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The Supervisory Encounter

The Supervisory Encounter: A Guide for Teachers of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Daniel Jacobs
Paul David
Donald Jay Meyer
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 298
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  • Book Info
    The Supervisory Encounter
    Book Description:

    Good supervision is crucial to the training of any therapist. Yet most who are asked to supervise receive little instruction in how best to proceed. What is missing is a theory and technique of supervision that can help them be effective teachers, no matter from what mental health discipline they come.The authors of this book, who have supervised in a variety of educational settings and have taught students from a wide range of mental health disciplines, now provide a theoretical and technical framework for understanding and deepening the supervisory process. They clearly describe phases of supervision (from the opening session to termination), its goals, and the nature and purpose of a number of supervisory interventions. They delineate modes of thinking that are essential to being a good therapist and discuss how best to foster them. They demonstrate how supervision can be intimate, personal, and honest without becoming a form of therapy. Through clinical vignettes, they show how to diagnose impediments to learning and describe strategies for overcoming them. While providing an interesting history of supervision and a portrait of Freud as supervisor, they focus mainly on how newer theories such as self psychology, intersubjectivity, and an interactive two-person psychology influence the practice of supervision.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15704-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the process of becoming a psychotherapist or psychoanalyst, the supervisory encounter is second in importance only to the clinical encounter itself. No other aspect of psychotherapy education provides the student with the opportunity to speak intimately, individually, and over time with an experienced teacher. Because supervision is so central to the personal and professional growth of a therapist, it is important to understand what it involves. What helps deepen the supervisory dialogue? What limits the ability of teacher and student to talk openly with one another?

    Supervisors are often left to answer important questions like these for themselves. There...

  5. 1 A Brief History of Supervision
    (pp. 9-34)

    When a first-year psychiatric resident asked his supervisor, Dr. Elvin Semrad, how often he should see his patients, Dr. Semrad replied, “As often as you can stand each other” (Smith, 1993). However impractical such advice might seem now in an age concerned with rising medical costs and managed care, it conveys an important message. If a student wants to learn about another’s life, it takes time. He needs to immerse himself in his patient’s most personal thoughts, fantasies, and feelings. And there are moments when such immersion is hard for both therapist and patient to tolerate. The student, new at...

  6. 2 The Opening Phase
    (pp. 35-56)

    The opening phase of supervision involves a complex set of evaluations and preliminary explorations on the part of both supervisor and supervisee. As they try to begin a meaningful dialogue, each is listening to the language of the other: its tone, its organization, and its aim. Each is aware of what the other chooses to focus on and when. They take note of one another’s body language, as well: the way the other sits, what she does with her hands and eyes, how he dresses, how she says hello and good-bye. Each is trying to understand how flexible and open...

  7. 3 Inductive and Associative Modes of Thought
    (pp. 57-92)

    Both supervisor and trainee come to the supervisory dialogue with an established cognitive style—a stabilized way of perceiving and processing information that is part of his or her personality. Jacob (1981) pointed out that an individual’s dominant cognitive style has a formative influence on every stage of his education and “casts a shadow on how he learns any new task” (p. 194). Jacob himself admits, “I happen to have mechanical hobbies and I often ‘think’ in spatial-physical dynamic images, and use mechanical metaphors. Sometimes this is an asset, sometimes it is, rather, a liability” (p. 197). Every therapist, whether...

  8. 4 Creative and Self-Reflective Modes of Thought
    (pp. 93-138)

    In chapter 3 we suggested that four modes of thinking are particularly relevant to psychotherapy and supervision, and we explored two of these—inductive and associative thought. We now turn to a consideration of the other two—creative and self-reflective thinking.

    Supervision involves a curious kind of co-construction. One participant is regularly seeing the patient and forming an image of him and his ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. The other, the supervisor, largely hears about the patient, yet participates in constructing a portrait of the patient and his interaction with the therapist. The accuracy of the picture that is...

  9. 5 How Personal Should Supervision Be?
    (pp. 139-162)

    “Because I’m with a group of psychiatrists, I don’t want to get too personal,” Stephen Sondheim told a group at the 1990 American Psychiatric Association meeting. There was laughter from the audience at Sondheim’s making light of an issue that all of us take very seriously: namely, the public exposure of what we regard as private. The topic of his address, “The Creative Process,” seemed at first glance impersonal enough. However, he was supposed to illustrate and comment on his internal experience of his own creative process: what it was like for him, what he thought about, what he felt....

  10. 6 Affect and Professional Development
    (pp. 163-178)

    The interpersonal role requirements of the therapist, which demand the conscious containment of emotion, are new ones for the student, and he needs help from his supervisor to master them. For example, patients’ negative transferences that must be endured and analyzed present a significant emotional burden for the therapist. Being the object of intense negative feelings is something usually tolerated only in the most intimate of relationships, but the role of psychotherapist is an exception to this rule. The beginning psychotherapist is exposing himself to a variety of affective experiences for which there can be no prior analogous experience or...

  11. 7 Supervisory Interventions
    (pp. 179-206)

    In chapters 3 and 4, we discussed how paying attention to the student’s ways of knowing brings his educational needs into sharper focus. In chapters 5 and 6 we examined issues concerning the supervisee’s inner life, in particular the boundaries of supervisory investigation and the handling of affects in supervision. Throughout these discussions, we have concentrated on the supervisor’s choices in how to intervene. In the present chapter we focus on supervisory interventions and describe a repertoire of pedagogic approaches available to the supervisor and discuss how she may apply these on the basis of the learning style of the...

  12. 8 Self-Esteem Issues for the Supervisee
    (pp. 207-226)

    Self-reflection is an essential ingredient in learning to become a psychotherapist. The psychodynamic supervisor encourages the student to become more aware of his responses to his patients. Yet we know that any deepening of self-awareness in the therapist may be destabilizing to his established sense of self (Robinson, 1936). Mehlman (1974) has described the regression, helplessness, and narcissistic imbalances that are inevitable in learning to be (and being) a psychotherapist, with its multiple challenges to and assaults upon self-esteem, based on the training status, the contact with patients, and the learning situation itself. The supervisor tries to balance the need...

  13. 9 Self-Esteem and the Supervisor’s Role
    (pp. 227-250)

    Each supervisory pair establishes a dynamic interplay between the pursuit of deeper understanding (which may destabilize the sense of self in patient, therapist, or supervisor) and the maintenance of sufficient self-esteem in each participant. The supervisor’s contribution to this process may be beneficial or detrimental to the supervisee, the learning task, and the degree of safety in the supervision.

    In the supervisory encounter, the supervisor as well as the therapist confronts her own need to maintain self-esteem. If the supervisor has a well-integrated view of herself with relatively stable and mature defenses, her own narcissistic needs will not interfere with...

  14. 10 Termination
    (pp. 251-272)

    While much has been written about the termination phase in therapy and analysis, the ending of the supervisory educational process has rarely been noted. Yet the way in which a supervision ends can influence the learning process that has occurred. It is like the period at the end of a sentence, putting into perspective all that has come before it. “The rest is silence,” says Fortinbras at the end ofHamlet. But that silence is made meaningful by all the hopes, dreams, and fears that have preceded it. Furthermore, Hamlet, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, and the others remain alive within us,...

  15. References
    (pp. 273-278)
  16. Index
    (pp. 279-285)