Containment, compassion and clarity: Mixed-methods research into supervision during doctoral research for psychotherapists and counselling psychologists

Bager-Charleson, S and McBeath, A.G (2021) Containment, compassion and clarity: Mixed-methods research into supervision during doctoral research for psychotherapists and counselling psychologists. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Journal..

Abstract

This is a mixed methods enquiry into the experience of research supervision among supervisors and supervisees on PhD and professional programmes for psychotherapists and counselling psychologists. What makes constructive versus non-constructive, unhelpful research supervision on doctoral programmes for therapists? What might supervisors learn from supervisees’ experiences of supervision, and vice versa? These questions permeated our online survey (N=226) which generated 558 comments and 10 subsequent follow-up interviews analyse by reflexive thematic analysis influenced by narrative research (narrative thematic inquiry). The findings showed, firstly, an unequivocal appreciation of research supervision. In the free text comments, supervisees stressed the value of research experience, empathy and containment. The interviewed supervisees valued trust and broad research knowledge with an exposure to optional approaches. Supervisors emphasised, in turn, the importance of supervisee agency and trust in their own thinking. One particularly illustrative example was when one supervisee described her supervisor as her ‘telescope’ – helping her to navigate and see far – whilst a supervisor chose a ‘stethoscope’ to describe how he regarded it his role to support each student to connect ‘inwardly’ and build their own relationship with research. The qualitative findings suggest thus a gap in expectations. Common features were however also notes, in terms of construing constructive research supervision as 'relational' and based ‘three c’s’, namely containment, compassion, and clarity.

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