Supervision of Pastoral Counselors

Here is a very brief section on “philosophies” of pastoral counseling supervision from the book that my wife and I are finishing. “Dynamics in Pastoral Counseling.” It is a broad overview of principles in pastoral counseling for students. Hopefully it will be published in 2019.

Philosophies” of Supervision

In the supervision of counselors there are a number of different broad categories or philosophies depending on the key feature being addressed in the supervision. Three are:

  • Focus on the Patient/Client (Didactic)
  • Focus on the Supervisee (Therapeutic)
  • Focus on the Supervisory Relationship (Relational)2

Didactic. This is the most classic one. It is based on traditional (modernist) presumptions. The supervisor is seen as the most knowledgeable and self-aware, and the most important thing that the supervisor can do is to impart knowledge to the supervisee for the care of the patient. The most important person in the triad is the patient because, presumably, he or she is the one who is most needy. The supervisor then studies the patient through the supervisee and guides the supervisee how to care for the patient. In a sense, this is much like an apprentice and master relationship. While there are concerns with this method, it certainly makes quite a bit of sense.

Therapeutic. The focus is placed on the health of the supervisee. The supervisee is seen as the most important person in the triad because he or she is the one who brings together the two primary dyads (patient and supervisee, and supervisee and supervisor). Thus for the triad to be most effective for the good of the patient, the focus should be on the supervisee. Out of the healing and growth of the supervisee comes healing and growth for the patient.

Relational. This might be considered the youngest of the three philosophies/models mentioned here. However, it could be seen as a bit of a mix of the two. It is therapeutic since in focusing on the relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee— there is clear intent to provide therapeutic care and growth for the supervisee. However, due to the parallel process— discussed later in this chapter– attention to the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee also means that attention is being given to the relationship between the supervisee and the patient.

It is really beyond the scope of this book to say what is the best philosophy. In fact, even a supervisor who describes him/herself as utilizing one of these broad models, in all likelihood would utilize all three at times. In fact, an extreme use of one of these to the point where the other two are completely ignored would certainly be unhealthy.


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