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MANAGING AND RESOLVING CONFLICT

IN THE SUPERVISORY SYSTEM
Alan W. Korinek
Thomas G. Kimball

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this article is to offer a brief review of
relevant literature on conflict in the therapist-supervisor system. The
authors discuss factors that contribute to conflict and the principal
areas of disagreement in the supervisory system. Additionally, the authors present several ideas regarding what a supervisor can do proactively to prevent conflict within supervision. Finally, various ways to
address and resolve supervisor-trainee conflict, including terminating
the supervisory relationship, are discussed.
KEY WORDS: marital and family therapy supervision; supervisor; training; therapistin-training; conflict management; conflict resolution.

Conflict is a word that often evokes negative images. Conflict in
the context of a helping relationship, such as the relationship between
a supervisor and a trainee, seems especially incongruent and problematic. Just the thought of it can create discomfort, anxiety, and dissonance. The actual experience of conflict in such a relationship may
raise the issue of “fit” between a supervisor and a trainee.
Although constant conflict within marital and family therapy supervision may signal the need to reconsider “fit” and perhaps even to
terminate the relationship between supervisor and trainee, the mere
presence of conflict does not imply the need for either option. Conflict
and disagreement between supervisors and trainees is inevitable; at
Alan W. Korinek, PhD, LMFT, is Associate Director of the Texas Tech University
Health Sciences Center Employee Assistance Program, TTUHSC, Department of Neuropsychiatry, 3601 4th Street, Lubbock TX 79430 (alan.korinek@ttuhsc.edu). Thomas G.
Kimball, PhD, LMFT, is Associate Director of Research and Organizational Interventions, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Employee Assistance Program,
Department of Neuropsychiatry, 3601 4th Street, Lubbock, TX 79430 (Thomas.Kimball@
ttuhsc.edu). Reprint requests should be sent to the first author.
Contemporary Family Therapy 25(3), September 2003  2003 Human Sciences Press, Inc.

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scarce rewards. 20). not only to those in the supervisory system. the supervisor may depend upon the trainee as an important source of professional identity. the authors present several ideas regarding steps a supervisor can take to minimize conflict within the supervisory system. but to others as well (e. . and interference from the other party in achieving their goals” (p. The trainee depends upon the supervisor to impart knowledge and provide skills training that will prepare the trainee to do therapy.296 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY the same time. course credit. conflict is manifested when needs and goals of supervisors and trainees collide (Liddle.g. FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO CONFLICT IN THE SUPERVISORY SYSTEM It is important to note that conflict in interpersonal relationships is inevitable due to the interdependency that exists within such relationships. work responsibility. Additionally. clients). The authors focus on the literature that applies specifically to supervision within the field of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). and income. Although the article is focused more specifically on supervision within the MFT field. Similarly.g. Finally. conflict that is not resolved in a satisfactory manner can be damaging and destructive. The trainee also needs supervision hours and credit in order to meet important goals (e.. The purpose of this article is to offer a review of pertinent literature on dealing with conflict in the therapy supervisor system and to identify common factors associated with conflict that occur between supervisors and trainees. Interdependency by itself does not create conflict. The definition of conflict offered by Hocker and Wilmot (1995) underscores the role interdependency plays in the creation and maintenance of conflict: “Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals. conflict transpires when there is the perception of incompatible goals. 1988). the concepts presented are seen to have broader application to the general field of psychotherapy and the supervision and training of its therapists. Literature from other related disciplines was utilized where appropriate. rather it sets the stage for conflict to occur. and/or membership in a professional organization). scarce rewards. the authors discuss ways to address and resolve supervisor-trainee conflict. In other words.. As Hocker and Wilmot (1995) noted. and interference from the other party in achieving one’s goals. licensure.

perhaps by expanding the new therapist’s repertoire of interventions and perspectives of cases. Both trainer and trainee have expectations for the training experience. . the methods for fulfilling them. . the supervisor’s goal may be to foster the trainee’s development and growth. and professional inadequacies. Moskowitz and Rupert (1983) found that conflicts over differences in preferred model of therapy are far more difficult to resolve satisfactorily than conflicts created by the supervisor’s style of supervision. Similarities between trainers and trainees can also be a source of difficulty in the supervisory relationship. 1988). 1986). Role ambiguity is the lack of clarity regarding the expectations for one’s role. 154). 1988). “Fear of exposing one’s personal. Shifting from an individual to a systemic model or from a deficit to a strength model can be difficult for a trainee. tactile) and in personality and working styles as suggested by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers. especially those new to the role. Many supervisors. Incompatible goals can also result in conflict. and personality are also common sources of conflict in the supervisory relationship. competitiveness with colleagues .297 ALAN W. are the most obvious and intensely felt concomitants of being supervised and conducting supervision” (p. therapy orientation. These differences may include disparities in learning styles (visual. may be to conserve as much energy as possible due to a myriad of competing demands.” Such differences in goals are almost sure to create conflict. interpersonal. KIMBALL One mutual need that may create conflict is the desire to be perceived as competent. The closer they are in age. The trainee’s goal. Another example of competing demands occurs when the supervisor is focused on the trainee’s personal and professional growth and the trainee’s main focus is on obtaining a “credential. 1980). kinesthetic. Role ambiguity and role conflict are other sources of difficulty in the supervisory system. cognitive. performance anxiety. auditory. Differences in learning styles. however. KORINEK AND THOMAS G. and academic degree. The degree of fit between these sets of expectations often determines the degree of adjustment in the relationship (Schwartz. 1988). the more difficulty they may experience in attempting to establish and define a complementary teacher-student relationship (Schwartz. years of clinical experience. may lack confidence in themselves. and . Conflict can also occur with trainees who previously learned other ways to intervene with clients (Alderfer & Lynch. Liddle (1988) stated. The inevitable challenges to their conceptual models of therapy and/or their style of supervision can lead to symmetrical escalations that permeate every aspect of training (Schwartz. For example.

the trainee may view the case as one in which the individual with depression needs individual therapy and/or medication. in a case where one partner presents with symptoms of depression. it is the authors’ observations that conflict very often manifests itself around disagreements related to the trainee’s clinical work. Liddle. It is common for beginning . while the supervisor conceptualizes it as a case for which couple therapy is appropriate.” Many authors within the MFT field (e. Therapists’ reactions to clients’ transferences (i. 1979). their own displacements or projections onto clients) Freud termed “countertransference. In the role of student. they are expected to demonstrate a capacity for autonomous decision-making. Significant problems can occur when supervisors are not aware of the presence of isomorphic processes (Rigazio-DiGilio. but it typically diminishes with increasing experience. Role conflict occurs when one faces expectations requiring behaviors that are mutually competing or opposing (Biddle. Liddle. 1986). on the other hand. 1988) prefer the term “isomorphism” to describe how interactions between supervisor and trainee may resemble interactions between the trainee and the client(s) and/or the trainee and members of his or her family.. but as therapists and colleagues.e. 1985.g. and fantasies from important relationships. In this section.298 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY the consequences for effective or ineffective performance. 1983.. & Breunlin. For example. Case conceptualization is a common source of disagreement between supervisors and trainees. Freud (1958) used the term “transference” to refer to clients’ displacement or projection onto their therapist of feelings. Another potential source of conflict between a supervisor and a trainee is an unconscious attempt to pattern the supervisory relationship after past relationships where there was “unfinished business” (Alderfer & Lynch. impulses. Liddle & Saba. 1997. 1988). PRINCIPAL AREAS OF DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN SUPERVISORS AND TRAINEES Although conflict between a supervisor and trainee may occur for any of the reasons discussed above. is an issue for advanced trainees. Role conflict. they are expected to follow the supervisor’s directives. Schwartz. Olk and Friedlander (1992) found that role ambiguity is more prevalent across training levels. & Breunlin. the authors will discuss the aspects of clinical work that they have experienced to be sources of conflict. Schwartz.

.g. The trainee may wish to intervene by making a referral to a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation or by excluding the client’s partner. talking about what went on in the therapy session will reveal the therapist’s biases and insecurities.299 ALAN W. especially those with a strong individual therapy approach. however. disagreement regarding the adequacy of the case notes may occur. substance abuse. A more critical issue arises when deciding to notify another agency (e.g. and they may delay asking questions. while the supervisor may want to direct the couple to interact with one another so that underlying system dynamics (e. conflict emerges when the trainee wishes to devote the majority of the time to talking about one or two specific cases.. requirement/standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations or other professional accrediting bodies). for example.. For example. The trainee may be reluctant to do so for fear of losing the case. Furthermore. Another area of clinical work where disagreements often occur is the area of therapeutic intervention. As quality is much more subjective in nature. I might have to do something about it. As one trainee said. The supervision process itself can become a place where disagreements arise. and/or sexual dysfunction. KIMBALL therapists. “If I ask about sex and drugs. Whereas the trainee believes the case notes are sufficient. while the supervisor wishes to spend some of the hour reviewing the case notes to ensure that they are in accordance with agency/organizational standards. the supervisor could have specific requirements regarding the format and quality of clinical case notes. the supervisor may be hyper-vigilant to such issues to avoid liability. Trainees sometimes feel reluctant to address issues of domestic violence. police) about a client or client system. pattern of blame-withdraw) may emerge. trainees often want to show only their “best” work and may bring only one or two videotapes to supervision.g. probation department. The insistence that case notes be written differently may be solely a matter of the supervisor’s personal preference and/or it may stem from concerns regarding liability issues (e.g. child protective services. the supervisor could disagree and insist that they be done differently (e. to diminish the role of the other person or disregard one person to form an alliance with the other. include more or less detail). Supervisors and trainees may disagree. For example.” Conflict also occurs over case management issues.. about the structure of the supervision hour. Thus. Family therapists pioneered videotape supervision. a trainee may want to give verbal descriptions of his or her work with . KORINEK AND THOMAS G. and I may not know what to do.

. Gottlieb (1995) notes that with so-called vertical models of supervision (e. who use a horizontal model or a more collaborative/team approach. while the supervisor insists that the trainee show a videotape of the session. “The relationship between the supervisor and the trainee has more impact on the success of the process of supervision than any other factor” (p. Haley. Tension in the client system is easily transferred into the supervisory relationship and vice versa. The following paragraphs delineate several things that a supervisor can do to minimize the frequency and intensity of conflict with her or his trainees. 1976. In the initial stage of the supervisory relationship. PREVENTIVE MEASURES TO MINIMIZE CONFLICT IN THE SUPERVISORY SYSTEM Although conflict in the supervisory system is inevitable. 1990). For example. 1996). Furthermore..g. 70). using this type of assessment to determine how best to meet the individual’s training needs (Rigazio-DiGilio & Anderson. 1988) discuss the potential for conflict when live supervision is used. Alderfer and Lynch (1986) state. 1994). Taking a midsession break to consult with the supervisor or receiving a phone call with instructions can heighten the trainee’s anxiety. and resistance. conflict over who is responsible for the client may arise. Live supervision of the trainee’s work is another arena for conflict between supervisors and trainees. First. supervisors should make an effort to join well with their trainees. supervisors. creating deadlocks that are difficult to resolve (Elizur. Initially.g. Elizur. Supervisors can also assess each trainee’s unique learning style. For supervisors. 1990. . supervisors join with their trainees by using their language and accepting their epistemologies (Schwartz.. trainees typically feel nervous and are conscious of the supervisor behind the mirror or at the monitor. transference. Various authors (e. to do so immediately invites defensiveness.300 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY a client. live supervision can also be a very stressful experience. whether a trainee can act independently or must first consult with the supervisor is an important issue that needs addressing. 1988). Schwartz et al. the amount of conflict that supervisors and trainees experience can be reduced and managed. the lines of responsibility are very clear. may face issues of responsibility that are often unclear. Although it may be necessary to challenge a trainee’s framework of therapy at some time. Conversely.

describes supervision methods. A supportive environment for training is further enhanced when supervisors reduce the evaluative focus of supervision (Schwartz. as doing so will negate the support. and specifies evaluation procedures (Storm. Supervisors who function as “deficit detectives” create considerable anxiety for their trainees (Liddle. 1988). it is wise to include a specific statement that participation in supervision does not guarantee that the supervisor will endorse or support the trainee. Snyders (1986) stated that “one cardinal rule in supervisory interactions should be that the therapist as a person should always be supported and respected. provoked. Balancing hierarchy and power is a fourth way to minimize conflict in the supervisory system. 18). One suggestion is for the supervisor to define the supervisory relationship by implying or stating overtly early on that she or he believes the trainee is. however much his or her functions may be challenged. Finally. A useful contract will also include provisions for renegotiating the contract or resolving supervision disagreement. In such cases supervisors may think about other means to support their trainee such as providing them with honest and respectful feedback about their skill level. clarifies the supervisory relationship. and catalyze trainee strengths. identifies goals. reviews clinical issues. KIMBALL A supervisor should maintain a good connection with a trainee by displaying a positive and supportive attitude. the supervisor’s identity as a competent trainer is not dependent upon the trainee’s performance or the client’s outcome. Supervisors should try to identify. or criticized” (p. if supervision is leading toward licensure. amplified. a good therapist. 1997). support. Supervisors should also be careful not to blend support with criticism or add criticism as a “caboose” at the end of positive statements. An effective supervision contract outlines logistics. 1997). or has the potential to be. Some supervisors include a provision to include third parties to help in conflict resolution (Fine & Turner. certification. A second way to minimize conflict in the supervisory relationship is to create a good supervision contract. KORINEK AND THOMAS G. including grounds for termination. Another suggestion is for the supervisor to display an attitude about the trainee’s performance that implies that while there is an investment in the trainee’s development. 1988). Supervisors may wish to exercise caution in making such statements since if this is done too quickly or too facilely the potential to create genuine conflict may arise particularly if it becomes apparent that the trainee is not performing as a potentially good therapist.301 ALAN W. Provisions for terminating the supervisory relationship should also be spelled out in the contract. complies with credentialing requirements. and/or designation. Although the supervisory relationship is .

and ethnic biases. 1993).. Trainees and supervisors may experience anxiety about gender. 1994). and evaluation (Wheeler. “Now that you have had some experience. 1989). supervisors can “mind the power” inherent in their evaluative position. the greatest responsibility belongs to the supervisor (Alderfer & Lynch. Maintaining such a self-focus may pose a dilemma for some supervisors. Given that male and female therapists often have different experiences in therapy (Warburton. I will expect you to bring up the issues that you want to discuss. 1986). Miller. If not managed effectively. this type of anxiety can interfere with both the supervisory relationship and the therapy process (Watson. To avoid the resistance that often accompanies insufficient autonomy. supervisors who take responsibility for monitoring their own behavior provide a good example for trainees to follow in their work with clients. One way to level the hierarchy is to develop a contract that stipulates shared responsibility between supervisor and trainee for change. Although supervisor and trainee both bear some responsibility for the quality and tone of the supervisory relationship. Newberry. Nichols. a supervisor might tell a trainee. At the same time. as it requires stepping down from the expert position and becoming vulnerable.” When thinking about power in supervisory relationships. Supervisors who attend to self-of-supervisor issues and exercise humility are also in better positions to minimize conflict in the supervisory relationship. 1988). 1999. supervisors should function more as consultants (Liddle. Avis. 1997).302 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY hierarchical by its very nature (Hicks & Cornille. 1993). Nichols. In any event. while at the . trainees should be given increased autonomy as the supervision process progresses. & Chaney. Unless you tell me differently. thereby increasing the trainee’s personal agency and leveling the hierarchy (Fine & Turner. 1985). I will assume that everything is okay. In the later stages of training. When supervisors show fallibility and are willing to admit their own mistakes. 1988) and the supervisor must have final say in case management matters since she or he bears legal responsibility (Huber. race. 1988. supervisors will do well to recognize and overtly challenge gender issues as they occur in therapy or supervision (Wheeler et al. the supervisor is encouraged to pay special attention to diversity issues. learning. An attitude of humility on the part of supervisors can promote less conflictual relationships with trainees. when trainees have demonstrated the capacity to generate sound clinical alternatives. 1985). & Alexander. The quality of the relationship depends upon the supervisor’s willingness to pay attention to “person of the supervisor” issues in supervision (Watson.

1977). 1992. the inevitability of disagreement and conflict in supervision has been discussed.303 ALAN W. Anderson. & Schwartz. it serves to create a noncompetitive atmosphere and prevents an increasing cycle of blame and demoralization (Breunlin. but not every battle needs to be fought. and (2) statements of judgment. The inevitability of conflict in the supervisory relationship means that potential “battles” abound. In this study involving supervisors and trainees within two MFT programs. but it is much more likely to be covert. the supervisory relationship should become more collaborative and the trainee more independent as she or he gains confidence and competency. attempts to comply. Such conflict may be overt. especially at low levels of disagreement. Liddle. Ratliff and associates (2000) found that although dissensus in supervision is common. The latter category is more confrontive. supervisors or trainees rarely acknowledged dif- . and they varied in terms of the degree of compliance. and Morris (2000) used the term “dissensus” to describe occasions of misunderstanding and disagreement that commonly occur during supervision. Whitaker & Napier. Schwartz (1988) observed that trainees who value dialectical exchanges sometimes will strongly challenge a supervisor’s suggestion. Another way to create less conflicted supervisory relationships involves knowing when to confront and when to refrain from confrontation. KIMBALL same time maintaining a sense of leadership and confidence. these battles also occur in supervision. Winning the battles for structure and initiative does not preclude the development of a more collaborative relationship between a supervisor and her or his trainees. along with ways to minimize them. KORINEK AND THOMAS G. Trainee responses to dissensus all fall into one category. WAYS TO HANDLE AND RESOLVE CONFLICT Thus far. Schwartz. Ratliff. the authors identified different types of supervisor responses to dissensus and placed them into two general categories: (1) attempts to influence. only to follow the suggestion in the therapy room. Wampler. while the battle for initiative is over the responsibility for that growth. & Bartle. Two important battles worth waging in supervision are the “battle for structure” and the “battle for initiative” (Boylin. 1988. As noted previously. 1988). Though originally conceptualized as issues in a therapist’s work with clients. The battle for structure establishes the supervisor’s position in the supervisory system as the facilitator of growth and change.

the end result may be increased dependency on the part of the trainee. Instead. An awareness of these dynamics allows supervisors to exercise greater care in using responses that facilitate. suppressing the urge to blame the therapist.). the trainee may agree with the supervisor’s comments. 1967). Metacommunication. but . Consequently. & Jackson. 2000).. however. If a supervisor escalates confrontation too quickly.. The most confrontive supervisory responses were rarely used. is an important conflict resolution skill. and there were no instances of explicit non-compliance by trainees. deferring continually to the supervisor. . Warning signs of increasing dependence by a trainee include asking many questions (especially in response to a question from the supervisor).e. supervisors and trainees would engage in a lower level of dissensus and then proceed to other topics without an explicit acknowledgement of error by the trainee or explicit criticism by the supervisor. and/or terminate supervision. but then defend in-session behavior as appropriate to the context (i.304 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY ferences of opinion. 2000). being reserved for instances where other tactics of influence and judgment had been unsuccessfully employed. the attainment of important goals in supervision. dissensus that is not resolved may develop into overt conflict. I hear what you’re saying. begin avoiding supervision sessions. If conflict reaches a level at which it poses a threat to the viability of the supervisory relationship and the trainee’s development. 1967). Most disagreements in supervision are really issues of dissensus that can be easily resolved (Ratliff et al. A trainee who feels attacked and belittled by the supervisor could eventually refuse to carry out the supervisor’s suggestions and directives. . rather than frustrate. The tactful supervisor may even take the blame for a failed intervention.. . Such a collaborative “dance” between supervisor and trainee continues until such time as the latter appears unresponsive to the supervisor. Trainees wish to present themselves both as competent in the therapy room and cooperative in the supervision room.. Bavelas. defined as communicating about the process in a relationship (Watzlawick. and being unwilling to discuss or challenge a directive given by the supervisor (Ratliff et al. Ratliff and colleagues (2000) also argued that the tactics used by supervisors and trainees relate to strategies used in the presentation of self (Goffman. in which case the supervisor may escalate the confrontation making the conflict more overt (Ratliff et al. Supervisors’ tactfulness in supervision may be demonstrated by their ability to refrain from introducing explicit contradictions when trainees present themselves as both competent and cooperative. 2000). “Yes.

A supervisor. conflict resolution in the supervisory relationship will be a collaborative. Using the skill of metacommunication. depends upon the sincerity of the supervisor who is making the request. For example. KIMBALL the supervisor should take the initiative. while leaving enough questions open-ended and unstructured to allow feedback expressed from the point of view of the trainee” (p. “I think it’s important as we go along that we continue to talk about what’s happening in supervision. (3) Describe the problem and needs from each person’s perspective. but that possibility . Ideally. Trainees should be encouraged to invest in the process and offer possible solutions. “Ideally the supervisor should ask for the feedback that the supervisor considers most relevant to the supervisor. the supervisor addresses the situation in a straightforward but respectful manner. the trainee must choose whether or not to do so. “disagreement is combat” or “disagreement is a contest”) imply a zero-sum game where “every disagreement has to end with a winner and a loser” (p. successful employment of a “win-win” approach often begins with adopting a different metaphor for dealing with disagreement.” which emphasizes building a meaningful solution together and is collaborative rather than competitive (Elgin.. (5) Negotiate a solution. KORINEK AND THOMAS G. The usefulness of the practice. Elgin (1997) noted that the metaphors most often used (e. 1997). Instead she suggested the metaphor “disagreement is carpentry. A form of metacommunication that may serve to prevent an escalation in conflict involves regularly asking for feedback regarding the supervisory process (Todd. In these interactions. 80). the supervisor might say. and (6) Follow up the solution (Adler & Towne. “Win-win” conflict resolution includes six steps: (1) Identify the problem and unmet needs.” It is important for supervisors to remember that they can only ask trainees to provide such feedback. 245). “win-win” process. however. 1997a). Supervisors who wish to hear only positive feedback will likely receive little feedback at all. Much has been written about this subject and most readers probably will be quite familiar with it. (4) Consider the other person’s point of view.305 ALAN W. Effective metacommunication involves the supervisor taking appropriate responsibility for self as the conflict is processed and strategies for resolving the conflict are developed. supervisors must be especially careful in monitoring power issues (Fine & Turner. may reserve the right to choose the solution from those generated. Todd (1997b) stated.g. To review. 1996). 1997). cognizant of his or her legal responsibility for case management. I wonder how you’re feeling about it. (2) Make a date to discuss the problem and needs.

late termination may be especially problematic. the more involved termination will be (Todd. When a specific number of hours of supervision is required by an outside agent or by law. The high level of dependency. the situation is recognized sooner rather than later. Will the trainee receive full credit for the hours. Ideally. 127). and provide for. He also suggested that the situation may improve if the supervisor places the trainee’s supervision experience into a larger context. Todd (1997b) encouraged supervisors to avoid abandonment when ending supervision by at least attempting to achieve the four supervising tasks. (3) Promote generalization from supervision. the possibility that conflict between a supervisor and a trainee cannot be resolved and supervision will terminate. and/or will the supervisor send in an evaluation?). Otherwise. Mead (1990) lists four supervisory tasks that should be undertaken in the event that termination becomes necessary: (1) Summarize the progress made by the trainee..306 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY should be explained prior to engaging in the process. there is relatively little guidance in the literature regarding the process of termination in supervision. 1990. p. 1997b). Unfortunately. and (4) Resolve interpersonal issues between the supervisor and trainee and bring supervision to closure (Mead. WHEN DISAGREEMENTS AND CONFLICT CANNOT BE RESOLVED Although the goal is to settle disagreements and resolve conflicts that occur within the supervisory system. Difficult but important questions must be addressed (e. The context of supervision can also make a significant difference in the termination process. there are those times when neither can be accomplished. trainees may feel that their contribution to the process was in vain. The easiest form of premature termination is ending supervision by mutual consent. framing it as one step in a long-term process. for the longer the supervisory relationship has continued. (2) Discuss further needs for training and supervision. For example. Accomplishing these tasks when tension is high may be difficult. With a graduate program. and . the termination of a supervisory relationship within a graduate training program can have far different consequences for the trainee than the termination of a supervisory relationship by which a therapist in private practice is attempting to gain an additional license. the trainee’s degree and career may be at stake. Todd (1997b) asserted that a good supervisory contract will consider.g.

Most of what has been written in this article applies to all styles and types of therapy supervision. Methods to minimize conflict in group supervision include being familiar with group dynamics. 1990). legal counsel) may be an essential part of the process. but it does not have to be destructive or disrupt learning. DISCUSSION Conflict within the supervisory relationship is inevitable. By applying these principles and practices. such stipulations are normally included in the program’s policies and procedures and communicated clearly to everyone who is either in the program or interested in becoming part of the program..307 ALAN W. Moreover. regular consultation with knowledgeable parties (e.g. Supervisors will wish to be sensitive to such vulnerability and factor it into their functioning at every stage of the supervisory process. KIMBALL the fact that the trainee is likely to be at a much earlier stage of development. Given the usual complexity of such situations. the greater the vulnerability. In addition. KORINEK AND THOMAS G. In rare instances. It should be noted however. which makes the supervision experience more complex for everyone involved. As stated earlier. For graduate programs. the more essential it is that expectations and grounds for termination are spelled out in a supervision contract. that there are some important differences between individual supervision and group supervision. communicating and clarifying expectations for group functioning. The authors have discussed several important things a supervisor can do both to minimize the frequency and severity of conflict and to resolve conflict when it does occur. MFT programs are wise to provide such information in order to avoid legal liability in cases of litigation over termination of a student. The obvious difference is that with group supervision there are multiple people with whom the supervisor interacts at any given time. a supervisor may feel compelled to counsel a trainee out of the profession (Mead. honest and respectful feedback is suggested. supervisors can create and maintain relationships with trainees that are as mutually satisfying as possible. dramatically increases the degree of vulnerability experienced by the trainee. Todd (1997b) advocated taking as much time as is necessary to ensure that the most possible and most peaceful outcome is achieved. the supervisor is responsible for many individuals. . and providing opportunities to discuss group process. Also.

In the former case. drive the trainee out of supervision. supervisors and trainees would do well to . and/or stifle the trainee’s growth and autonomy (Nichols. instead of ending once they have received the “Approved Supervisor” status. might consider addressing the relationship between faculty and student and how that affects the supervisory-trainee relationship. a trainee could be transferred to a new supervisor at the beginning of a new semester within a MFT training program or a trainee could be supervised by both a supervisor candidate and an approved supervisor. either consecutively or at the same time. university faculty members would be wise to reevaluate how trainees and supervisors are held accountable for their supervisory relationships. • Due to the power imbalance that naturally exists within the supervisory relationship. where the bulk of supervision takes place. In the latter case.308 CONTEMPORARY FAMILY THERAPY Another issue arises where there are multiple supervisors providing supervision for the same trainee. the welfare of a client) and the stage of the trainee’s development are factors that should be carefully weighed during conflict resolution. Escalating confrontations too quickly may increase a trainee’s dependence on the supervisor. supervisors are wise to initially negotiate appropriate boundaries and roles to ensure clear lines of communication and accountability for the trainee. The urgency of the confrontation (e. the authors suggest that the process of supervision be further examined and clearly described so that supervisors can be comfortable being open about the challenges of supervision. • In more private settings. For the future. For example. making overt the differences between supervisors and trainees perturbs the system and possibly leads to open conflict. The authors offer these additional recommendations: • Training programs. As Ratliff and associates (2000) found.. more rigorous studies are needed focusing on how disagreements and open conflicts in the supervisory system are handled (or not handled) and the nature of conflict within supervision. Such future studies could be modeled on the Ratliff et al. • Most importantly. it is the responsibility of the supervisors to ensure a smooth transition and that personal preferences regarding supervision do not disregard the trainee’s current skill level. 1988). (2000) study discussed in this article and focus on the process of handling conflict in supervision. Generally. supervisors may want to continue their supervision of supervision hours indefinitely.g.

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