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Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy 2016, 37, 297–298

doi: 10.1002/anzf.1162

Commentary I: Reflection on ‘Dialogical

Research in Therapy Supervision’: Doing
Supervising as a Relational Event
Harlene Anderson
Houston Galveston Institute Taos Institute

This article is a bright little jewel. I say this for several reasons.
The study was a luxury. Through my years consulting with and providing training
for supervisors, I have learned that most supervisors are seemingly sequestered in their
daily supervision work. Most supervisors report rarely having or taking time to reflect
on their supervision and mostly operate from textbook-acquired knowledge rather
than purposely considering what they have learned from experience or from the
knowledge of colleagues, especially that of those they supervise.
The participants in this study voiced their preferences for the questions, subjects,
and issues to be addressed, thereby creating a collaboratively designed learning event
and inviting a sense of ownership. They had ample time and opportunity to reflect
on their supervising experiences and to discuss subjects they identified as relevant.
Their conversations were enriched by the contributions of supervisors representing a
diversity of practice contexts and professional and theoretical orientations. The project
provided ample time for learning—during the formal sessions and between the project
meetings as they reflected on learning as well as the opportunity to experiment with
what was learned. As a result, the learning was relevant to the uniqueness of each
supervisor’s context and its demands.
Flåm’s primary aim, in my reading, is to showcase a study on creating knowledge
about supervision. Importantly, it also showcases the value of learner-directed learning
and exemplifies a research process that parallels the theoretical underpinnings that
inform the study (in particular, Bakhtin and Shotter’s contributions on dialogue and
Schon’s on reflective practice).
The language used by authors for whom English is not their first language often
attracts my attention. There is poetry to the writing and surprise to the words chosen
that often highlights important nuances and distinctions. For instance, consider what
the phrase ‘practical-anchored knowledge’ (my emphasis) suggests compared to ‘prac-
tice-based evidence.’ Another wording that attracted my attention was ‘more-responsi-
bility,’ which I think highlights the hand-in-hand ethical and political aspect of
supervision. Although I agree that supervisors have a professional cultural and institu-
tional position of authority, it is important—ethically and politically—to consider
responsibility as shared even though each supervisor and supervisee has unique
responsibilities. Can an assessment or grade assignment be a collaborative endeavour?
I think so.

Address for Correspondence:

ª 2016 Australian Association of Family Therapy 297


I like Flåm’s implicit message that supervision is an integral part of becoming a

therapist. Too often, supervision is thought of as a discrete part of therapist education
that is no longer necessary once licensure or certification is received. It seems that in
Scandinavian countries perhaps supervision is required as part of a therapist’s everyday
work, at least for those working in public organisation contexts. For me, this suggests
the ever-continuing journey of becoming a therapist—a journey that never ends if we
are open to continually reflecting on our daily work and never think we have arrived.
This article suggests that supervising—like Bakhtin suggests of life—is a dialogical
event, a relational event, as if we are always on our way to becoming with each other.
The creation and sustainment of what I call ‘collaborative learning communities’
and ‘research as part of everyday practice’ —and the reflective position they invite—
has long been a passion for me (Anderson, 1998, 2000, 2013, 2014; Anderson &
Goolishian, 1991; Anderson & Swim, 1993). I extend my gratitude to Flåm for shar-
ing this bright little jewel and providing the opportunity for me and others to pause
and reflect.

Anderson, H. (1998). Collaborative learning communities, in S. McNamee & J.K. Gergen
(Eds.). Relational Responsibility (pp. 65–70). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Anderson, H. (2000). Supervision as a collaborative learning community. American Association
for Marriage and Family Therapy Supervision Bulletin, Fall, 7–10.
Anderson, H. (2013). Collaborative learning communities: Toward a postmodern perspective
on teaching and learning, in B.J. Irvy & G. Brown (Eds.). Handbook of Educational Theo-
ries. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.
Anderson, H. (2014). Collaborative-dialogue based research as everyday practice: Questioning
our myths, in G. Simon & A. Chard (Eds.). Systemic Inquiry: Innovations in Reflexive Prac-
tice research. Farnhill: UK.
Anderson, H., & Goolishian, H. (1991). Supervision as collaborative conversation: Questions
and reflections, in H. Brandau (Ed.), Von der supervision zur systemischen vision (pp. 69–
78). Salzburg: Otto Muller Verlag.
Anderson, H., & Swim, S. (1993). Learning as collaborative conversation: Combining the stu-
dent’s and the teacher’s expertise. Human Systems: The Journal of Systemic Consultation and
Management, 4, 145–160.

298 ª 2016 Australian Association of Family Therapy

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