502(a))

(F) a pediatric day health and respite care facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1760.2)

(G) a licensed alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 11834.02)

(H) a private practice as specified in Section 4980.43 (f)

(b) Each supervisor shall provide the intern or trainee with the original signed “Responsibility Statement for Supervisors of a Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor Intern or Trainee” revised 1-00 prior to the commencement of any counseling or supervision. The intern shall provide the board with his or her signed “Responsibility Statement for Supervisors of a Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor Intern or Trainee” revised 1-00 from each supervisor upon application for licensure. The trainee shall provide the board with his or her signed “Responsibility Statement for Supervisors of a Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor Intern or Trainee” revised 1-00 from each supervisor upon application for internship.

(c) A supervisor shall give at least one (1) week's written notice to an intern or trainee of the supervisor's intent not to certify any further hours of experience for such person. A supervisor who has not provided such notice shall sign for hours of experience obtained in good faith where such supervisor actually provided the required supervision.

(d) The supervisor shall obtain from any intern or trainee for which supervision will be provided, the name, address, and telephone number of the intern’s or trainee’s most recent supervisor and employer.

(e) In any setting that is not a private practice, a supervisor shall evaluate the site(s) where an intern or trainee will be gaining hours of experience toward licensure and shall determine that:

(1) the site(s) provides experience which is within the scope of marriage, family, and child counseling; and

(2) the experience is in compliance with the requirements set forth in this section.

(f) Upon written request of the board, the supervisor shall provide to the board any documentation which verifies the supervisor's compliance with the requirements set forth in this section.

(g) The supervisor responsibility statement required by this section shall be used for supervisorial relationships commencing on or after 1-1-98.

(h) The board shall not deny hours of experience gained towards licensure by any supervisee due to failure of his or her supervisor to complete the training or coursework requirements in subsection (a) (6).

NOTE: Authority cited: Section 4980.35, 4980.40(f) 4980.60, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Sections 4980.35, 4980.40(f), 4980.42 through 4980.45, 4980.54 and 4996.22, Business and Professions Code. History 1. Renumbering of former Section 1833.1 to Section 1833.3 and new Section 1833.1 filed 1-5-90; operative 1-1-91 (Register 90, No. 8). For prior history, see Registers 87, No. 34 and 83, No. 38. 2. Amendment filed 10-31-97; operative 1-1-98 (Register 97, No. 44). 3. Change without regulatory effect amending subsection (a), adding new subsections (a)(11)(E)-(G), repealing and adopting new subsection (a)(12)(E), adding new subsections (a)(12)(F)-(H) and amending subsection (b) filed 4-28-98 pursuant to section 100, title 1, California Code of Regulations (Register 98, No. 18). 4. Amendment of subsections (a)(1), (a)(3), and (a)(4), new subsections (a)(6)(A)-(C), amendment of subsection (b), new subsection (h) and amendment of NOTE file 1-21-99; operative 2-20-99 (Register 99, No. 4). 5. Change without regulatory effect amending subsections (a) and (b) filed 12-22-99 pursuant to section 100, title 1, California Code of Regulations (Register 99, No. 52.)


1800 37A-523 (REV. 7/02)
400 R ST., SUITE 3150, SACRAMENTO, CA 95814-6240
TELEPHONE:(916)445-4933 TDD:(916)322-1700
WEBSITE ADDRESS: http://www.bbs.ca.gov
Title 16, California Code of Regulations Section 1833 & 1833.1 requires any qualified licensed mental health professional who assumes responsibility for providing supervision to those working toward a Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor license to complete and sign, under penalty of perjury, the following statement.
Trainee’s or Intern’s Name IMF Number
Supervisor’s Name
As the supervisor:
1) I am licensed in California and have been so licensed for at least two years prior to commencing this supervision. The license I hold is:
Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor……………………………. ______________, _________
License # Issue Date
Licensed Clinical Social Worker.............................................. ______________, ______________
License # Issue Date
*Psychologist.................................................................... ______________, ______________
License # Issue Date
*Physician certified in psychiatry by the ................................….. , ______________
American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology License # Issue Date
[Business and Professions Code Section 4980.40(f)]
I have had sufficient experience, training, and education in marriage, family, and child counseling to competently practice marriage, family, and child counseling in California and I will keep myself informed about developments in marriage, family, and child counseling.
2) I have and maintain a current license in good standing and will immediately notify any intern or trainee under my supervision of any disciplinary action taken against my license, including revocation or suspension, even if stayed, probation terms, inactive license status, or lapse in licensure, that affects my ability or right to supervise.
3) I have practiced psychotherapy for at least two (2) years within the five (5) year period immediately preceding this supervision and I have averaged at least five (5) patient/client contact hours per week.
4) I have had sufficient experience, training, and education in the area of clinical supervision to competently supervise trainees or interns.
5) I have completed a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework every two years or I have commenced supervision on and after January 1, 2000 and will complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision training or coursework within sixty (60) days of commencement of supervision.
6) I know and understand the laws and regulations pertaining to both the supervision of trainees and interns and the experience required for licensure as a marriage, family, and child counselor.
7) I shall ensure that the extent, kind, and quality of counseling performed is consistent with the education, training, and experience of the intern or trainee.
8) I shall monitor and evaluate the extent, kind, and quality of counseling performed by the intern or trainee by direct observation, review of audio or video tapes of therapy, review of progress and process notes and other treatment records, or by any other means deemed appropriate.
(OVER) This form may be reproduced
9) I shall address with the intern or trainee the manner in which emergencies will be handled.
10) I agree not to provide supervision to a trainee unless the trainee is a volunteer or employed in one of the following work settings permitted by law; a) a governmental entity; b) a school, college, or university; c) a nonprofit and charitable corporation; d) a licensed health facility (Health and Safety Code Sections 1250, 1250.2, and 1250.3); e) a social rehabilitation facility or a community treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1502(a)); f) a pediatric day health and respite care facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1760.2); g) a licensed alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 11834.02).
11) I agree not to provide supervision to an intern unless the intern is a volunteer or employed in one of the following work settings permitted by law; a) a governmental entity; b) a school, college, or university; c) a nonprofit and charitable corporation; d) a licensed health facility (Health and Safety Code Sections 1250, 1250.2, and 1250.3); e) a social rehabilitation facility or a community treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1502(a)); f) a pediatric day health and respite care facility (Health and Safety Code Section 1760.2); g) a licensed alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility (Health and Safety Code Section 11834.02); h) a private practice as specified in Section 4980.43(f).
12) If I am to provide supervision on a voluntary basis, a written agreement will be executed between myself and the organization in which the employer acknowledges that they are aware of the licensing requirements that must be met by the intern or trainee, they agree not to interfere with my legal and ethical obligations to ensure compliance with these requirements, and they agree to provide me with access to clinical records of the clients counseled by the intern or trainee.
13) I shall give at least (1) one week's written notice to any intern or trainee of my intent not to certify any further hours of experience for such person. If I have not provided such notice, I shall sign for hours of experience obtained in good faith where I actually provided the required supervision.
14) I shall obtain from any intern or trainee for which supervision will be provided, the name, address, and telephone number of the intern’s or trainee’s most recent supervisor and employer.
15) In any setting that is not a private practice, I shall evaluate the site(s) where an intern or trainee will be gaining hours of experience toward licensure and shall determine that: (1) the site(s) provides experience which is within the scope of marriage, family, and child counseling; and (2) the experience is in compliance with the requirements set forth in Title 16, California Code of Regulations Sections 1833 & 1833.1.
16) Upon written request of the Board, I shall provide to the board any documentation which verifies my compliance with the requirements set forth in this section.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that I have read and understand the foregoing and that I meet with all the criteria stated therein and the information submitted on this form is true and correct.

_________________________________________ ____________________________________
Printed Name of Qualified Supervisor Signature of Qualified Supervisor Date
Mailing Address: Number and Street City State Zip Code
Qualified Supervisor's Daytime Telephone Number: _______(___________)____________________________
* Psychologists and Physicians certified in psychiatry are not required to comply with #5.
This summary of supervisor's responsibilities is adapted from the 'Myths and Realities of Supervision' by Mary Riemersma (The California Therapist, September/October 2001):
* Sign and adhere to the attestations on the Supervisor Responsibility Statement.
* Be certain that the supervisee works within his/her scope of practice and competence.
* Be certain that the supervisee provides services in compliance with the law and ethical standards of his/her profession.
* Be certain that the work setting that the supervisee is in is appropriate.
* Be certain that the supervisee signs the mandatory statement acknowledging his/her child abuse reporting duties.
* M
onitor and evaluate the diagnosis and treatment decisions of the supervisee
(and whatever additional monitoring is required by Licensing Boards)
* Review client/patient records.
* Provide some direct observation (by one-way mirror, videotape, audiotape) of the supervisee
* Advise or encourage your supervisee, when appropriate, to get personal psychotherapy while being careful not to take on that role.
* Develop a plan with your supervisee to address emergencies.
* Obtain the name, address, and telephone number of your supervisee's prior supervisor and employer-and then use this information to learn of the supervisee's strengths, weaknesses and areas to work on.
* Sign the log of hours on a weekly basis.

(Source: Myths and Realities of Supervision, The California Therapist, September/October 2001)

**** Remember: It is YOUR license on the line! ****

As the session was ending, I asked Daniel if he had any questions about me. He said he did not, but I imagine that as he feels more comfortable, they will emerge. I had him sign some forms provided by the counseling center. We ended the session, and I asked him to spend some time during the next week thinking about what it meant to him to be a child therapist, and how he imagined his first sessions would go. I also asked him to keep a journal for himself of how it really was going for him. I stressed that the journal would be his alone; that I would never ask him to share it with me. I explained that I wanted him to just try it, almost as an experiment. I told him that I had been journaling about my work for 25 years, and it helped keep me in touch with my own insides as I worked. I gave him a blank book.
I hope he uses the journal, although he did look at me like I was a bit of an alien, from who knows which planet!! (DSM-S 536.99a: Supervisor imagines he or she is being perceived as an alien by intern; unable to verify, because it is too soon in the process for supervisor to ask intern if he or she is perceiving supervisor as an alien. Differential diagnosis: 536.09n: Supervisor imagines he or she is being perceived as 'nuts' by intern, unable to verify, because it is too soon in the process for supervisor to ask intern if he or she is perceiving supervisor as 'nuts'.)

I find the journal an invaluable tool for staying in touch with my own countertransference, and my own truth. I hope he feels that it is a safe place for him to process how it feels to be becoming a therapist. I am a bit concerned that this meeting had been a big zero, with no real connection made between the two of us. I usually hate these types of sessions, in which most of our time is spent with paperwork, and the legal and ethical aspects of supervision, but Daniel was very prepared. Either I always fear that I have forgotten something crucial, or that the laws have changed. I have no doubt that if they do, that Daniel will be aware of it, as he told me he has been a student member of every professional organization that he could join, and that he has a system for weekly monitoring of their websites.
I admit that I was exhausted after this session!
While our session was still fresh in my mind, I started a file on Daniel for my records.
Daniel's file included forms provided by the counseling center, that he had signed as we ended:
Once he starts seeing clients, then I include:
If he had been a private practice intern, I would also include:
Please keep in mind that different licensing boards have varying requirements for supervision. This is a 'bare bones' outline only. It is your responsibility to check with your professional association and licensing board for specifics regarding the supervision you are doing!
Supervising Social Work Associates

Please remember, when supervising social work associates, that you must develop a supervisory plan that defines the goals and objectives of the supervision. This must be submitted by the Associate Clinical Social Worker to the BBS within thirty days of starting supervision. Additionally, assessments of the social work associate are required both annually and at termination.

Mandatory Continuing Education
Before supervising a social work associate you must complete 15 hours of coursework specific to supervision, including: familiarity with supervision literature, facilitation of therapist-client and supervisor-therapist relationships, evaluation and identification of problems, structuring to maximize supervision, knowledge of contextual variables, and the practice of social work including legal and ethical issues.

400 R ST., SUITE 3150, SACRAMENTO, CA 95814-6240
1800 37A-521(REV. 2/99) TELEPHONE:(916)445-4933 TDD:(916)322-1700
WEBSITE ADDRESS: http://www.bbs.ca.gov
Title 16, California Code of Regulations Section 1870.1 requires all associate clinical social workers and licensed clinical social workers or licensed mental health professionals acceptable to the Board as defined in Section 1874 who assume responsibility for providing supervision to those working toward a license as a Clinical Social Worker to complete and sign the following supervisory plan. The original signed plan shall be submitted by the Associate Clinical Social Worker to the board within 30 days of commencement of supervision.
I. ASSOCIATE: (Please type or print clearly in ink.)
II. LICENSED SUPERVISOR: (Please type or print clearly in ink.)
a. Private Practice . . . . . . . .
b. Governmental Entity . . . .
c. Nonprofit and Charitable Corporation . .........
d. School, College, or University . . . . . . . . . . . .
e. Licensed Health Facility. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .
f. Social Rehabilitation Facility/Community Treatment Facility........
g. Pediatric Day Health and Respite Care Facility.. ....
h. Licensed Alcoholism or Drug Abuse Recovery or Treatment Facility . .



I certify that I understand the responsibilities regarding clinical supervision, including the supervisor’s responsibility to perform ongoing assessments of the supervisee, and I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the information submitted on this form is true and correct.
The original of this form must be mailed to:
Board of Behavioral Sciences
400 R St. , Suite 3150
Sacramento, CA 95814

For a printer friendly version of this form, please go to:

In addition to the development of clinical skills, I use the following guidelines to assist in setting goals and objectives for social work associates:
Dynamic System: This model generates four major agendas for the supervisor and the social worker. First, there is the question of job management. A social worker must be able to work within the structure of the agency in terms of time (for example, being on time for work and meetings, meeting deadlines on reports, and timely recording and developing the skills needed for effective management of caseloads). Second, the social worker must relate effectively to agency policy and procedures. Social workers must implement policies and follow established procedures while they simultaneously develop the skills necessary to influence them. Third, for effective practice, social workers must develop skills to deal with professional colleagues, support staff, and supervisors. As social workers attempt to deliver a service, their efforts must be coordinated with those of other staff members. Harmonious work relationships are required for staff members to effectively provide help to clients. When a breakdown occurs in team relationships, the outcome is an almost inevitable deterioration of client service. Fourth, social workers must also deal with supervisors—symbols of authority—and must learn how to use this relationship to their advantage.
(Shulman, L. “Supervision and Consultation”, From: A Social Policy Course at University of North Carolina, at Pembroke, taught by Stephen M. Marson, Ph.D., ACSW)
Supervising Psychological Assistants
For psychologists, please go to http://www.psychboard.ca.gov
as there are new laws in effect. (This version reflects the most recent changes, thus has two letters for some of the items.)
Mandatory Continuing Education
If you are supervising aspiring psychologists you are also required to obtain six hours of training in supervision. Effective January 1, 2003, primary supervisors who are licensed by the board shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision coursework every two years.

The Board of Psychology adopted the following amendments to its regulations in Division 13.1 of Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations as follows:
1387.1. Qualifications and Responsibilities of Primary Supervisors.
This section becomes operative effective January 1, 2001.
All primary supervisors shall be licensed psychologists, except that board certified psychiatrists may be primary supervisors of their own registered psychological assistants.
(a) Primary supervisors shall possess and maintain a valid, active license free of any formal disciplinary action, and shall immediately notify the supervisee of any disciplinary action, including revocation, surrender, suspension, probation terms, or changes in licensure status including inactive license, delinquent license or any other license status change that affects the primary supervisor's ability or qualifications to supervise.
(b) This subsection will become inoperative on January 1, 2003.
Primary supervisors shall certify under penalty of perjury on the verification form referenced in section 1387(b)(12) that they are qualified to supervise psychology trainees pursuant to 1387.1(a) and that they have completed at least six hours of formal training in supervision. Such training shall include the processes, procedures and theories of supervision needed to prepare trainees for independent practice of psychology with safety to the public. Additionally, such training shall include laws and regulations relating to the practice of psychology. Training pursuant to this section may be obtained in one or more of the following ways:
(1) Supervision of supervision training during internship;
(2) Formal coursework in supervision of psychology trainees taken from an accredited educational institution.
(3) Workshops in supervision of psychology trainees;
(4) Supervision training received as part of grand rounds;
(5) Other experiences which provide direction and education in the principles of supervision of psychology trainees.
(c) Effective January 1, 2003, primary supervisors who are licensed by the board shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision coursework every two years.
(1) Primary supervisors who have completed a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision coursework between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2002, may apply that training or coursework towards this requirement.
(2) Primary supervisors who have not previously met this requirement shall complete a minimum of six (6) hours of supervision coursework within sixty (60) days of commencement of supervision.
(3) Primary supervisors shall certify under penalty of perjury to completion of this coursework requirement each time the supervisor completes a verification form as referenced in section 1387(b)(9).
(cd) Primary supervisors shall be in compliance at all times with the provisions of the Psychology Licensing Law, the licensing laws of the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Medical Practice Act, and the regulations adopted pursuant to these laws.
(de) Primary supervisors shall be responsible for ensuring compliance at all times by the supervisee with the provisions of the Psychology Licensing Law, The licensing laws of the Board of Behavioral Sciences and the Medical Practice Act, and the regulations adopted pursuant to these laws.
(ef) Primary supervisors shall be responsible for ensuring that all SPE including record keeping is conducted in compliance with the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.
(fg) Primary supervisors shall be responsible for monitoring the welfare of the supervisee's clients.
(gh) Primary supervisors shall be responsible for informing each client or patient in writing prior to the rendering of services by the supervisee that the supervisee is unlicensed and is functioning under the direction and supervision of the supervisor and that any fees paid for the services of the supervisee must be paid directly to the primary supervisor or employer.
(hi) Primary supervisors shall be responsible for monitoring the clinical performance and professional development of the supervisee.
3(Ij) Primary supervisors shall ensure that they have the education, training, and experience in the area(s) of psychological practice they will supervise.
(jk) The primary supervisor shall ensure that the supervisee has education and training in the area(s) of psychological practice to be supervised.
(kl) Primary supervisors shall have no familial, intimate or other relationship with the supervisee which would compromise the supervisor's effectiveness, and/or which would violate the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.
(lm) Primary supervisors shall not supervise a supervisee who is now or has ever been a psychotherapy client of the supervisor.
(mn) Primary supervisors shall not exploit or engage in sexual relationships, or any other sexual contact with supervisees.
(no) Primary supervisors shall provide a copy of the pamphlet Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex to each supervisee.
(op) Primary supervisors shall monitor the supervision performance of all delegated supervisors.
NOTE: Authority cited: Section 2930, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Section 2914, Business and Professions Code.

If you are supervising persons pursuing the psychology license, you are required to file an annual report that addresses specific criteria.

For current regulations,

Please visit the California Bord of Psychology

Please visit for the NBCC's Code of Ethics.

For the California Board of Behavioral Science

For the American Psychological Association's Code of Ethics

Please visit for the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics and Standard Procedures.

Please visit the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists' Code of Ethics

Please visit the National Association for Social Workers' Code of Ethics

Please visit the Association for Play Therapists' Code of Ethics

After Daniel left, I was very glad that I had a free hour in which to process. I try, whenever possible, to schedule a break after anyone new, either client or supervisee. It helps me to 'cement' who the person is in my psyche, and to give me time to record my fantasies, projections, and countertransference. This process seems to allow me to let go of the session more easily, so that it does not linger in my psyche, and bleed into the next person's hour. I find if I am still thinking about a session, then usually either there is something left undone, or my countertransference is activated. I realized, that as supervisors, we carry a lot! We are charged with:
1. training a new therapist,
2. holding our own countertransference,
3. trying not to become the
  • parent
  • authority figure
  • therapist
of the intern
4. at the same time holding the intern and ALL of the psyches of his or her clients within ourselves!
5. Add to this that the supervisor's license is on the line for legal and ethical lapses on the part of the intern!
Daniel's second session
Daniel came to the second session prepared (why was I not surprised!!); he had gone to the licensing board website, and joined even more professional associations as a student member. This gave him subscriptions to various journals, as well as access to the 'members only' section of the websites, which contained valuable articles, forums for discussion, etc. He had printed out more information from the licensing board, as well as the relevant Code of Ethics, as well as almost every article posted online from the previous years of The California Therapist.
I was pleased that he was taking his internship so seriously, and wondered about his level of preparation. Usually, interns come to beginning supervision a bundle of nerves; Daniel's rigidity and over-preparation seemed somewhat defensive to me. I was worried about what would happen when Daniel started seeing a 'real 'child in therapy, as opposed to a statistical survey of what children do. Was he going to be capable of being spontaneous? Would he be able to play?
I asked him if he had any questions from our last session, and he said he didn't. I wondered (out loud, to him) if he had any questions for me, about me...who I was, my experience, etc. He said he didn't, that he had researched my credentials, and read everything that I had written. I left the door open, so to speak, telling him if he did wonder about me, to please feel free to ask.
The reason I did this was because he had been assigned to me. Now, if I remember correctly from my schooling, counseling centers were a hot bed of gossip, rumor and innuendo. Most students knew a lot about their prospective supervisor, much of it untrue. I wanted to elicit Daniel's projections to me, as an authority figure, as that would be a part of his clinical work. The people he saw as a therapist would perceive him as an authority, and to know his own process and projections around this power dynamic would be helpful in his work.
I also know from reading, that if the supervisor's authority came solely from the agency, that the supervision tends to be less effective than if the authority came from the person of the supervisor.
Supervisor–Supervisee Relationship
Other models of supervision focus on the nature of the supervisor–supervisee relationship. These have been described in the literature as ranging from more traditional, authoritarian models in which the supervisor's authority emerges from agency sanction on one end, to more collaborative models in which the authority emerges essentially from the supervisor's competence on the other end.
Munson (1981, 1983) surveyed 65 supervisees and 64 supervisors. He focused on models of supervision in three areas: (1) structure (traditional–individual, group, and independent); (2)authority (sanction versus competence); and (3)teaching (Socratic, growth, and integrative). He examined the impact of the use of different models on social worker satisfaction with supervision and integration. Munson (1981) found that “The structural models did not produce significantly different outcomes regarding interaction and satisfaction, but the authority models did. The competence model of authority was the most productive in all respects” (p. 71). This was the model in which the supervisor's authority was derived from competence and skill rather than from agency sanction.
(Shulman, L.
“Supervision and Consultation”, From: A Social Policy Course at University of North Carolina, at Pembroke, taught by Stephen M. Marson, Ph.D., ACSW Sources cited: Munson, C. E. (1981). Style and structure in supervision. Journal of Education for Social Work, 17, 65–72. , Munson, C. E. (1983). An introduction to clinical social work supervision. New York: Haworth Press.)
Daniel and I talked about the initial session in therapy. He, of course, knew all the paperwork he had to go over with his clients, so now we could focus on the dynamics of the first session. Daniel had two roles at the agency: to go to the schools and work with students, from elementary through high school, and to see clients at the Counseling Center. After our session, he would be assigned his first in-school client, and see his first client at the counseling center. As the semester progressed, more clients would be added to his caseload.
He said he had thought a lot about working with children and had some questions for me about technique and theory. He pulled out a long list from his briefcase, and started asking away. He wanted to know what to do if the presenting problem was encopresis, in a latency age child, what to do with a hyperactive preschooler, a sexually acting out teenager, etc. His list was very specific, and I felt that I had to move him into more general territory. I talked about establishing rapport, and how to create the 'free and protected place' in therapy so that the client will feel safe enough to disclose who they really are.
Daniel knew that his first client in the school was a 8 year old girl who we shall call 'Maria'. Maria had been referred to the counselors seeing students in the schools because of a suspected diagnosis of ADHD, and acting out behavior. Her mother had recently given birth to a boy, after a tenuous pregnancy, which involved almost 5 months of bedrest. Maria's brother, born prematurely, was fine now.
I suggested to Daniel that he could ask Maria why she thought she was seeing a counselor, and what she wanted to do. If Daniel could hear what Maria said, Maria would not only be letting Daniel know how to work with her, but also would get clues to Maria's transference.
Daniel thought about what projections he might carry, and realized that he might have a 'father' or 'big brother' transference from his clients. He started to take out his print outs regarding ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, but I stopped him. I asked him what he thought about play.
He looked a bit confused, and again reached for the briefcase. "Daniel" I said (trying really hard not to be impatient), "Play? What was your favorite thing to do as a child?"
"Umm, well, I guess I played a lot of video games. And I had my picture in the Lego magazine when I was in latency, for a Lego ship that I built. Games? I don't really remember much about my childhood. Let's see, I was very good at chess, and was always in the chess club at school. Play? That's about it really. I was an only child, of two professors, who were quite old when I was born, so I didn't really play with a lot of other children. I was always in the accelerated learning courses. On weekends I would do my homework, read, and then play the video games."
"But what does this have to do with me seeing a child in therapy?"
Daniel would soon find out!
Daniel sees Maria
Daniel came into our next session looking somewhat dejected. "I saw Maria, and I don't think it went very well. She didn't seem to know why she was there, and didn't understand about confidentiality and Tarasoff. She couldn't even read my developmental history form, and kept wiggling all around when I tried to do the paperwork with her. "
"I tried to explain about being an intern, and that I would be discussing the work with my supervisor. I reviewed with Maria the reasons I would have to break confidentiality, and then asked Maria if she had any questions. All she said was 'no, who cares, blah blah blah!' and then she laughed. And asked if she could play."
"All she wanted too do was play. And the worst thing was, when I suggested chess, she laughed at me, again! I can see exactly why she is considered defiant."

"And all she wanted to do was play Candyland! She didn't even want to do a House-Tree -Person drawing for me, or play with something that had some symbolic content to it, like doll house play or sandplay, which I have read extensively about. No, all she wanted to do was play Candyland!"
I asked Daniel what he did.
"I played Candyland. For 45 minutes, I played Candyland. And the galling thing is, there is no strategy about Candyland, no skill, no logic. I can see why my parents never let me play Candyland. I almost think it should not be the playroom, it has no educational value whatsoever."
I was concerned here on two counts:
1. Daniel did not really seem to know how to play
2. He was still very tied in to what his parents' belief system had been.
I wondered if he was experiencing the inflation that often happens as an intern learns to be a therapist. Frequently the fears are so great that a compensatory inflation gets established in the psyche, and the intern acts as if he or she is omnipotent. Then supervision becomes a minefield, as the supervisor must be simultaneously gentle with the defense while deflating the grandiosity. This can work, but I have ended up with either an intern who is enraged, as he or she struggles to maintain the defenses, or has dissolved into a puddle of tears when the underlying doubts and fears surface.
Resistance often takes the form of "games" played by supervisees who either consciously or unconsciously attempt to manipulate and exert control over the supervision process. Although all supervisees do not play games, many do. Kadushin (1968) defined four categories of supervisee games. Manipulating demand levels involves games in which the supervisee attempts to manipulate the level of demands placed on him/her. Often the supervisee uses flattery to inhibit the supervisor's evaluative focus. Redefining the relationship occurs when the supervisee attempts to make the relationship more ambiguous. For example, in the game of self-disclosure, the supervisee would rather expose himself/herself instead of counseling skills. Reducing power disparity occurs when the supervisee focuses on his/her knowledge. In this game, the supervisee tries to prove the supervisor "is not so smart." If successful, the supervisee can mitigate some of the supervisor's power. In controlling the situation, the supervisee prepares questions to direct supervision away from his/her performance. Other means for controlling supervision include requesting undue prescriptions for dealing with clients, seeking reassurance by reporting how poorly work is progressing, asking others for help to erode supervisor authority, or selectively sharing information to obtain a positive evaluation. A more hostile and angry form of control involves blaming the supervisor for failure.
In describing supervisee games, Bauman (1972) discussed five types of resistance. Submission, a common form of resistance, occurs when the supervisee behaves as though the supervisor has all the answers. Turning the tables is a diversionary tactic used by the supervisee to direct the focus away from his/her skills. "I'm no good" occurs when the supervisee pleads fragility and appears brittle; the attempt is to prevent the supervisor from focusing on painful issues. Helplessness is a dependency game in which the supervisee absorbs "all" information provided by the supervisor. The fifth type of resistance projection, is a self-protection tactic in which the supervisee blames external problems for his/her ineffectiveness. More thorough discussions of supervisee (and supervisor) games are presented by Bernard and Goodyear (1992) and Bradley (1989).
(Bradley, Loretta J. - Gould, L. J., Supervisee Resistance. ERIC Digest.)

I also did not want to cross the supervision/therapy boundary, so decided to hold these thoughts in abeyance, and address Maria's desire to play Candyland.

He said that he had been thinking of Candyland in the psychoanalytic tradition, and that it seemed to be about the earliest stages of development: the oral stage. He said that is why he wanted to know about if Maria was breastfed, and, if so, for how long.
I asked Daniel if perhaps he thought Maria was drawn to Candyland because she was feeling somewhat deprived. She had lost her mother's attention for a long time, during her bedrest and preoccupation with her difficult pregnancy. The birth of a premature baby, such as Maria's new brother, can be very disruptive to the older child in the family. Did Maria miss her parents? Did Maria fear the new baby would die? Did she, at some level, want the new baby to die? Could Candyland be comforting to her? Could it represent 'yummy' times? Counter a feeling of deprivation? (I doubt that many children would play a game called "Vegetableland" in which the goal was to attain a big salad, or a plate of broccoli.) Did Maria need to be somewhat regressed? Was she going back in time, to when she had more of her parents? Did the randomness of Candyland help her master how out of control her life had become?
Daniel looked at me as if I were nuts! (DSM-S 536.09n: Supervisor imagines he or she is being perceived as 'nuts' by intern, unable to verify, because it is too soon in the process for supervisor to ask intern if he or she is perceiving supervisor as 'nuts'. Differential diagnosis: DSM-S 536.99a: Supervisor imagines he or she is being perceived as an alien by intern; unable to verify, because it is too soon in the process for supervisor to ask intern if he or she is perceiving supervisor as an alien.) How could a stupid game like Candyland reveal all of this? "No thanks," his body language seemed to say, "I am sticking with my theory, not yours!"
As he was leaving the session, Daniel said, "Oh! I wanted to tell you. The baby's name is 'Daniel' but they call him 'Danny'.
It never ceases to amaze me how often a client or intern will 'drop the bomb' at the end of the session. I wondered if Daniel realized the significance of the fact that Maria's little brother had the same name as Daniel. How would that play out? What did it mean, coming at the end of the session?
I reread this article, Strategies and Methods of Effective Supervision, keeping in mind how developmental considerations interface with supervision. As a supervisor to a first semester intern, I knew that my supervision would be primarily supportive and educational. Often it takes interns until they are in their second year of training to be less frightened, and confident enough to really grapple with parallel process.

ERIC Identifier: ED372341
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Hart, Gordon M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.

Strategies and Methods of Effective Supervision. ERIC Digest.

A variety of strategies and methods are available to supervisors for use with counselors whom they supervise. This summary is designed to acquaint supervisors with techniques for enhancing the counseling behavior of their supervisees while also considering individual learning characteristics as depicted by the supervisee's developmental level.
To improve a supervisee's skills in working with clients, some form of assessment must be done while counseling is taking place (rather than with clients who have terminated). Using strategies that examine a supervisee's counseling behavior with current clients allows a supervisor to correct any error in assessment, diagnosis, or treatment of the client, and thus increases the probability of a successful outcome.


Whether the supervisor's purpose is to improve a supervisee's skills or to ensure accuracy, actual counselor-client interaction must be examined (Hart, 1982). Although the traditional method of counselor self-report is often used, this form of data-gathering is notoriously inaccurate. The more reliable forms of data-gathering are review of a client's case history; review of results of current psychodiagnostic testing, including a structured interview (such as a mental status exam); and, particularly, examination of the counselor-client sessions via methods such as audiotape, videotape, and observation through a one-way mirror or sitting in the sessions (Borders & Leddick, 1987).
Of the methods for reviewing counselor-client sessions, the use of live supervision (observation via television or one-way mirror) provides an opportunity to give a supervisee immediate corrective feedback about a particular counseling technique and to see how well the counselor can carry out a suggested strategy. Live supervision is effective for learning new techniques, learning new modalities (e.g., family counseling), and gaining skills with types of clients with whom the counselor is unfamiliar (West, Bubenzer, Pinsoneault, & Holeman, 1993). A live supervision strategy can be supplemented by review of a session immediately following the session or delayed a day or more.
Supervision conducted immediately following a counseling session or delayed a day or two could use an audiotape or videotape of the counseling session or use non-recorded observation through a one-way mirror or television system. Supervisors are advised to review audio or videotapes of a supervisee's counseling session prior to the supervision session in order to plan a strategy of intervention. The supervisee also should review the tape to prepare questions and discussion topics.
In immediate and delayed supervision sessions, the supervisor should focus on what the supervisee wanted to do with the client, what he/she said or did, and what he/she would like to do in future counseling sessions. Regardless of when the review of the counseling session is conducted (live, immediate, or delayed), the supervisor will have examined an actual work sample of the supervisee and no longer must rely solely on self-report. This examination is likely to aid in the supervisor's credibility in reporting on a supervisee's competence to school or agency administrators regarding retention or promotion, to state licensing officials, or to courts, should that be necessary.


Although group and peer supervision are powerful approaches (Hart, 1982), individual supervision is likely to be the main form of reviewing supervisee performance (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992). When using individual supervision, a supervisor must consider most carefully the developmental level of the supervisee (Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987). Specifically, how skilled is the supervisee in general and specifically with the type of client in question, how anxious is the supervisee when reviewing his/her work, and what is the supervisee's learning style? Although these factors may vary somewhat independently, it is likely that less skilled counselors will be somewhat anxious. Additionally, developmental level has been conceptualized as cognitive or conceptual level and has been associated with challenging a supervisee to grasp increasingly more sophisticated concepts.
With novice supervisees, a high degree of support and a low amount of challenge or confrontation is advisable (Howard, Nance, & Myers, 1986). When learning style is considered, a micro-training approach focusing on specific skills might be used, demonstrated by the supervisor, and then practiced in the supervision session by the supervisee in a role-play. However, some novice or anxious supervisees learn best by a macro approach; that is, having a clear overview of the goals of the session, expected role of the counselor, client typology, and specific client characteristics such as race, gender, culture, socioeconomic status, family background, and personality characteristics. For these supervisees, use of written case study materials or an IPR (Interpersonal Process Recall) approach (Kagan 1980) might be better than a micro-training approach.
With more competent supervisees, the focus may be placed on more advanced skills or on more complex client issues. Either a micro or macro approach may be used. Using videotape is suggested for these supervisees, as they are more likely to be able to assimilate the larger amount of data provided by videotape compared to that provided by audiotapes, which are suggested for use with less competent supervisees.
With more skilled and more confident supervisees, exploration of issues usually found to be threatening also may be examined. Such issues include relationship of theoretical orientation to technique employed, personal style, counselor feelings about the client, and learning new and innovative techniques or modalities (individual, group, or family counseling).
Developmentally, a supervisor should expect that supervisees progress to more independent functioning whereby supervisees pick the clients and client issues which they wish to review as well as the personal issues or client dynamics they wish to examine. Audio or videotape segments can be selected for review rather than listening to entire tapes. At this more advanced stage of supervision, the supervisor may feel more like a colleague or a consultant than a teacher, which allows the supervisor to share more examples of his/her own counseling experience conveyed either through self report or via audiotapes (Hart, 1982). With more skilled and confident supervisees, collaboration such as co-leading a group or co-counseling with a family can be conducted. Although such collaboration strategies have been advocated for novice counselors, maximum benefit more likely may be achieved by supervisees who are more confident in their skills and who have developed basic skills sufficiently to be able to perceive and learn the complex skills that a supervisor is likely to use when working with a group or family.


Supervision for the clinical/counseling functions of counselors in schools and agencies should focus on actual work samples. Using a micro-training versus a more macro approach should depend on what works best for a particular supervisee, along with the supervisee's level of skill and confidence.


Bernard, J. M. & Goodyear, R. K. (1992). Fundamentals of clinical supervision. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Borders, L. D., & Leddick, G. R. (1987). Handbook of counseling supervision. Alexandria, VA: Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
Hart, G. M. (1982). The process of clinical supervision. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Howard, G. S., Nance, D. W., & Myers, P. (1986). Adaptive counseling and therapy: An integrative, eclectic, model. The Counseling Psychologist, 14, 363-442.
Kagan, N. (1980). Influencing human interaction - eighteen years with IPR. In A.K. Hess (Ed.), Psychotherapy supervision: Theory, research and practice (pp. 262-283). New York: Wiley.
Stoltenberg, C. D., & Delworth, U. (1987). Supervising counselors and therapists: A developmental perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
West, J. D., Bubenzer, D. L., Pinosneault, T., & Holeman, V. (1993). Three supervision modalities for training marital and family counselors. Counselor Education and Supervision, 33, 127-138.
Gordon M. Hart, Ph.D., is Professor of Counseling Psychology in the Counseling Psychology Program at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of OERI or ERIC/CASS.

Title: Strategies and Methods of Effective Supervision. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Counselor Client Relationship, Counselor Training, Counselors, Individual Characteristics, Supervision, Supervisory Methods
Identifiers: ERIC Digests

The Next Sessions
We continued in this vein for several more sessions, with Daniel starting to see additional clients, including high school students, and a family at the Counseling Center. His main energy however centered on Maria, so, for the purposes of this course, we will stay with Daniel's experience with Maria.
Maria's mother had returned Daniel's developmental history form to him. He was shocked. It was sticky with some kind of baby food, and the answers were terse. For the first five pages, questions on Maria's intrauterine development and the pregnancy, Maria's mom had scrawled 'easy'. On the other fifteen pages, Daniel's precise questions about teeth coming in, walking and talking, the answers were, "OK. " The only thing that indicated any problem was at the very end, when he asked about the reasons for the child being in counseling at this time, and any symptoms. The answer was, "Things are hard now. She is not so happy."
Several of his more elaborate questions were marked with ??? for answers. Daniel was "appalled that a parent could care so little for his or her child not to take the time to answer important questions." It was much later that Daniel realized that answering questions did not correlate to love, and that his questions might be hard for a parent to answer if English was not his or her primary language. After a few more parents either failed to return his developmental questionnaire, or had brief or no answers to most of the questions, Daniel acknowledged that perhaps the questionnaire wasn't working.
I was very glad that he came to that conclusion on his own! I remembered something one of my teachers had said years ago: "The best 'Aha!'' is the one you don't make", meaning that if the client or supervisee makes the connection, it is much more powerful.

Daniel had a hard time thinking that playing games was therapeutic. I asked him to read
The Therapeutic Powers of Play by Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D. (Editor). He learned that:
Game play contributes to a child's cognitive, emotional, and social development. Since games involve rule-governed behavior, ego control must be stronger than impulse-driven behavior. Game play also prepares children for their roles in the social world, including both competitive and cooperative roles. Among other ego-enhancing powers of games are: (1) helping distractible children focus and sustain their attention, (2) seeing the immediate consequences of one's actions in a game develops a sense of an inner locus of control of the environment; the challenge inherent in games helps overcome feelings of boredom and dullness. (p.13)
But to no avail.
There were times when I dreaded seeing Daniel. It was exhausting to feel that I had to document every suggestion with copious amounts of research. I often felt that, no matter what I told Daniel, it was not good enough. (DSM-S 140.00 Supervisor's Unresolved Stuff Arises in the Process of Supervision.) I felt devalued by Daniel's style, and knew that I needed to work on my issues and past experiences as my negative countertransference appeared.
And then was the scandal: it came to be known as
Another intern came in to supervision upset because Candyland was missing from the playroom. Now, every child therapist knows that toys do get up and walk away, so money was requisitioned for another set of Candyland. But then the first set mysteriously reappeared, then the following week both sets were gone, and then both were back again!
Playing detective, I realized that the second intern, who had discovered the loss of Candyland, used the playroom directly after Daniel did. So, I asked him about it, and he sheepishly admitted that he so despised Candyland that he would remove it from the playroom before he saw children there. And a few times he had gotten so wrapped up in his process notes that he forgot to return it.
I gently explained to him that the toys had to stay in the playroom..all of them!

And that perhaps he needed to make peace with Candyland.
Daniel just didn't get it. No matter how much he read, he couldn't quite understand how game playing, especially Candyland, could actually be therapeutic. So, feeling desperate (DSM-S 004.78 - Engaging in an Act of Desperation by Desperate Supervisor; subcategory games) I pulled out my ratty old game of Candyland. Daniel looked surprised, to say the least, horrified might be more accurate. This was role play in its most playful form; actually playing!
"OK, Daniel, let's play!"
And so we played Candyland.
At first, Daniel didn't like the one rule of Candyland, which was that the youngest goes first. Even though this was to his advantage, being almost a generation younger than I am, he didn't think it was "fair".
For those of you who forget (or never played) the game is played by choosing cards, and advancing to that place on the board. The winner is the first one who gets to the castle at the end.
Daniel was very intense as he played, and kept getting flustered by "Plumpy"
Plumpy is the card in the deck that sends you back almost to the beginning.
No one likes Plumpy, but I think of the game as a highly evolved, spiritual game, in that it lets us know what we can control (taking turns, not cheating) but is like life, in that there is much we cannot control, like love, or birth or death. So, when a Candyland player is going along, and is suddenly swept up to the Queen Frostine card, or cast down to the little plum, Plumpy, then that is a lesson in things we cannot control. For children, much of their lives are involve things over which they have no control: where they live, who their teachers are, whether their parents get divorced, or stay together, etc. So I love Candyland.
But Daniel did not.
At one point he was scowling so much I feared that I had made a huge mistake, having him play.
Then I feared perhaps he was diabetic, and candy had been forbidden to him.
Or that his parents had been dentistry professors. I worried that perhaps he had an eating disorder...
But as we played, he began to open up.
After he got a particularly good card (Princess Lolly) while I was stuck in the Molasses Swamp, he actually laughed.
And then Daniel started to talk about never playing games as a child, because there were never any children around. He said his one game was chess, and that he had learned to please his father. His parents were very intellectual, and serious about their 'miracle', late in life child, Daniel. As a result, he was not allowed to play rough and tumble games, and only allowed to choose the same number of pieces of candy as his age on Halloween to eat. The rest had to be thrown out. "I remember really wanting to be 50, so I could eat 50 pieces of candy. It never occurred to me that 50 year olds don't trick or treat!"
He suddenly sat up, as if startled. "I am remembering something else...when I was in preschool, I played Candyland. And when Mother came to pick me up, she told the teacher that I couldn't play Candyland anymore. I think she thought it wasn't educational enough, or maybe it would make me want to eat candy." He then said that in his three sessions a week psychoanalysis he had never been able to remember much about his childhood. He said that he would see his analyst later in the day, and tell him about his "breakthrough".

his is a paradox of supervision, of course. As we are charged with upholding legal and ethical standards, making sure our students have the information they need, and respecting our authority, we can't really (and shouldn't) run supervision sessions like therapy sessions. Time and time again I would catch myself mirroring my intern's body language and feelings, then would have to pull back and teach, or, in some cases, lay down the law. A balancing act, to be sure. I was very glad to hear that Daniel was in therapy.
He said that it was easier to talk when he didn't have to concentrate so much, and that playing this game might actually not be a bad thing.
And then he said, "I think I have perhaps been a little too controlling with Maria in our sessions."
I was very pleased that Daniel had figured this out on his own. I felt this was an example of  "The best 'Aha!'' is the one you don't make".
And so it went, Daniel learning how to play, with little Maria leading the way. I kept thinking about what Winnicott wrote:
Psychotherapy takes place in the overlap of two areas of playing, that of the patient and that of the therapist. Psychotherapy has to do with two people playing together. The corollary of this is that where playing is not possible the work done by the therapist is directed towards bringing the patient from a state of not being able to play into a state of being able to play... Furthermore: It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, it is only in being creative that the individual discovers Self. (Playing and Reality, pp. 38, 54)
The paradox here was that Maria was teaching Daniel to play!  Again and again, I am struck by how our patients are our teachers. I often feel that it is never an accident who comes to us for therapy (and supervision). I wondered what Daniel was going to teach me!
Finally, it seemed time to get some more objective information, rather than rely solely on Daniel's self-report.
Observing Daniel
There is an ever increasing sentiment in the field of supervision on the benefits of directly observing interns at work. Research tends to find that "Although the traditional method of counselor self-report is often used, this form of data-gathering is notoriously inaccurate." (Hart, Gordon M., Strategies and Methods of Effective Supervision.)
Generally, one of three methods are employed:
Which method you choose will depend upon not only upon your preference, but the equipment available where you supervise.
Supervisors may choose from a variety of interventions, including direct approaches (e.g., audiotape and videotape review, co-therapy, live observation, and live supervision), and more indirect approaches (e.g., self-report, case conferences, review of case notes). There is evidence that, without regulations, supervisors rely almost exclusively on counselors' self-reports (Borders, Cash well, & Rooter, 1995; Borders & Usher, 1992), and there is ample evidence that self-reports are unreliable if not biased accounts of counseling sessions (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992; Borders & Led dick, 1987). The need for a balance of both direct and indirect approaches is cited in two ACES statements of standards, the "Standards for Counseling supervisors" (Dye & Borders, 1990) and the "Ethical Guidelines for Counseling Supervisors" (Hart, Borders, Nuance, & Paradise, 1995). (Source: Borders, L. DiAnne, Supervision Issues in Counselor Credentialing)
In the case of the schools, there was no opportunity for either direct or video supervision, so I broached with Daniel the idea of getting Maria's and her parents' permission to tape a session, for purposes of supervision. (Asking the child for permission is not a legal requirement, but one that I feel is an ethical one.) We discussed that if Daniel presented the idea of taping as a help to Daniel, and not about Maria, that Maria and her parents would feel more willing to consent.
Daniel did get their permission to tape the session, and brought the tape and a transcript to a later session. (We had discussed when both Daniel's and Maria's comfort level would be such that taping would show some of Daniel's counseling techniques. Daniel chose a date about 3/4s of the way through the first semester.)
One trick I had stumbled upon accidentally was to be at the school when an intern was leading the client either to or from a session. One time I had been at the school to observe a child client of mine in the classroom, and happened to be there at a time in which an intern was leading a very reluctant student to a counseling session. The interesting thing was that to listen to the intern, this student was the most cooperative and enthusiastic counseling client ever! So, by spying, I saw another side of what was going on. I have since always tried to see the intern having some contact with the client.
While observing another child at the school, I had seen Maria. She was on the small side, with dark eyes and hair. She was very animated in the classroom, very chatty with her friends. I could see why she was considered to have ADHD. I was not able to time my visit to see Daniel with Maria, but it struck me that she was probably the opposite of studious, serious Daniel in many ways. I was looking forward to hearing Daniel's tape of the session, and reading his transcript.
What I learned from the tape
I was impressed with Maria's ease with Daniel, how spontaneously she chattered away with him. She talked about school, and her friends, and she showed Daniel her "Owie", a bruise on her leg. Daniel asked what happened. She said she bumped her leg on her bed. She told Daniel how her best friend Audrey had been mean to her, not sharing her dessert at lunch. Maria told Daniel that she was never going to give Audrey even a tiny bite of her lunch, ever!
Daniel tried to reason with Maria, explaining that maybe that was a bit drastic. Maria didn't seem to take in what Daniel was saying, instead said, "Blah, blah blah. What do you know? Let's play!"
Out came the Candyland, and Daniel did very well here, playing the game without resistance, and even laughing and groaning when he had setbacks in the game. As they were playing, Daniel asked Maria how things were at home. She started to talk about her new brother, Danny, and how he cried a lot. She said that she wished he would hurry up and grow up, so that he could play with her. She said, "I wish he was Daniel, not Danny, and big like you. Then he could play Candyland with me."
Daniel did quite well here. Maria seemed to feel safe enough to open up to Daniel, and Daniel, for the moment, was doing quite well at letting Maria talk, and not trying to reason her out of her feelings. Later he said how touched he was by Maria's comments; that he felt something 'soften' inside himself.
Maria was talking more about how much baby Danny cried: "All the time! It drives me crazy." Daniel picked up on the feelings, and asked Maria what it was like to have Danny crying so much. Maria talked about how tired and cranky her mother was, and how Danny stayed up all night, just crying. She said her mom sometimes couldn't get Maria any breakfast, so Maria got herself some cereal. And today was a bad day, because Maria spilled the milk all over when she was pouring it, and her mom started screaming at her. Maria said she didn't like it when that happened.
Then Daniel said he could help her. He told Maria that at eight years of age she should know how to pour milk out of a carton. He said, "Let's practice." He got a pitcher of water, and a paper cup, and went over to the sandtray. He put the cup in the tray, and asked Maria to watch while he poured. "See! It's easy! All you have to do is focus and take your time. You try it."
Maria came over and poured the some water into the cup, but some spilled over. "No!" Daniel said, "Like this" and again, he demonstrated, spilling nothing.
When it was Maria's time to try, she poured the entire pitcher of water into the cup, overflowing the cup and flooding the sandtray.
"Maria!" Daniel said. "This is inappropriate behavior!"
There was silence on the tape, and then I could hear the sound of wet sand flying around.
"Stop! Maria, stop!" I heard Daniel say.
It was clear that Maria was not stopping. I heard her voice on the tape, "Stupid! I am so stupid! I can't even do anything right. Everyone yells at me!"
I wondered if Daniel would realize what had happened, that he had inadvertently recreated the morning's milk episode. Maria had once again failed, and gotten yelled at.
I listened for his next intervention.
"Maria," he said, "Is this what happens to you in school? That you feel stupid?"
Maria replied, "Dummy!" not specifying whether it was herself or Daniel she was addressing.

Daniel seemed taken aback, not knowing what to do. There was a pause, and Daniel said, "I will help you clean up this mess."

Silence on the tape, then the sound of paper towels being ripped off the roll.
Daniel's voice got very stern on the tape. "Come here, NOW, Maria, and help me clean this up. Now, Maria."
(At this point, listening to the tone in Daniel's voice, my reaction was the classic DSM-S (the DSM for supervisors) 139.82: The urge to throttle an intern! Then I realized this was Parallel Process in Action! Much as Maria's mother had yelled at her, and then Daniel had yelled at Maria, I wanted to yell at Daniel.)
Daniel then asked Maria if her mother ever hit her when she was mad at her.
Maria said nothing.
"Or does she ever shake you? Or say mean things? How often do you have to get your own breakfast?""Do you always have lunch? Do you always have clean clothes?"
Then Maria started to cry, then sob. She said, "My mommy loves Danny more than me. She yells at me every morning!"
Daniel seemed like a bloodhound chasing a scent.
"What else does your mom do? Or your dad, does he ever hit you?"
Maria was sobbing very loudly now. Finally, Daniel said, "It is OK Maria. It is OK. I know you didn't mean to spill the water when I asked you to pour it."
Daniel was quiet for a moment, then he said, "Maria! I am so sorry. I yelled at you for spilling, didn't I?"
"I am sorry. Is this what happened this morning with your mom?"
More silence on the tape.
Then Daniel said, quietly, empathically, "It must be hard."
Maria said only, "Let's play Candyland."
And they played until the session ended.
When Daniel came for supervision, I replayed this part of the tape for him. He said he was very concerned that Maria was being neglected, in light of the comments her mother had made on Maria's developmental survey.
I was a bit confused about what Daniel meant. "Well," he said, "She is obviously neglected if her parents can't take the time to fill out the answers, or give her breakfast."
My reaction was the DSM-S 126.90348558: "What planet is this intern from? Doesn't he know that having a newborn in the house, and no sleep, is incredibly stressful? And don't all parents yell at their kids in the morning?" Then I went into my own self doubt, thinking that maybe I was a bad mother, for yelling at my son in the morning! Oh dear! Maybe it was not normal to yell at your child, especially when he wouldn't get ready for school. I pulled myself back from my crisis of self-doubt, and struggled to find a neutral place inside myself, and asked Daniel what he meant.
"Obviously, the child is neglected. I am thinking that I need to make a Child Protective Services report. That's why I asked her what else her parents did to her. I know that we are charged with reporting child abuse. Her mentioning that bruise was quite suspicious, I think. And the fact that she is not fed breakfast is significant. "
I knew that I had to pull back my countertransference, and not blast Daniel. I didn't want to recreate in the supervision what Daniel had done in the session, when he yelled at Maria for spilling the water and throwing the sand.
As Daniel's task with Maria was delicate, so was mine with Daniel. How much of this parallel process should I discuss with Daniel?

ERIC Identifier: ED372347
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Sumerel, Marie B.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.

Parallel Process in Supervision. ERIC Digest.



The concept of parallel process has its origin in the psychoanalytic concepts of transference and countertransference. The transference occurs when the counselor recreates the presenting problem and emotions of the therapeutic relationship within the supervisory relationship. Countertransference occurs when the supervisor responds to the counselor in the same manner that the counselor responds to the client. Thus, the supervisory interaction replays, or is parallel with, the counseling interaction.

Transference and countertransference are covert behaviors. Identifying their occurrence requires an acute and on-going awareness of one's own issues and the events that trigger the issues. But awareness of oneself is only the first step. Using the awareness as an intervention in facilitating growth in the counselor, and thus helping the client, is the ultimate goal.


Originally, parallel process was perceived to begin only as transference, when the counselor acted out the client's issues in supervision. Searles (1955) made the first reference to parallel process, labeling it a reflection process. He suggested that "processes at work currently in the relationship between patient and therapist are often reflected in the relationship between therapist and supervisor" (p. 135). Searles believed that the emotion or reflection experienced by the supervisor was the same emotion felt by the counselor in the therapeutic relationship. Although Searles recognized that the supervisor's reactions also might be colored by his/her past, this was not the focus of the reflection process.

Several hypotheses exist for why the counselor may exhibit the reflection process. First, the counselor may look inward for similarities between himself/herself and his/her client as a means to develop a therapeutic strategy that is appropriate, thus tapping into the same issue as that of the client. Secondly, counselors may overidentify with their clients and be uncertain of how to proceed with therapy (Russell, Crimmings, & Lent, 1984). Wanting the supervisor to feel the same feelings they had experienced with the client, the counselor unconsciously recreates the problem experienced in the therapeutic relationship in an effort to get the supervisor to model appropriate responses or make suggestions for resolution of the problem (Mueller & Kell, 1972).

Doehrman (1976) believed that Searles' (1955) reflective process was too limited in scope. In a classic study, she found that parallel process could be bidirectional. In fact, all four therapists in her study identified with their supervisor to the point of playing (or paralleling) their supervisor with their clients. In psychoanalytic terms, this form of parallel process is countertransference. Several scenarios can be drawn to relate how this may occur. First, the supervisor may believe a discussion of the supervisor's or counselor's emotions are not appropriate for supervision but should be addressed in the counselor's personal therapy sessions. The supervisor, however, responds unconsciously to the counselor's emotions and the counselor responds in the same way with the client, thereby creating the parallel process. Secondly, the supervisor may impose his/her values on the counselor who then imposes the values on the client. Third, supervisors who are inexperienced and have not accepted their role as teacher/supervisor may act out their discomfort with the counselor in the supervisory relationship. The counselor, then, exhibits discomfort in the therapeutic relationship with the client. Finally, the supervisor may become impatient with the counselor in the supervisory relationship. The parallel occurs when the counselor exhibits the impatience he/she felt with the supervisor in the therapeutic relationship with the client.


Several authors (e.g., Doehrman, 1976; Loganbill, Hardy, & Delworth, 1982; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987) believe that it is important to the quality of supervision to respond to the parallel process when it is observed. They have asserted that examination of parallel processes encourages counselor growth. In fact, Doehrman (1976) found that only when the parallel process was resolved did the clients improve.

Supervision need not be only a teaching process that emphasizes theories and techniques (Ekstein & Wallerstein, 1972). Supervision can provide an experience for counselors to learn how to use themselves in the counselor/client relationship. By discussing the parallel process in supervision, the counselor will become aware of how oneself is involved in the therapeutic and supervisory relationships.


Authors of developmental models (Loganbill et al., 1982; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987) suggest that the timing for discussing parallel process issues is important. They indicate that beginning counselors do not possess the self-awareness and insight needed to deal with transference and countertransference issues. Unaware of how they may impact the therapeutic relationship, they are more concerned with learning techniques and skills. When transference issues are discussed, beginning counselors may become defensive and experience an increase in anxiety. Doehrman (1976), for instance, reported that the only entry-level counselor in her study was not able to gain insight into the transference and countertransference issues in supervision and, therefore, terminated training.

McNeill and Worthen (1989), however, indicated that discussion of parallel process issues could occur with entry level counselors. They suggested that the interventions should be simple and concrete, and focus primarily on self-awareness issues. Giving specific examples that are obvious in the supervisory and therapeutic relationships helps the counselor understand the dynamics that are occurring. The specificity reduces the counselor's anxiety and provides a framework in which learning and self-awareness can occur.

More advanced and experienced counselors, on the other hand, have developed a capacity to understand and absorb self knowledge gained through transference and countertransference reactions in their therapeutic relationships (Loganbill et al., 1982; McNeill & Worthen, 1989; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987). Advanced counselors are less defensive with regard to their issues and identity becoming the focus in supervision and, therefore, are more inclined to discuss how these issues are affecting the therapeutic relationship. They have developed therapeutic skills and techniques and have the capacity to address more advanced and conceptual issues such as parallel process.

Even though advanced counselors are more interested in discussing the transference and countertransference issues, however, supervisors can overemphasize the parallel process to a point that is exhausting for the counselor (McNeill & Worthen, 1989). Therefore, how and when the parallel process interventions are used is important to their success in facilitating growth and self-awareness in the counselor. Supervisors must exhibit caution, as there is a proclivity to cross the line from a supervisory relationship to a therapeutic relationship when parallel process issues are discussed.


Doehrman (1976) found a form of parallel process in each of the supervisory relationships she studied, therefore implying that it is a universal phenomenon. She posited that the supervisor should always be aware of how the therapeutic relationship and client issues are presented by the counselor in the supervisory session. If the parallel process is not worked through in supervision, both the supervisory and therapeutic relationships will suffer.


Doehrman, M. J. (1976). Parallel Processes In Supervision And Psychotherapy. Bulletin Of The Menninger Clinic, 40, 1-104.

Ekstein, R., & Wallerstein, R. S. (1972). The Teaching And Learning Of Psychotherapy. (2nd Ed.). New York: International Universities.

Loganbill, C., Hardy, E., & Delworth, U. (1982). Supervision: A Conceptual Model. The Counseling Psychologist, 10(1), 3-42.

Mcneill, B. W., & Worthen, V. (1989). The Parallel Process In Psychotherapy Supervision. Professional Psychology, 20, 329-333.

Mueller, W. J., & Kell, B. L. (1972). Coping With Conflict: Supervising Counselors And Psychotherapists. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Russell, R. K., Crimmings, A. M., & Lent, R. W. (1984). Counselor Training And Supervision: Theory And Research. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook Of Counseling Psychology (Pp. 625-681). New York: Wiley.

Searles, H. F. (1955). The Informational Value Of The Supervisor's Emotional Experience. Psychiatry, 18, 135-146.

Stoltenberg, C. D., & Delworth, U. (1987). Supervising Counselors And Therapists: A Developmental Approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Marie B. Sumerel, Ph.D., is a counselor in Raleigh, NC.


ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of OERI or ERIC/CASS.

Title: Parallel Process in Supervision. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Counselors, Interpersonal Relationship, Supervision, Supervisors
Identifiers: Countertransference, ERIC Digests, Parallel Process (Supervision), Transference
I decided not to go into the parallel process at that moment, but inside to focus on Daniel's content. Like in therapy, the supervisor often has to choose between making a PROCESS intervention, versus a CONTENT comment. It seemed to me where Daniel was going was potentially explosive, so I asked him what other signs of abuse or neglect he was sensing.

"Well, her clothes often have spots on them. And she is very skinny. This isn't the first bruise that I have noticed, and she always has a story to tell me about how she got hurt. When I asked him to say more, he said, "She always tells me how she got hurt. Her stories are pretty wild, like swinging on the playground equipment, and falling off. Or having a contest  with her friend Audrey about how high she could swing, and then jump off. Or bumping into things. I think I need to call CPS."
None of this seemed necessarily suspicious to me - Daniel was describing the injuries of an active, impulsive child. I asked Daniel if there was anything else. He said no.
I pulled out of my notebook a definition of child neglect, from the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information


This is not an easy question. In general, neglect is an act of omission. It is the failure of a child's primary caretaker to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, and medical care. But what is adequate? And is it neglect if the primary caretaker is simply unable to provide for the child's needs, or must the caretaker "willfully" deprive the child? And is it neglect only if the child has suffered harm, or if the child is potentially at harm? And are there other types of deprivation not mentioned above-such as a failure to provide for a child's educational or emotional needs-that also should be classified as neglect? Both legal and research professionals struggle with these questions.
Legal Definitions
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides minimum standards for definitions. CAPTA states,

"The term 'child abuse and neglect' means, at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm" (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g(2) (West Supp. 1998).
Using this minimum standard as a foundation, each State provides its own definitions for child abuse and neglect. There are three places in State statutes in which abuse and neglect are defined: (1) reporting laws for child maltreatment, (2) criminal codes, and (3) juvenile court statutes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).A review of State reporting laws reveals that neglect frequently is defined by the States as deprivation of adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). However, there is great variation among the States in operationalizing their definitions, which contributes to the lack of clarity on a national level. For example, approximately one-fifth of the States do not define neglect separately from abuse. Of those that do define neglect separately, some also define particular types of neglect, such as abandonment or medical neglect. In addition, many States address related issues in their statutes such as parental incapacity (i.e., parent is hospitalized or incarcerated) or injurious environments (i.e., child is exposed to criminal activity in the home). Most States also specify exemptions or issues to be taken into consideration, including religious exemptions for medical neglect and financial considerations for physical neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).2Beyond State reporting laws, various State regulations, policies, and procedures provide guidance for child welfare professionals to determine whether or not neglect has occurred. Various agencies and workers interpret these guidelines as they make decisions about which reports to investigate, and which investigations will result in interventions. Clearly, there is no universal legal or practice definition of child neglect.3Research Definitions
There is little agreement among researchers regarding a conceptual or operational definition of neglect. Researchers lament this situation because a lack of consensus makes it difficult to compare findings across studies and difficult to apply findings to child welfare professionals' interventions (Black & Dubowitz, 1999; Zuravin, 1991). In addition to using various definitions, researchers also have used a variety of methods to measure neglect, including observations of the home, specific behavioral criteria, medical history, self-report measures, interviews, case record abstractions, and CPS case findings (Black & Dubowitz, 1999; Zuravin, 1999).One important element of a child neglect definition or classification system is the identification of behaviors or conditions that are considered "neglectful." Some behaviors seem universally classified as neglect by researchers. These include:
  • Inadequate nutrition, clothing, or hygiene
  • Inadequate medical, dental, or mental health care
  • Unsafe environments
  • Inadequate supervision, including use of inadequate caretakers
  • Abandonment or expulsion from the home (Barnett, Manly & Cicchetti, 1993; Sedlack & Broadhurst, 1996).
However, many behaviors may be categorized differently by different classification systems. Table 1 illustrates this using examples from two widely known classification systems: the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3) (Sedlack & Broadhurst, 1996) and the Maltreatment Classification System (MCS) developed by Barnett, Manly and Cicchetti (1993).
Behavior Sedlack & Broadhurst, 1996
Barnett, Manly & Cicchetti, 1993
Inadequate education Educational Neglect Moral-Legal/Educational Maltreatment
Exposure to domestic violence Emotional Neglect Emotional Maltreatment
Exposure to drugs in utero Other Maltreatment Physical Neglect-Failure to Provide
Exposure to or allowing child to engage in illegal activities Emotional Neglect Moral-Legal/Educational Maltreatment
Shelter-related neglect such as homelessness or inadequate sanitation or utilities in the child's home Not addressed Physical Neglect-Failure to Provide
Inadequate nurturance/affection Emotional Neglect Emotional Maltreatment
In addition to identifying behaviors that are considered neglectful, there are other considerations regarding a definition of neglect. These include:
  • Should there be evidence of harm, or does neglect include endangerment of a child's health or welfare?
  • Should the caretaker's intent to harm be a consideration?

Many researchers, including Zuravin (1991), propose that endangering a child's health or welfare should be included in any definition of neglect, and that a caretaker's intent to harm or culpability should not be a consideration. These differences highlight the challenges posed in comparing findings across studies that have used varying definitions of neglect. For example, when examining the rates of child neglect over time, a change in the numbers may not solely represent an actual increase or decrease in the number of children affected, but may partially be accounted for by a change in the definition. Recognizing these difficulties, Federal agencies have been leading efforts to develop clear research definitions and a measurement tool to collect data on child maltreatment .Throughout the 1990s, Congress mandated a number of Federal agencies to increase their focus on the problem of child abuse and neglect. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the Federal Child Abuse and Neglect Working Group (co-chaired by the National Institute on Mental Health and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development [NICHD]).4 The Working Group began work in 1998 to develop clear classification systems and operational definitions for all types of child maltreatment, including child neglect, that can be used by researchers and also overlap with existing legal and clinical definitions. The Working Group is continuing to pursue this effort.5In 1994, the Federal Interagency Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect6 challenged its Research Committee to address definitional issues confronting the child abuse and neglect research community nationally. The committee had representatives from several DHHS agencies (e.g., NIH, Centers for Disease Control, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and from other departments (e.g., Defense, Education, Interior, and Justice). The efforts of this group focused on developing a data collection system that could be used by researchers to define and identify all types of child abuse and neglect. By 1999, these efforts resulted in an instrument entitled the Child Maltreatment Log.7 This instrument is being field tested in two 17-month pilot projects that were initiated in September 2000. Once the results of the pilots are analyzed, the instrument will be revised and disseminated for use by the research community.The goals of these projects are to offer researchers a common definition and measurement tool so that the findings of various studies can be compared and the studies can be replicated, both of which contribute to a stronger knowledge base. In the field of child neglect, many researchers and policy makers consider this to be an important step in building our knowledge about the problem, the factors associated with it, and how to address it.

Spotlight on Chronic Neglect
One issue in defining child neglect involves consideration of "incidents" of neglect versus a pattern of behavior that indicates neglect. Zuravin (1991) recommends that some behaviors should present a "chronic pattern" to be considered neglectful. Examples include lack of supervision, inadequate hygiene, and failure to meet a child's educational needs. This suggests that rather than focusing on individual incidents that may or may not be classified as "neglectful," one should look at an accumulation of incidents that may together constitute neglect. "If CPS focuses only on the immediate allegation before them and not the pattern reflected in multiple referrals, then many neglected children will continue to be inappropriately excluded from the CPS system" (English, 1999). For example, a family exhibiting a pattern of behavior that may constitute neglect might include frequent reports of not having enough food in the home or keeping older children home from school to watch younger children. In most CPS systems, however, the criteria for identifying neglect focuses on recent, discrete, verifiable incidents.In recognition of this issue, the Missouri Division of Family Services (n.d.) has assigned one of its CPS staff as a "Chronic Neglect Specialist." This office defines chronic neglect as "… a persistent pattern of family functioning in which the caregiver has not sustained and/or met the basic needs of the children which results in harm to the child" (p. 3). The focus here is what Dr. Patricia Schene calls "accumulation of harm." She states that instead of focusing on individual incidents as they occur, one should look at an accumulation of experience, or the cumulative effect on children of repeated incidents, when determining whether neglect exists. A study conducted by Egeland (1988) found that many children who had been referred to CPS for neglect did not receive services because their cases did not meet the criteria for "incidents" of neglect. However, he found that all of these children had, in fact, suffered severe developmental consequences.

Poverty and Child Neglect
Numerous studies have linked poverty to an increased risk of child neglect (Nelson, Saunders & Landsman, 1993). A number of factors may explain the association. Before reviewing these factors, though, it is important to note that most poor families do not neglect their children (Dubowitz, 1996). Dubowitz (1999) cites numerous studies that identify many of the stressors associated with poverty. These include unemployment (citing American Humane Association, 1988), single parenthood (citing Nelson, et al., 1994), housing instability or frequent moves (citing Gaudin, Polansky, Kilpatrick & Shiltron, 1993), depleted or high risk communities (citing Zuravin, 1989), household crowding (citing Zuravin, 1986), limited access to health care, and exposure to environmental hazards such as lead paint or dangerous neighborhoods. Pelton (1994) states that "[f]or people living in poverty, the probability of child abuse and neglect is largely dependent on the extent of one's ability to cope with poverty and its stressors" (p. 153).Pelton offers an additional perspective on the link between poverty and neglect. He states that impoverished families often live, though not by choice, in neighborhoods with high crime rates and in homes that present environmental hazards such as exposed wiring, lead paint, or insecure windows. "[I]n the presence of these conditions, impoverished parents have little leeway for lapses in responsibility, whereas in middle-class families, there is some leeway for irresponsibility, a luxury that poverty does not afford" (p. 155).Approximately one-third of the States provide room in their definitions of neglect for consideration of a family's financial means (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). These caveats usually address the family's access and response to available services that may help to alleviate the neglectful conditions. For example, if a family living in poverty was not providing adequate food for their children, it may only be considered neglect if the parents were made aware of food assistance programs but did not use them.

Substance Abuse and Child Neglect
Some CPS agencies estimate that substance abuse is a factor in as many as 70 percent of all the child neglect cases they serve (Gaudin, 1993). But what is the connection between substance abuse and neglect, specifically?A number of researchers have explored the relationship between parental substance abuse and child neglect. They have found that substance abusing parents may divert money that is needed for basic necessities to buy drugs and alcohol (Munkel, 1996). Parental substance abuse may interfere with the ability to maintain employment, further limiting the family's resources (Magura & Laudet, 1996). The substance abusing behaviors may expose the children to criminal behaviors and dangerous people (Munkel, 1996). Substance abusing parents may be emotionally or physically unavailable and not able to properly supervise their children, risking accidental injuries (Wallace, 1996). Children living with substance abusing parents are more likely to become intoxicated themselves, either deliberately, by passive inhalation, or by accidental ingestion (Munkel, 1996; Wallace, 1996). Heavy parental drug use can interfere with a parent's ability to provide the consistent nurturing and caregiving that promotes children's development and self-esteem (Zuckerman, 1994). According to Magura and Laudet, "Substance abuse has deleterious effects on virtually every aspect of one's life and gravely interferes with the ability to parent adequately" (p. 198).
Drug-affected Newborns. The issue of drug-affected newborns has long been a concern in the United States. The most recent statistics indicate that in 1999, 5.5 percent of pregnant women used some illicit drug during pregnancy, translating into approximately 221,000 babies that had the potential to be born drug exposed (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 1999). Although some studies have found few enduring effects from prenatal drug exposure, others have found that it may result in physical and neurological deficits, growth retardation, cardiovascular abnormalities, and long-term developmental abnormalities (Sagatun-Edwards & Saylor, 2000), including learning and behavior problems (Zuckerman, 1994) and language delays (Harrington, Dubowitz, Black & Binder, 1995).While no State mandates drug testing of all new mothers, many hospitals test babies when maternal drug use is suspected (Sagatun-Edwards & Saylor, 2000). What to do about the problem is complicated by legal and ethical considerations including concerns about a woman's rights regarding her own body and concerns about laws applying to children and not fetuses (Dubowitz & Black, 1996). However, Wallace (1996) cites the Michigan Court of Appeals as stating that "… a newborn suffering narcotics withdrawal symptoms as a consequence of prenatal maternal drug addiction may properly be considered a neglected child within the jurisdiction of the … court" (p. 92). Sagatun-Edwards and Saylor found that States often are responding to the problem either by authorizing juvenile court intervention to protect the child or by criminalizing the behavior and demanding punishment and drug treatment for the mother. In fact, at least five States now include drug-affected newborns in their State statutes under the definition of neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) and the NIS-3 includes drug-affected newborns in its research definition of neglect (Sedlack & Broadhurst, 1996).Another implication for the child welfare field is that drug-exposed newborns are often left in the hospital by their parents; these babies often are referred to as "boarder babies." The most recent statistics come from a study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America in 1992. This study found that as many as 85 percent of boarder babies had been exposed to drugs in utero (Magura & Laudet, 1996). Boarder babies often are referred to CPS agencies as abandoned children and placed into foster care.

Domestic Violence and Child Neglect
There has lately been increasing attention paid to the relationship between domestic violence and child maltreatment. Shepard and Raschick (1999) found that in 35 percent of a sample of child neglect cases, domestic violence had occurred in the home. Some States now include exposure to "injurious environments," including domestic violence, in their State statute definitions of neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). However, there is still much controversy over whether exposure to domestic violence is itself a form of child neglect.The term "failure to protect" often is used in these cases, although it is not found in the child maltreatment statutes directly, but rather in legal and child welfare literature (Magen, 1999). The term often is used in reference to an abused mother's inability to protect her child from exposure to violence in the home. Many researchers and practitioners, however, believe the responsibility should be on the abuser, not on the victim of domestic abuse (Magen, 1999; Shepard & Raschick, 1999). In fact, Magen states that leaving the abusive situation is not always the safest option for an abused mother and her children, because the abuser may lash out at this time. Shepard & Raschick conclude that "[t]oo often there are no easy answers for how to best ensure the safety of children when their mothers are victims of domestic violence" (p. 154).

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF NEGLECTED CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES? There are two reports that provide the most comprehensive data on the characteristics of neglected children and their families. The first is the National Incidence Study-3 (NIS-3) (Sedlack & Broadhurst, 1996), which sampled 35 CPS agencies around the country and looked at both children served by CPS as well as children identified by community professionals as being in danger of harm due to abuse or neglect. The second report is Child Maltreatment 1999 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001), which is based on the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). NCANDS collects data from all CPS agencies in the United States regarding their services .According to these two reports, boys and girls are neglected at approximately the same rates. Findings regarding the children's age, however, differed between the two studies. The NIS-3 reports that that children ages 6 and older suffer from neglect at higher rates than children 5 and under. Child Maltreatment 1999 reports that the rates of neglect are highest for children ages 0-3 and decrease as children get older.The NIS-3 reports that the lowest income families (earning less than $15,000 per year) have the highest rates of neglect. NIS-3 estimates that 27 out of every 1,000 children are neglected in these families while the neglect rate for children living in families that earn more than $30,000 per year is less than 1 in 1,000 children. The NIS-3 also reports that neglect occurs more often in single parent families and in families with four or more children. Schumacher, Slep & Heyman (in press) reviewed 10 studies completed between 1974 and 1998 in which risk factors for neglect were identified. Some of the strongest associations were found between neglect and:

  • Poverty
  • Parental substance abuse
  • Parental impulsivity
  • Parental low self-esteem
  • A lack of social support for the family.

Some practitioners believe that untreated depression also is common among neglecting mothers, but there has been little research to substantiate this. Brown, Cohen, Johnson and Salzinger (1998) identified 21 risk factors associated with neglect and found that as the number of risk factors increases, the risk for neglect increases.

It is important to point out, though, that the profile and risk factors for neglected children and their families are likely to vary significantly across types of neglect (Schumacher, Slep & Heyman, in press). For example, the characteristics and risk factors for a family in which a baby has been abandoned are likely to be very different than those for a family who refuses medical care for their teenager. More targeted research is needed to more fully understand the risk factors for various types of neglect in order to inform prevention and treatment programs.


"Neglect is a complex, multifaceted problem that can have profound effects on children" (Black & Dubowitz, 1999, p. 274). Research has shown that neglected children are at risk for a number of behavioral, social, academic, and medical problems. Citing numerous studies, Dubowitz (1996, 1999) states that some of the consequences include problems with attachment, low self-esteem, increased dependency, and anger (citing Egeland, Srouf & Erickson, 1993), impaired cognitive development and academic achievement (citing Eckenrode, Laird & Doris, 1993), and a risk for delinquent behavior (citing Maxfield & Widom, 1996). Egeland (1988) did a study showing that, as children get older, the effects of neglect become more severe. He refers to this as the "cumulative malignant effects" of neglect (p. 18).

Medical problems may be a result of malnutrition, which can result in deformities and life-long poor health (Munkel, 1996). Non-organic Failure To Thrive (NFTT) is a condition found in infants in which their height and weight are below the fifth percentile, when once they were within a normal range (Wallace, 1996). The diagnosis of NFTT indicates that there is no medical, or organic, reason for the infant's condition, and it is therefore attributable to an inability of the parents to physically care for the child. NFTT can result in continued growth problems, school failure, and possible retardation (Wallace, 1996). Munkel adds that extreme neglect can result in death. "Neglected children suffer hurts in their bodies, their minds, their emotions, and their spirits" (Munkel, 1996 p. 115).

While the potential for severe negative consequences from childhood neglect exists, there has been some research into the effects of "protective factors" that promote resilience among neglected children. In general, this research has looked at factors that can mediate the effects of neglect, so the child is able to maintain healthy functioning in spite of the adversities (Prilleltensky & Pierson, 1999). Protective factors can include individual characteristics such as intelligence, creativity, initiative, humor, and independence (Melina, 1999, citing Wolin & Wolin's book The Resilient Self), or external factors such as access to good health care and a family's social support system, including alternative caregivers (Silver, 1999). The probability of "resilience" as an outcome increases when the number or significance of protective factors is sufficient to counteract the vulnerabilities or risk factors (Prilleltensky & Pierson, 1999). In other words, if a child suffers from neglect (e.g., his parents did not feed or clothe him adequately), he may not suffer long-term severe consequences if he also has some protective factors such as a spirit of independence, creativity, or access to other caregivers.

Fatal Neglect
Certainly the most severe, irrecoverable consequence of neglect is death. In 1996, a review of the States' child maltreatment fatalities revealed that 45 percent of the deaths were attributed to neglect and an additional 3 percent to neglect and abuse (Wang & Daro, 1997). Although not all States reported the data, it is estimated that these percentages translate into approximately 502 child deaths associated with neglect in 1996. Another study conducted in Iowa (which only had a sample size of 34) found that two-thirds of the children who died from neglect were under the age of 2, more than two-thirds were male, and families had an average of 3.3 children (Margolin, 1990). This study also found that the large majority of children who died due to neglect died as a result of a single life-threatening incident rather than from chronic neglect. These fatalities included drowning and scalding in bathtubs, fires, unsafe cribs, gun accidents, choking, and drug/alcohol overdoses. "In the vast majority of fatalities from neglect, a caregiver was simply not there when needed at a critical moment" (Margolin, 1990, p. 314).


"Neglect" is a complicated issue that poses significant challenges to treatment providers. Reviews of intervention programs designed to treat neglecting families have indicated that these programs have had difficulty achieving desirable outcomes (Gaudin, 1993). The interventions that did have some success addressed problems individually, were long-term, and delivered a broad range of services (Ethier, et al., 2000; Gaudin, 1993). The severity of the families' problems was the most powerful predictor of outcome; the more severe the problems, the less likely the families were to achieve the targeted outcomes (Gaudin, 1993).

These issues are discussed in Child Neglect: A Guide for Intervention8 (Gaudin, 1993). Gaudin states that assessments should look at the individual personality of parents, family systems issues, and community stressors and resources. Interventions then should be tailored to the type of neglect and to information gleaned from the assessment. His recommendations for practitioners include:

  • Assume that parents want to improve the quality of care for their children.
  • Identify and reinforce hidden strengths and build interventions upon them.
  • Be culturally sensitive. Tatara (1995) emphasizes that cultural misperceptions can lead either to overinclusion (identifying a behavior as risky when in fact the risk is low) or underinclusion (ignoring a situation when intervention is really needed).
  • Do not generalize families; each family is unique.
  • Build parental feelings of self-esteem, hope, and self-sufficiency; do not foster dysfunctional dependency.
  • Clearly outline service plans and use case management to broker formal and informal services.
  • Set clearly stated, limited, achievable goals that are agreed upon by parents and children; systematically reinforce the parents' incremental steps.
  • Use legal authority as a last resort.

Recent research also suggests that programs should actively seek out fathers or father figures and engage them in the interventions (Dubowitz, Black, Kerr, Starr & Harrington, 2000).

Gaudin (1993) also discusses aspects of various interventions. Interventions generally include some level of home visitation; in some cases, daily contact may be needed to monitor a child's safety, preserve a family and prevent removal of a child into foster care. Interventions can range from short-term crisis intervention to long-term support and stabilization to removal of children from their families for their protection. Family-focused interventions include all family members, not just the alleged child victim and parent perpetrator.

Interventions are not limited to families and children; they can target societal conditions as well, such as unemployment, lack of medical care, and poor housing. Some researchers feel that improvements in these societal conditions may well result in a lower rate of neglect. Waldfogel (2000, September) (citing Paxson and Waldfogel, 1999) suggests that higher welfare benefits may be correlated with fewer families being reported for neglect and fewer children being placed in foster care.

Child Protective Services (CPS)
Within the child welfare system, CPS offices usually are the first to respond to reports of child neglect.9 In general, the system works in the following manner. A report is received about suspected child neglect. If the information meets the threshold for what constitutes neglect in that particular jurisdiction, the report is referred for an investigation. CPS staff have legal authority to investigate the allegation. The investigator speaks with relevant parties in order to determine whether or not the child has, in fact, been neglected, and whether or not the child is still at risk of harm. If neglect is found and the child is still at risk, the child and family may be referred for services. In severe or high-risk cases, the court may order that the child be removed from his or her caretaker and placed with a relative or foster family while services are provided. Whether or not the child is removed, associated services (such as parenting skills classes for the parent and counseling for the child) may be provided by programs within the child welfare agency or by community-based agencies. In general, if the child has been removed, he or she will not be returned to the family unless and until the court determines that the family can provide a safe and stable environment. If the child has remained at home during the provision of services, the family's participation may be voluntary, and many factors may play a role in the length of service and the decision to terminate services. These factors include the family's wishes, the programs' guidelines, and the availability of insurance or payment for the services.

CPS-Problems and Reform Efforts. While the CPS system provides critical first-response services to children reported for neglect, some researchers and practitioners believe that in its current state, the response is not adequate for many families reported for neglect. Reports of child neglect (compared to physical or sexual abuse) are least likely to meet the threshold for investigation or intervention, resulting in many neglected children not being eligible for any CPS services (English, 1999). In addition, a sole reliance on an authoritative, investigative response is not necessarily appropriate for many families (English, Wingard, Marshall, Orme, & Orme, 2000), but in most jurisdictions, this is the only means of entry to the child welfare system.

To address these and other problems, some CPS systems have implemented a "multi-track" response system in which reports of child maltreatment determined to be low-risk (which includes many neglect reports) are referred for an "assessment" rather than an investigation. This response is generally voluntary and, compared to an investigative response, uses a more holistic approach and is more likely to use community-based agencies to provide services.

It remains to be seen whether or not multi-track response systems are effective. Important issues still to be addressed are

  • What criteria are used to differentiate high-risk reports that are referred for investigation versus low-risk reports that are referred for assessment (English, 1999)?
  • Do families referred for voluntary assessments follow through with recommendations for services (English, et al., 2000)?
  • Does this alternative response adequately address the safety needs of the children involved (English, 1999)?

While these answers are still unclear, it is encouraging that some CPS systems are exploring alternative responses to better serve families in need.

Promising Practices
As mentioned earlier, intervention programs serving neglecting families face numerous challenges. But there are programs that show promise in addressing and treating child neglect. The following sections describe two such projects.

The Chronic Neglect Project St. Louis, Missouri, Division of Family Services (DFS). Recognizing the challenges in effectively serving chronically neglecting families, the St. Louis, Missouri, DFS established a Chronic Neglect Program in 1997 in which staff receive training to recognize and treat chronic neglect.10 This program examines patterns of behavior, rather than individual incidents, when determining whether or not to intervene to protect a child. A Child Neglect Specialist is available to provide consultation to the staff.

The program emphasizes the empowerment of the family so the family takes ownership of their needs and solutions. Some of the outcomes the program strives to achieve include:

  • Significant improvement in parental behavior
  • Clear indication of bonding between the parent and child
  • A home free of safety hazards
  • For children who experienced medical problems as a result of the neglect, documented improvement in their physical development.

The program also emphasizes lasting change; its guidelines state that improvements must have been maintained for at least six months before closing a case to minimize the chance for a re-occurrence (Missouri Division of Family Services, n.d.).

Family Connections Program, University of Maryland at Baltimore. Family Connections is one of a number of Child Neglect Demonstration Programs funded in 1996 by a 5-year grant from the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This program combines services with education and research.11 Some of the principles of Family Connections include providing individual assessments and services tailored to the needs of each family, developing partnerships with all family members, empowering family members to have control over their own lives, and delivering culturally competent interventions geared to achieve targeted outcomes. Some of the targeted outcomes include

  • The family's ability to meet basic needs
  • The parents' abilities to cope with daily stresses and achieve self-sufficiency
  • The children's demonstration of developmentally appropriate functioning
  • The family's ability to mobilize resources and constructively resolve family conflicts
  • The family's effective use of social supports
  • The parents' (and/or caregivers') demonstration of appropriate attitudes and skills related to the children's needs.


As many have noted, in spite of the fact that child neglect is more prevalent than other types of child maltreatment, historically it has not received much research attention. For example, Zuravin (1999) searched 489 articles published in the International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect between 1992 and 1996; only 25 articles reported empirical findings on neglect only or separately from findings on other types of maltreatment. Clearly, more research is needed to more fully understand the problem of child neglect.

Current Research
Although neglect historically has been studied less than other types of maltreatment, it now seems to be gaining recognition. The Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that of 159 studies examining maltreatment underway in 1998, 93 were studying neglect, alone or in combination with other types of maltreatment, and 74 were differentiating the types of maltreatment so that findings may be understood more clearly (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).

One ongoing effort to focus research on child neglect is a project entitled "A Longitudinal Study of Child Neglect" (Dubowitz, 1996). This study is part of the Consortium of Longitudinal Studies in Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN), which first received funding in 1991 from the Department of Health and Human Services. LONGSCAN is a set of five coordinated research projects designed to examine the antecedents and consequences of child maltreatment. Dubowitz's study on child neglect recently received five additional years of funding from DHHS to continue. The objectives of this study include examining the relationship between various factors and child neglect, exploring fathers' involvement in child neglect and child development, and examining the consequences of child neglect (Dubowitz, 1996).

A recently launched research effort on child neglect is being sponsored by a consortium of Federal agencies led by the National Institutes of Health.12 Fifteen awards were granted in October 2000 in response to a Request for Applications for Research on Child Neglect. The projects funded are examining various aspects of neglect using various research models. Some projects are examining sub-types of neglect, consequences of neglect, factors contributing to neglect, and service usage by neglecting families. Some are looking at economic, medical, psychological and behavioral issues. Some are focusing on infants and young children; others are focusing on adolescents. Some are short-term and some are longitudinal. This project promises to bring a wealth and breadth of new information to the field of child neglect.

Recommendations for Future Research
There are numerous recommendations for future research into child neglect. Continued research is needed regarding an accepted definition of neglect, including sub-types of neglect (Black & Dubowitz, 1999; Zuravin, 1999). More research is needed to develop and refine strategies to measure neglect (Black & Dubowitz, 1999; Portwood, 1999). More research is needed to understand the consequences of neglect for children (Dubowitz, 1996) and factors that might protect children from the harsh consequences (Black & Dubowitz, 1999). Further studies are needed to examine the association between poverty and neglect (Theodore & Runyan, 1999), including an exploration of how impoverished parents protect their children from the effects of poverty and avoid neglect (Black & Dubowitz, 1999; Pelton, 1994). Finally, more research is needed to investigate the effectiveness of various interventions (Portwood, 1999; Theodore & Runyan, 1999).


Although child neglect has historically received less attention than other types of maltreatment, in spite of being the most prevalent type, much has been learned about it in recent years. Despite this growing interest, neglect continues to be a complex problem that is difficult to define, identify, and treat.

Neglect is a term used to encompass many situations, their commonality often being a lack of action-an act of omission-regarding a child's needs. Most commonly, neglect is related to a failure to meet a child's physical needs (including food, clothing, shelter, supervision, and medical needs), but neglect also can refer to a failure to meet a child's educational and emotional needs. Neglect can range from a caregiver's momentary inattention to willful deprivation. Single incidents can have no harmful effects or, in some cases, they can result in death. Chronic patterns of neglect may result in severe developmental delays or severe emotional disabilities.

Understanding neglect requires an awareness of related social problems such as poverty, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Interventions to treat children and families affected by neglect require thorough assessments and customized treatment. Defining, identifying, and treating neglect is a significant challenge, but one that researchers, professionals, communities, and families must face together if they are to protect children from the harmful consequences of child neglect.


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1 Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies are the public agencies charged with responding to reports of child abuse and neglect. CPS agencies generally investigate these reports and determine that either a) abuse or neglect did occur and the report is "substantiated," b) there was no basis for the report and it is "ruled out," or c) there is not enough information to determine if abuse or neglect occurred or did not occur, and the report is found "unsubstantiated." Please note that these terms are not universal.

2 For a complete list of all States' definitions of child abuse and neglect in their reporting laws, see the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information publication Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes, Number 1

3 If you have a specific question about child neglect (or abuse) in your area, call Childhelp USA at 800-422-4453 for assistance and referral to your local child protective service agency.

4 For information on the Federal Child Abuse and Neglect Working Group, contact the chairperson, Cheryl Boyce, Ph.D., at NICHD, by e-mail at cboyce@nih.gov or by phone at 301-443-5944, or the co-chairperson, Margaret Feerick, Ph. D., at NICHD, by email at margaret_feerick@nih.gov or by phone at 301-435-6882.

5 For additional information about the Classification Project, contact the project chairperson, Margaret Feerick, Ph.D., at NICHD, by e-mail at margaret_feerick@nih.gov or by phone at 301-435-6882.

6 The Interagency Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect was established by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act prior to its re-authorization in 1996. The Task Force is convened by the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect of the Children's Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For additional information, contact Catherine Nolan, MSW, Director, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, by e-mail at cnolan@acf.hhs.gov.

7 The Research Committee acknowledges contributions from a wide range of individuals and agencies for work on the "Definitions Project." More information on the project may be obtained from the project leader, Kathleen Sternberg, Ph.D., at NICHD, by e-mail at kathleen_sternberg@nih.gov or by phone at 301-496-0420.

8 Child Neglect: A Guide for Intervention is one of a series of User Manuals published by the Children's Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance to professionals in the child welfare field.

9 CPS offices in the United States vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information in this section provides a general overview of how CPS systems respond to child neglect.

10 For more information, contact Cathie Braasch, Chronic Neglect Specialist, Missouri Division of Family Services at 314-481-2323, ext. 227.

11 For more information, visit the Family Connections Web site.

12 To read the background on this project and the abstracts of the 15 awards, visit the Web site

While I was pleased that Daniel was taking the issue of child neglect so seriously, I did wonder what planet he was from! (DSM-S 123.456237543 Supervisor wonders if intern is from another planet, and is an alien; wonders if intern is just totally oblivious to realities of family life, or is revealing unconscious sexism...) Daniel seemed oblivious to the normalcy of Maria's bruises and bumps, and to the syndrome of the sleep deprived parent who is trying to get a child off to school in the morning: tired, with little patience, etc. The spots he described on Maria's clothes (at what age do child learn to use a napkin?) seemed very normal for an active child. So I tried to educate Daniel as to what constituted neglect, and what was within the bell curve graph for the normal behavior and appearance of an active child.
He finally agreed that Maria did not meet the criteria for neglect, but said he would keep an eye on the situation.
There was little time left, but I wanted to address what had happened in the session between Daniel and Maria.
My task was to be compassionate toward Daniel, and help him become a good therapist. Rather than confront him, I decided to ask him if there was anything he would do differently.
Some questions that can be helpful when listening to a tape with a supervisee include:
* 1. What do you wish you had said to him/her?
* 2. How do you think he/she would have reacted if you had said that?
* 3. What would have been the risk in saying what you wanted to say?
* 4. If you had the chance now, how might you tell him/her what you are thinking and feeling?
* 5. Were there any other thoughts going through your mind?
* 6. How did you want the other person to perceive you?
* 7. Were those feelings located physically in some part of your body?
* 8. Were you aware of any feelings? Does that feeling have any special meaning for you?
* 9. What did you want him/her to tell you?
* 10. What do you think he/she wanted from you?
* 11. Did he/she remind you of anyone in your life?
(source: Cashwell, Craig S., Interpersonal Process Recall

Daniel sat silently, and then said he should not have lost his temper with Maria. We talked about the synchronicity of therapy; that often a situation will emerge in the session which duplicates that  which happened in the patient's life. The replication is a strong pull from the unconscious of the patient. The task is not to prevent the pull, but rather to be conscious of it when it appears, and then to respond differently.
I did not tell Daniel how angry I felt listening to the tape. We didn't have enough time to get into it, and Daniel struck me as still too defensive to benefit from a discussion of parallel process.
Daniel and I role-played a bit about what he could have done after Maria spilled the water, pouring it into the cup until it overflowed and flooded the sandtray. No matter how hard he tried, Daniel got stuck trying to play the acting out Maria! We went over different interventions, until Daniel came up with that he could have stayed with Maria's anger instead of yelling at her to stop.
Daniel Returns...
Daniel entered the supervision session with a worried look on his face. He was uncharacteristically late. Frankly, I had been dreading the session, knowing that I would have to discuss what Daniel had done. A strange word kept jumping into my brain...'inappropriate'. It is not that the word itself is so odd, it is just that that was not a word that I used very often, and today, for some reason, it was stuck in my brain. I was half hoping he wouldn't come , but also aware that if he didn't, we would have a LOT to deal with! So, I was both relieved and disappointed when he showed up.
We discussed how hard it was to see a supervisor after a difficult session. After working together on some of Daniel's other clients, Daniel raised the question of what he should do about Maria. He said that Maria didn't want to see him for her session, and, once there, had been quite withdrawn in their session, and acted 'very very good.' He reported that she was quiet, and had "perfect  behavior - no messes, no chattering, like she was on tiptoes." He realized that something was off, that this was not a 'cure' of her ADHD and acting out behavior, but maybe something to do with the previous session.
I asked him what he thought  he should do. He bent down to his briefcase, then caught himself and sat up. He looked embarrassed, and said, "I thought you could just tell me what to do." I made some neutral noise, the old, "hmmm..." or some such therapist stalling noise. It worked... Daniel started to talk about what he thought he should do. He decided to try to follow where Maria was, and to go from there. He realized that, after being yelled at, then sobbing, that Maria might need to reestablish rapport with Daniel. She might be feeling that the 'free and protected space' of therapy had been compromised.
Daniel took a deep breath. "Actually," he said, "I really didn't want to see you today. I felt so bad about what I had done with Maria, and then rather like I had overreacted regarding calling CPS for neglect. I really was afraid that you would yell at me, or kick me out of the program. Or that you would think I was really bad, or something. I just didn't know what to expect. I have been quite anxious all week."
Bingo! Parallel Process in action! Much as Maria had told Daniel she didn't want to be in session, Daniel had told me the same thing! As I had spent the session re-establishing rapport with Daniel, so I wondered what he would do next.
Now it was my turn to take a deep breath. I knew Daniel was pulling from me to react as he had in the session, yelling at him, or telling him his behavior was inappropriate. I wondered how many times he had heard that as a child?
I reassured Daniel that ALL therapists make mistakes. It is not the mistakes that matter so much, but what happens afterward. How do we handle it? In all human relationship, mistakes are made. Part of being a therapist was to be conscious of the mistakes, and willing to process, in a non-defensive manner, whatever comes up in a session. If a mistake is made, then we must try to not react in the way that the client's psyche is pulling us to react. To provide a different solution.
Here I went out on a limb, and risked bringing the parallel process to consciousness.
"Daniel, let's talk about what is happening here. It seems to me that you came in here today, full of fear that I would yell at you, or say what you did was 'inappropriate' after your session with Maria. It seems as though you were as reluctant to come here as Maria was to see you."
I waited to see what Daniel's reaction would be.
His face got red. "Oh! I get it! Just like Maria somehow recreated her morning, I just did the same thing. I guess I feel like I always have to act correctly, or there will be consequences for being inappropriate. And I thought that you would say what I did was inappropriate. (Aha! Now I knew why that word had been stuck in my brain all morning!) My parents always told me when my behavior was inappropriate, and I guess that is why I told Maria she was being inappropriate. Wow! I am going to tell my analyst about this! This is amazing! "
Then I asked Daniel what it was like to make a mistake, and get a different reaction. He said it was too new, but he thought it felt good.
We then talked about how he would handle the session with Maria.
He was "good to go", or so I thought!
Later that week...
I got a message on my voice mail, from Daniel. I could hear the panic in his voice. "I got a call from Maria's parents. They said Maria said that he had said they were hitting her, and they weren't and they wanted therapy to end. Daniel was uncharacteristically in a tizzy! Panicky, he said, "I knew it was too good to last. See, I was 'inappropriate', and there are consequences. What do I do? I'm scared, What should I say? They want me to call them. Please, please help. I don't know what to do."
I called Daniel back, and we briefly discussed his feelings of anxiety, and what he would say to Maria's parents. I suggested that he schedule a meeting with them. He said he was too scared to. We role played a few scenarios, and he asked if he could call me back after he spoke with Maria's parents. I said yes.
He called back, and said that he had explained to them that part of his job was to make sure no one was hurting Maria. He apologized to them for the misunderstanding. He asked more questions about Maria, and got a lot more information than he had gotten from his developmental form. He thanked them, and said that he hoped they would allow him to continue working with Maria, and that he would clarify to her that he didn't think they were hurting her. They agreed to allow Maria to continue, and told him how stressed Maria had been since the difficult pregnancy with Danny, and his subsequent premature arrival. They said they wanted Maria to get help, but they were not sure what Daniel was doing was helping.
When  he called me, there was a new humility in his voice. "I think I have misconstrued the whole situation with Maria. I think that probably she is reacting to the loss of her mother, first due to her bedrest, and then because of the new baby. I really appreciate her parents calling me, because of what I learned. However, it was hard to hear how badly I had blown it."
Daniel's work continues...
Daniel's work until the end of the school year was different, his arrogance and rigidity had been replaced, by and large, with humility, and a willingness to learn and to make mistakes. Once he realized the origin of Maria's wound, he was quite effective in working with her, even playing doll house with her. Like many therapists in the beginning of their training (DSM-S 133.33, Supervisor talking about self in a way that no one is supposed to know that she is talking about herself), he had felt that he knew all the answers, and could be a better parent to his client than his or her real parents. He did eventually meet with Maria's parents, and was impressed with how loving they were, and how concerned about Maria. He resolved to throw out his developmental questionnaire, and to meet with the parents of child clients within the first few weeks of getting a referral.  He said, "I need their help. I can't work with their child unless I know them, and they trust me."
Daniel realized that he knew very little of other cultures, a surprising admission from one, who, at the beginning of his internship, had known so much about everything! He was quite shocked when he began to look at his own assumptions, and was struck by the realization "that the 'counselor culture' has at its core a set of white cultural values and norms by which clients are judged." (Katz, J. H. "The Sociopolitical Nature of Counseling." THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST" 13 (1985): 615-623., Lauver, P. J. "Extending Counseling Cross-Culturally: Invisible Barriers." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the California Association for Counseling and Development, San Francisco, CA. ED 274 937 cited in Issues in Multicultural Counseling. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Digest.

I knew that I had found Daniel very ignorant about how life is with a newborn, especially a high needs premature baby, as well as out of touch with the bumps, bruises and dirty clothes of an active child. I don't think this was particularly an issue of cultural bias or sexism, but rather a lack of empathy and knowledge regarding how difficult family life can be at times. There were times with Daniel when I felt like modifying the above quotation to: "that the 'counselor culture' has at its core a set of 'white male thinking type without children' cultural values and norms by which supervisors are judged".

ERIC Identifier: ED357316
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Locke, Don C.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.

Multicultural Counseling. ERIC Digest.


Multiculturalism has been defined as the fourth force in psychology, one which complements the psychodynamic, behavioral and humanistic explanations of human behavior. Pedersen (1991) defined multiculturalism as "a wide range of multiple groups without grading, comparing, or ranking them as better or worse than one another and without denying the very distinct and complementary or even contradictory perspectives that each group brings with it" (p. 4). One of the most important debates within the field has to do with how this definition relates to specific groups within the context of a culture. Pedersen's definition leads to the inclusion of a large number of variables, e.g., age, sex, place of residence, education, socioeconomic factors, affiliations, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, making multiculturalism generic to all counseling relationships. Locke (1990), among others, advocates a narrower definition of multiculturalism, particularly as it relates to counseling. The narrower view is one where attention is directed toward "the racial/ethnic minority groups within that culture" (p. 24).

Regardless of how one defines the term or the degree to which the concept is restricted or broadened in a particular context, multiculturalism encompasses a world of complex detail. Hofstede (1984), identified four dimensions of cultures. These dimensions are:

1. Power distance--the extent to which a culture accepts that power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally.

2. Uncertainty avoidance--the extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or ambiguous situations.

3. Individualism--a social framework in which people are supposed to take care of themselves and of their immediate families only. Collectivism refers to a social framework in which people distinguish between in-groups and out-groups, expecting their in-group to look after them, and in exchange for that owe loyalty to it.

4. Masculinity/Femininity--the extent to which the dominant values within a culture are assertiveness, money and things, caring for others, quality of life, and people.

A number of generic counselor characteristics are necessary, but not sufficient, for those who engage in multicultural counseling. To be effective, a counselor must be able to:

1. Express respect for the client in a manner that is felt, understood, accepted, and appreciated by the client. Respect may be communicated either verbally or nonverbally with voice quality or eye contact.

2. Feel and express empathy for culturally different clients. This involves being able to place oneself in the place of the other, to understand the point of view of the other.

3. Personalize his/her observations. This means that the counselor recognizes that his/her observations, knowledge, or perceptions are "right" or "true" only for him/herself and that they do not generalize to the client.

4. Withhold judgment and remain objective until one has enough information and an understanding of the world of the client.

5. Tolerate ambiguity. This refers to the ability to react to new, different, and at times, unpredictable situations with little visible discomfort or irritation.

6. Have patience and perseverance when unable to get things done immediately.

Counselors bring with them their own degree of effectiveness with these generic characteristics. They also bring with them their cultural manifestations as well as their unique personal, social and psychological background. These factors interact with the cultural and personal factors brought by the client. The interaction of these two sets of factors must be explored along with other counseling-related considerations for each client who comes for counseling. The effective counselor is one who can adapt the counseling models, theories, or techniques to the unique individual needs of each client. This skill requires that the counselor be able to see the client as both an individual and as a member of a particular cultural group. Multicultural counseling requires the recognition of: (1) the importance of racial/ethnic group membership on the socialization of the client; (2) the importance of and the uniqueness of the individual; (3) the presence of and place of values in the counseling process; and (4) the uniqueness of learning styles, vocational goals, and life purposes of clients, within the context of principles of democratic social justice (Locke, 1986).

The Multicultural Awareness Continuum (Locke, 1986) was designed to illustrate the areas of awareness through which a counselor must go in the process of counseling a culturally different client. The continuum is linear and the process is developmental, best understood as a lifelong process.

--Self-awareness. The first level through which counselors must pass is self-awareness. Self-understanding is a necessary condition before one begins the process of understanding others. Both intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics must be considered as important components in the projection of beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and values. The examination of one's own thoughts and feelings allows the counselor a better understanding of the cultural "baggage" he or she brings to the situation.

--Awareness of one's own culture. Counselors bring cultural baggage to the counseling situation; baggage that may cause certain things to be taken for granted or create expectations about behaviors and manners. For example, consider your own name and the meaning associated with it. Ask yourself the cultural significance of your name. Could your name have some historical significance to cultures other than the culture of your origin? There may be some relationship between your name and the order of your birth. There may have been a special ceremony conducted when you were named.

The naming process of a child is but one of the many examples of how cultural influences are evident and varied. Language is specific to one's cultural group whether formal, informal, verbal, or nonverbal. Language determines the cultural networks in which an individual participates and contributes specific values to the culture.

--Awareness of racism, sexism, and poverty. Racism, sexism, and poverty are all aspects of a culture that must be understood from the perspective of how one views their effect both upon oneself and upon others. The words themselves are obviously powerful terms and frequently evoke some defensiveness. Even when racism and sexism are denied as a part of one's personal belief system, one must recognize that he/she never-the-less exists as a part of the larger culture. Even when the anguish of poverty is not felt personally, the counselor must come to grips with his or her own beliefs regarding financially less fortunate people.

Exploration of the issues of racism, sexism, and poverty may be facilitated by a "systems" approach. Such an exploration may lead to examination of the differences between individual behaviors and organizational behaviors, or what might be called the difference between personal prejudice and institutional prejudice. The influence of organizational prejudice can be seen in the attitudes and beliefs of the system in which the counselor works. Similarly, the awareness that frequently church memberships exist along racial lines, or that some social organizations restrict their membership to one sex, should help counselors come to grips with the organizational prejudice which they may be supporting solely on the basis of participation in a particular organization.

--Awareness of individual differences. One of the greatest pitfalls of the novice counselor is to overgeneralize things learned about a specific culture as therefore applicable to all members of the culture. A single thread of commonality is often presumed to exist as interwoven among the group simply because it is observed in one or a few member(s) of the culture. On the contrary, cultural group membership does not require one to sacrifice individualism or uniqueness. In response to the counselor who feels all clients should be treated as "individuals," I say clients must be treated as both individuals and members of their particular cultural group.

Total belief in individualism fails to take into account the "collective family-community" relationship which exists in many cultural groups. A real danger lies in the possibility that counselors may unwittingly discount cultural influences and subconsciously believe they understand the culturally different when, in fact, they view others from their own culture's point of view. In practice, what is put forth as a belief in individualism can become a disregard for any culturally specific behaviors that influence client behaviors. In sum, counselors must be aware of individual differences and come to believe in the uniqueness of the individual before moving to the level of awareness of other cultures.

--Awareness of other cultures. The four previously discussed levels of the continuum provide the background and foundation necessary for counselors to explore the varied dynamics of other cultural groups. Most cross-cultural emphasis is currently placed upon African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans or Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Language is of great significance and uniqueness to each of these cultural groups, rendering standard English less than complete in communication of ideas. It is necessary for counselors to be sensitive to words which are unique to a particular culture as well as body language and other nonverbal behaviors to which cultural significance is attached.

--Awareness of diversity. The culture of the United States has often been referred to as a "melting pot." This characterization suggests that people came to the United States from many different countries and blended into one new culture. Thus, old world practices were altered, discarded, or maintained within the context of the new culture. For the most part, many cultural groups did not fully participate in the melting pot process. Thus, many African American, Native American, Mexican American, and Asian American cultural practices were not welcomed as the new culture formed.

Of more recent vintage is the term "salad bowl" which implies that the culture of the United States is capable of retaining aspects from all cultures (the various ingredients). Viewed in this manner, we are seen as capable of living, working, and growing together while maintaining a unique cultural identity. "Rainbow coalition" is another term used in a recent political campaign to represent the same idea. Such concepts reflect what many have come to refer to as a multicultural or pluralistic society, where certain features of each culture are encouraged and appreciated by other cultural groups.

--Skills/Techniques. The final level on the continuum is to implement what has been learned about working with culturally different groups and add specific techniques to the repertoire of counseling skills. Before a counselor can effectively work with clients of diverse cultural heritage, he or she must have developed general competence as a counselor. Passage through the awareness continuum constitutes professional growth and will contribute to an increase in overall counseling effectiveness, but goes much further than that. Counselors must be aware of learning theory and how theory relates to the development of psychological-cultural factors. Counselors must understand the relationship between theory and counselors' strategies or practices. Most importantly, counselors must have developed a sense of worth in their own cultures before attaining competence in counseling the culturally different.


Hofstede, G. (1984) "Cultures consequences: International differences in work-related values." Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Locke, D. C. (1986a). Cross-cultural counseling issues. In A. J. Palmo & W. J. Weikel (Eds.), "Foundations of mental health counseling" (pp. 119-137). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Locke, D. C. (1990). A not so provincial view of multicultural counseling. "Counselor Education and Supervision," 30, 18-25.

Pedersen, P. B. (1991). Introduction to the special issue on multiculturalism as a fourth force in counseling. "Journal of Counseling and Development," 70, 4.


Don C. Locke, Ph.D., is a professor of counselor education at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.


This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education under contract number RI88062011. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of OERI or the Department of Education. ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.

Title: Multicultural Counseling. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Counseling Techniques, Counseling Theories, Counselor Attitudes, Counselor Characteristics, Counselor Client Relationship, Counselor Qualifications, Counselors, Cultural Differences
Identifiers: Cross Cultural Counseling, ERIC Digests, Multicultural Counseling
Maria continued to be Daniel's teacher. She periodically got angry at him, and threw sand around the office. And Daniel periodically got angry at me, and I had to resist my own ancestral pull, from my family of origin. (No, he did not throw sand around the office...even parallel process has its limits!) At one point, as he seemed to criticize my lack of documentation and research regarding a suggestion that I had made, I suddenly got it! Daniel was temperamentally like Dr. M., my first supervisor! Once I realized that, I saw how working with Daniel was healing the wound I had incurred with my first supervisor. Seemingly, right after I had that realization, Daniel was much more accepting of my ideas, and seemed to stop asking for bibliographic references. (However, it may be that it was my perception had changed....)
As Daniel learned to stay with Maria's feelings, these episodes diminished. As Maria's anxiety lessened, and baby Danny started sleeping through the night, Maria ADHD-like symptoms and acting out behavior decreased. No question, she was a very active, impulsive child, but did not meet any criteria for ADHD or ODD by the time the school year was ending.

A delightful time came as their work together was ending. Daniel had realized that Maria's learning style was more 'emotional' than cognitive, and with that, he actually started lightening up on others (including his supervisor, me!) who also were less analytically inclined. As Maria started talking about teaching 'her baby Danny' to speak, she also began to teach Daniel some Spanish. By the end of his internship, Daniel knew all the names for the doll house furniture, and the colors, in Spanish!

ERIC Identifier: ED393607
Publication Date: 1996-05-00
Author: Griggs, Shirley - Dunn, Rita
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.

Hispanic-American Students and Learning Style. ERIC Digest.


This digest identifies cultural values that may impact the learning processes of Hispanic-American students, reviews the research on the learning styles of Hispanic-American students, and discusses the implications of this research for counseling and teaching Hispanic youth.


Hispanic-Americans are united by customs, language, religion, and values. There is, however, an extensive diversity of traits among Hispanic-Americans. One characteristic that is of paramount importance in most Hispanic cultures is family commitment, which involves loyalty, a strong support system, a belief that a child's behavior reflects on the honor of the family, a hierarchical order among siblings, and a duty to care for family members. This strong sense of other-directedness conflicts with the United States' mainstream emphasis on individualism (Vasquez, 1990). Indeed, Hispanic culture's emphasis on cooperation in the attainment of goals can result in Hispanic students' discomfort with this nation's conventional classroom competition.

Hispanic adolescents are more inclined than Anglo adolescents to adopt their parents' commitment to religious and political beliefs, occupational preferences, and lifestyle (Black et al., 1991). Spirituality, the dignity of each individual, and respect for authority figures are valued throughout Hispanic culture. Stereotyped sex roles tend to exist among many Latinos: the male is perceived as dominant and strong, whereas the female is perceived as nurturing and self-sacrificing. Note, however, that in Latino cultures, the term "machismo" (used by Anglos to refer to male chauvinism) refers to a concept of chivalry that encompasses gallantry, courtesy, charity, and courage (Baron, 1991). Hispanic male adolescents display more and earlier independence than the male adolescents of the general U.S. population. However, some researchers (Black et al., 1991) have found that Chicano secondary school students often exhibit lower levels of self-esteem than their Anglo counterparts.


An expanding body of research affirms that teaching and counseling students with interventions that are congruent with the students' learning-style preferences result in their increased academic achievement and more positive attitudes toward learning. Research on the learning styles of Hispanic-Americans in particular, however, is limited. Within the Latino groups, the majority of studies have focused on the learning styles of Mexican-American elementary school children. Several investigations (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Jalali, 1988; Sims, 1988; Yong and Ewing, 1992) have compared various ethnic groups of students in elementary school through college levels using a measure that identifies 21 elements of learning style grouped into five categories.

1. ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING STYLE elements include sound, temperature, design, and light. A cool temperature and formal design were identified as important elements for Mexican-American elementary and middle school students (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Jalali, 1988; Yong & Ewing, 1992).

2. EMOTIONAL LEARNING STYLE elements include responsibility, structure, persistence, and motivation. Sims (1988) reported that Mexican-American third- and fourth-graders were the least conforming of three ethnic groups studied. Yong and Ewing (1992), however, found that Mexican-American middle-school adolescents were conforming. The disparities between these data may result from subjects' age, lifestyle, and urban/rural differences in the two studies. Both of these studies reported that Mexican-Americans required a higher degree of structure than did other groups.

3. SOCIOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements are concerned with the social patterns in which one learns. Learning alone (as opposed to in groups) was preferred more by Caucasian students than by Mexican-American children (Dunn & Dunn, 1992, 1993) and more by Mexican-Americans students than by African-American children (Sims, 1988). Mexican-American students required significantly more sociological variety than either African-Americans or Caucasians (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Jalali, 1989). Mexican-American males were authority-oriented and Mexican-American females were strongly peer-oriented (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).

4. PHYSIOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements relate to time of day, food and drink intake, perception, and mobility. Puerto-Rican college students exhibit a strong preference for learning in the late morning, afternoon, and evening. The time-of-day preferences of Mexican-Americans are less clear. Sims (1988) found that Caucasians preferred drinking or eating snacks while learning significantly more than did Mexican-Americans. Yong and Ewing (1992) reported that Latinos' strongest perceptual strength was kinesthetic. Both Caucasians and African-American were significantly more auditory and visual than Mexican-Americans (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Sims, 1988). The study by Sims (1988) indicated that Caucasian students exhibited a higher need for mobility than did Mexican-American students. Contrary to findings for the U.S. general population, Mexican-American females had a significantly higher need for mobility than their male counterparts (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).

5. PSYCHOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements relate to global versus analytical processing. The construct of field dependence/independence is a component of this learning style. Field dependent individuals are more group-oriented and cooperative and less competitive than field independent individuals. Research generally has indicated that Mexican-American and other minority students are more field dependent than nonminority students. Hudgens (1993) found that Hispanic middle and secondary school students were more field dependent than Anglo students; Hispanic female (and African-American male) students had a greater internal locus of control than other groups; and Hispanic male (and African-American female) students had a greater external locus of control than other groups.


Counselors and teachers can be aware that, although there are common characteristics in this population, Hispanic-Americans are a very diverse group and include distinct subcultures that differ significantly as to custom, values, and educational orientation. It is also important to recognize the limitations of research. Demographic variables other than gender and ethnicity that impact on learning style may not be isolated in studies. These variables include socioeconomic class, geographical region, primary language, religion, family structure, and number of generations in the U.S.

Schools can provide Spanish-speaking teachers, counselors, and educational assistants. This is especially true in areas where there are many first-generation Hispanic families.

For immigrant Latino adolescents, identity formation and individuation can be especially challenging and problematic. This is because their cultural values include strong family loyalty and allegiance, values that are in conflict with the behavioral styles of mainstream U.S. adolescents who strive for self-expression and individuality. For Hispanic adolescents with identity-related problems, group counseling with peers who are experiencing similar conflicts can be helpful. Referral for pastoral counseling may be indicated for Roman Catholic youths, because there is usually trust and respect for priests.

Educators need to be aware of self-image problems of Hispanic-American students that may result from a rejection of their ethnicity and from attempts to conform to the larger Anglo culture. To address these problems, educators can plan interventions that acknowledge and celebrate cultural diversity when teaching and counseling Hispanic youth.

Based on the research examined above, teachers and counselors should expect larger numbers of Hispanic students to prefer: (1) a cool environment; (2) conformity; (3) peer-oriented learning; (4) kinesthetic instructional resources; (5) a high degree of structure; (6) late morning and afternoon peak energy levels; (7) variety as opposed to routines; and (8) a field-dependent cognitive style. Teachers and counselors should be aware of cultural group characteristics; for the most responsive teaching and counseling strategies, however, they should emphasize the learning style strengths of each individual and try to match instructional resources and methods to individual environmental, emotional, physiological, and psychological preferences.

Adapted from: Griggs, Shirley, and Rita Dunn. (1995). Hispanic-American Students and Learning Style. EMERGENCY LIBRARIAN 23(2, Nov-Dec): 11-16. Adapted with permission of EMERGENCY LIBRARIAN and the authors.


Baron, A., Jr. (1991). Counseling Chicano College Students. In C. Lee, and B. Richardson (Eds.), MULTICULTURAL ISSUES IN COUNSELING: New Approaches to Diversity (p.171-184). Alexandria, VA: American Association for Counseling and Development. ED 329 861.

Black, C., H. Paz, and R. DeBlassie. (1991). Counseling the Hispanic Male Adolescent. ADOLESCENCE 26:223-232. EJ 429 645.



GRADES 3-6. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Dunn, R., and K. Dunn. (1993). TEACHING SECONDARY STUDENTS


GRADES 7-12. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Dunn, R., S. Griggs, and G. Price. (1993). Learning Styles of Mexican-American and Anglo-American Elementary-School Students. JOURNAL OF MULTICULTURAL COUNSELING AND DEVELOPMENT 21(4): 237-247. EJ 470 183.




Abstracts International, A53-08, 2744.




STUDENTS OF AFRO, CHINESE, GREEK AND MEXICAN HERITAGE. Doctoral dissertation, St. John's University, Jamaica, NY. Dissertation Abstracts International, 50(62), 344A.

Sims, J. (1988). Learning Styles of Black-American, Mexican-American, and White-American Third- and Fourth-Grade Students in Traditional Public Schools. Doctoral dissertation, University of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.

Vasquez, J. (1990). Teaching to the Distinctive Traits of Minority Students. THE CLEARING HOUSE 63(7): 299-304.

Yong, F., and N. Ewing. (1992). A Comparative Study of the Learning-Style Preferences among Gifted African-American, Mexican-American and American Born Chinese Middle-Grade Students. ROEPER REVIEW 14(3): 120-123. EJ 447 200.


References identified with an ED (ERIC document) or EJ (ERIC journal) number are cited in the ERIC database. Most documents are available in ERIC microfiche collections at more than 900 locations worldwide, and can be ordered through EDRS: (800) 443-ERIC. Journal articles are available from the original journal, interlibrary loan services, or article reproduction clearinghouses such as: UMI (800) 732-0616; or ISI (800) 523-1850.


This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002007. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI. ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.

Title: Hispanic-American Students and Learning Style. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Guides---Classroom Use---Teaching Guides (052); Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Cognitive Style, Counselors, Cultural Differences, Cultural Traits, Elementary School Students, Elementary School Teachers, Elementary Secondary Education, Family Environment, Field Dependence Independence, Hispanic American Culture, Hispanic Americans, Mexican Americans, Physical Environment, Secondary School Students, Secondary School Teachers
Identifiers: Chicanos, ERIC Digests, Hispanic American Students, Latinos
It was in reading in the above article, "One characteristic that is of paramount importance in most Hispanic cultures is family commitment, which involves loyalty, a strong support system, a belief that a child's behavior reflects on the honor of the family, a hierarchical order among siblings, and a duty to care for family members" that Daniel realized how much he had blundered in his supposition of child neglect. It wasn't that Hispanic families have any more or less abuse and neglect than any other families; it was how he had approached it. He realized that he had put Maria in a very uncomfortable position, by grilling her, and was culturally insensitive. He felt very grateful that her parents had allowed her to continue her therapy with him.
Like most beginning interns, there was a time when Daniel had to make a CPS report, on another child he was seeing. Looking back, he said that it was very clear to him that Maria had not been neglected or abused.
Evaluating Daniel
Part of supervision is, of course, evaluation. My evaluation of Daniel changed over time, as did his of me. In the beginning, I found him rigid and overcontrolling, he found me overvaluing feelings to the detriment of thinking, and sometimes too casual or seemingly impulsive in my recommendations to him.
Over time, we both switched. As he began to appreciate my style and experience, I learned from his ability to do research. As we learned to value each other's styles, we each stopped dreading our sessions. As I learned to stay with his thoughts, eventually he would find his way to feelings. He became more comfortable , and especially when he realized that I would not label his interventions or questions as 'inappropriate'.
A breakthrough came when he said he realized that when he felt the impulse to say that something was 'inappropriate' that meant he was caught in his complex regarding his parents, and that he stepped back, and didn't say it. ((DSM-S 148.00, Supervisor  very proud of intern!)  Instead, he said nothing, or 'hmmm..." until he could figure out what to do or say.

His clinical skills improved as he relaxed and become more confident (rather than defensively confident, as he has been at the beginning of his training.) He became very adept at recognizing parallel process in the therapy sessions and at times in supervision.

Toward the end of our work together, he gave me back the journal that I had given him. It was blank. He said, "I wanted you to know that I felt a bit strange when you said to use this, to record my fantasies and dreams about my clients. I even talked to my analyst about it. Thank you for never asking about it; for letting it be completely private. I did it, and it was very helpful. But you might want to 'get with it'...nobody writes anymore. I did mine on my laptop."

ERIC Identifier: ED372348
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Harris, Morag B. Colvin
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.

Supervisory Evaluation and Feedback. ERIC Digest.



Counselor educators and field supervisors often feel uncomfortable about assessing trainee skills and struggle to find an appropriate vehicle for delivering essential constructive feedback regarding performance. Most have received little or no training in evaluation or assessment practices. However, current and proposed accreditation, certification, and licensure regulations place an increasing emphasis on the evaluation and assessment of counselor performance. Clearly, evaluation practices will need to be augmented by theoretical and conceptual knowledge, as well as programmatic research.

The purpose of this digest is to suggest that there exist some fairly basic premises from educational psychology (Gage & Berliner, 1984), educational evaluation (Isaacs & Michaels, 1981), and counselor supervision literature (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992) that can improve supervision evaluation practices, and thus reduce the ambiguity and uncertainty about evaluation in supervision. Although this digest does not specifically address program evaluation, it should be clear that this is also an important component of any comprehensive evaluation endeavor.


Professional competence evaluation is made in a series of formal and informal measurements that result in a judgment that an "individual is fit to practice a profession autonomously" (McGaghie, 1991). Summative evaluation describes "how effective or ineffective, how adequate or inadequate, how good or bad, how valuable or invaluable, and how appropriate or inappropriate" the trainee is "in terms of the perceptions of the individual who makes use of the information provided by the evaluator" (Isaac & Mitchell, 1981, p. 2). Counselor supervisors are responsible for summative evaluations and assessments of supervisee competence to university departments, state licensing boards, and agency administrators. Summative evaluation is described by Bernard and Goodyear (1992) as "the moment of truth when the supervisor steps back, takes stock, and decides how the trainee measures up" (p. 105). Effective summative evaluation requires clearly delineated performance objectives that can be assessed in both quantitative and qualitative terms and that have been made explicit to the trainee during initial supervision contacts.

The heart of counselor evaluation, however, is an on-going formative process which uses feedback and leads to trainee skills improvement and positive client outcome. In this case the trainee is the person using the information. Bernard and Goodyear (1992) refer to this kind of evaluation as "a constant variable in supervision." As a result, every supervision session will contain either an overt or covert formative evaluation component.


When supervisors measure behavioral therapeutic skills they find several difficult areas. First, they find that measurement and subsequent evaluation of therapeutic skill is a complex process in a field where many skills inventories and behavioral checklists abound, and research findings suggest that these may lack adequate reliability and validity. Second, university supervisors recognize the tension between providing a supportive facilitative environment within which counselors-in-training can feel free to stretch and learn counseling skills and the anxiety that results from academic grades. Third, lacking a theory of supervision, supervisors are unable to articulate desired outcomes for their supervisees and may revert to the evaluation of administrative detail and case management. As a result of these difficulties, numerous areas of competency may be neglected, anxiety may persist, and supervisors may resort to summative evaluation practices in global and poorly measured terms.

There are resources which outline requisite skills and knowledge for effective evaluation practices. The Curriculum Guide for Training Counselor Supervisors (Borders et al., 1991) provides specific learning objectives for supervisors-in-training. Other current publications (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992; Borders & Leddick, 1987; McGaghie, 1991; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987) further develop the Guide's "three curriculum threads" (p.60) of self awareness, theoretical and conceptual knowledge, and skills and techniques. The guidelines and suggestions from these resources are summarized in the following list of effective evaluation practices:

1. Clearly communicate evaluation criteria to supervisees and develop a mutually agreed upon written contract reflecting these criteria.

2. Identify and communicate supervisee strengths and weaknesses. The Ethical Guidelines for Counselor Supervisors (ACES, 1993) recommend that supervisors "provide supervisees with ongoing feedback on their performance." This performance feedback establishes for supervisees a clear sense of what they do well and which skills need to be developed. Supervisee strengths and weaknesses can be evaluated in terms of process, conceptual, personal, and professional skills (Bernard & Goodyear, 1992, p. 42).

3. Use constructive feedback techniques during evaluations. Supervisees are more likely to "hear" corrective feedback messages when these are preceded by positive feedback, focused on observable behaviors, and are delayed until a positive relationship has been established.

4. Utilize specific, behavioral, observable feedback dealing with counseling skills and techniques; avoid terms such as "understanding," "knowing and appreciating," and "being aware of." Successful evaluation practices should include behaviorally-based learning objectives (Gage & Berliner, 1984).

5. Use Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) to raise supervisees' awareness about their personal developmental issues. The unobtrusive and nonthreatening nature of IPR is particularly helpful as supervisees retrospectively explore their thoughts, feelings, and a variety of client stimuli during counseling sessions. This process can assist supervisees in contributing to, and benefiting from, formative evaluation.

6. Employ multiple measures of supervisee counseling skills. These can include a variety of standardized rating scales including measures completed by both supervisor and supervisee, client ratings, and behavioral scales (Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987). Additional measures such as work samples from audio/videos, critiques of counseling sessions, and conceptual case studies (both brief and detailed) can provide a comprehensive picture of a supervisee's competency, expectations, needs and professional development, as well as an understanding of the context within which both the counseling and the supervision take place.

7. Maintain a series of work samples in a portfolio for summative evaluation. Since the evaluation of only one session provides an inadequate assessment of supervisee competency, and the selective nature of work samples may prove to be an overly negative reflection of current competency level, the portfolio provides both the supervisor and the supervisee with a more comprehensive and useful basis for a summative evaluation.

8. Use a developmental approach which emphasizes both progressive growth toward desired goals and the learning readiness of the trainee (Nance, 1990). The Nance model emphasizes a learning readiness based on the supervisee's ability, confidence, and willingness--the assessment of which directs the roles and practices of the supervisor. As a result, supervisors can "match" their supervisee's level and "move" them toward independent functioning one step at a time. Although Nance does not specify evaluation practices, he clearly describes effective supervisory styles, interventions, role, contracts, and agendas for each developmental stage. These variables can guide the evaluation process indirectly by enabling the supervisor to understand the characteristics and appropriate expectations for supervisees at each developmental level.


A structured approach to supervisee assessment and evaluation produces several beneficial outcomes. First, supervisors can reduce their own, as well as their supervisee's, anxiety about the process. The meanings associated with assessment can be altered to suggest a positive experience from which both partners can grow and learn. Second, supervisors who articulate their adopted "supervision theory" to their supervisees will also clarify their evaluation criteria as well as their supervision practices. Third, when evaluation is viewed as a process of formative and summative "assessment" of the skills, techniques, and developmental stage of the supervisee, both supervisees and their clients benefit. Fourth, as supervisors deal successfully with the process of supervisee evaluation, they also bring similar skills to the evaluation of their training programs, an area in search of an appropriate evaluation paradigm. Finally, just as training is most successful when multiple methods (didactic, modeling, and experiential) of skills acquisition are employed, so too the use of multiple methods for evaluation contributes to the supervisee's sense of self-worth and success.


Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. Ethical Guidelines for Counseling Supervisors (1993). ACES Spectrum, 53(4), 5-8.

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

Borders, L. D., Bernard, J. M., Dye, H. A., Fong, M. L., Henderson, P., & Nance, D. (1991). Curriculum guide for training counselor supervisors: Rationale, development, and implementation. Counselor Education and Supervision, 31, 58-77.

Borders, L. D., & Leddick, G. R. (1987). Handbook of counseling supervision. Alexandria, VA: Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.

Gage, N. L., & Berliner, D. C. (1984). Educational psychology (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Isaacs, S., & Michael, W. B. (1981). Handbook in research and evaluation (2nd ed.). San Diego: EdITS.

McGaghie, W. C. (1991). Professional competence evaluation. Educational Researcher, 20, 3-9.

Nance, D. W. (1990). ACES Workshop on Counselor Supervision. Workshop presented at the annual convention of American Association for Counseling and Development, Cincinnati, OH.

Stoltenberg, C. D., & Delworth, U. (1987). Supervising counselors and therapists: A developmental approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Morag B. Colvin Harris, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education and Director of Master's Level Clinical Training at East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas.


ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of OERI or ERIC/CASS.

Title: Supervisory Evaluation and Feedback. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Counselor Educators, Counselor Training, Counselors, Evaluation Methods, Feedback, Supervision, Supervisors
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
Saying good-bye
The school year was ending, and it was time for Daniel to say good-bye to the students and families he had counseled, and for me to say good-bye to him. He was able to actively use the concepts of the parallel process as he felt his feelings about leaving our work together, and how it reverberated through his good-byes to his clients.
He said that working with children had touched him deeply, and that childhood memories were coming back a lot more now. While he still did not have enough experience to be accepted in the psychoanalytic clinic as an intern, he was leaving to do another internship, this time with adults.
We made it a habit to periodically play Candyland, and even used metaphors from Candyland to describe how the work was going. He would confess to a "Plumpy" session, in which nothing seemed to go right, or when he felt stuck, he described it as being "Gloppy", caught in the molasses swamp.

When last I heard, Daniel had graduated from the master's program, had gotten a doctorate and was teaching psychoanalytic developmental concepts at a prestigious university. I don't know whether he ever plays Candyland...or teaches it in his classes!


Superman and all related characters, names and indicia are trademark of DC Comics ©1938-2001
CANDY LAND is a trademark of Hasbro. ©2002 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.
Clinical Supervision, Law and Ethics Bibliography

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