Clinical Supervision

Choosing Individual, Group, and/or Peer Supervision

There are many and varied supervision formats, each with its own benefits and limitations. In order for supervision to be effective, it is necessary to take into account both the needs of the individuals and the requirements and constraints of the organization when considering the format to be offered.

Individual supervision has traditionally been the cornerstone of professional skill development and the needs of workers will not necessarily be met if this is excluded from their working lives, though this will vary depending upon workers’ individual needs. Supervision can be provided in groups, which may be facilitated or peer-led. Group and peer supervision, as well as intensive case consultation on a case-by-case basis, are useful and less costly additions to a clinical supervision plan.

That is why Bayside Counselling & Family Therapy provides several different supervision formats that are listed below, along with some of the key benefits and challenges presented by each. If you require additional information or to book supervision for yourself or your team, please don’t hesitate to contact Paula either through:

Email: or

Mobile: 0401 300 266

Table 1 Individual Clinical Supervision Benefits of Individual CS

Challenges of Individual CS

* Full attention on the skill development, strengths, challenges and professional enhancement of the individual supervisee

* Plenty of opportunities for developing the working alliance as well as teaching, mentoring, sharing of wisdom with supervisee

* More time and potentially safer environment in which to explore supervisee’s interpersonal dynamics with clients and the impact of the work upon him or her (e.g., counter-transference issues, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, burnout)

* Very appropriate to particular theoretical orientations, such as psychodynamic and object-relations models, which emphasise transference/counter-transference issues and containment, as provided within the safe haven of the supervisor-supervisee relationship

* Supervisee can organise the time and has the opportunity to review more of his or her work with the supervisor

* Less exposure to peers and competition, which may have a negative effect on a supervisee

* Higher level of clinical accountability

* Potential for supervisee to feel intimidated by the supervisor, with no one else present to observe, or break up the intensity of the one-to-one focus

* Potential for supervisee to feel exposed, especially if the supervisor is also the line manager

* More of an opportunity and perhaps tendency to focus on the personal experience of the supervisee within the context of the work, which may be uncomfortable, or feel intrusive for some supervisees (also, boundaries can become blurred in negotiating appropriate levels of personal exploration)

* Limited possibilities for some types of teaching that require a group (e.g., role plays of families)

* No input from others outside the dyad

* No opportunity for supervisee to compare self with others, or gain support from peers


Table 2 Facilitated Group Clinical Supervision Benefits of Facilitated Group CS

Challenges of Facilitated Group CS

* Learning from each other’s practice examples and ways of working

* Self-confirmation in giving feedback

* Shared responsibility, which takes some load off the supervisor

* Supportive environment for the supervisees

* Opportunities for role play and other action techniques

* Offers a range of ideas, experiences and perspectives

* Input and feedback from peers

* Can reflect the therapeutic context being supervised (i.e. parallel process)

* Provides enough difference to avoid consensus collusion

* Less expensive and time consuming than individual supervision

* Opportunities for personal growth via group dynamics

* Supervisor can check out whether group members share concerns without seeming critical, or possibly shaming a supervisee

* Supervisor must be skilled in working systemically with groups and must be able to facilitate whilst also supervising (dual tasks)

* Supervisor’s anxiety about his or her own competence may pose a barrier, as there is greater exposure of the supervisor’s abilities and experience

* Supervisees’ anxiety about their levels of competence may cause reluctance to participate in the group (or to engage passively and silently)

* Less time for each supervisee, as the group must balance the needs of each member

* Group needs to have a high level of trust in order for participants to feel safe

* Potential for overload of ideas, or confusion about which ideas to use

* Enough similarity must exist between group members to have some overlap of ideas and perspectives (e.g., shared client group; general theoretical approach, or practice principles)

* Important to clarify purpose and needs of supervisee presenting a case, or that can get lost in the group process


Table 3 Peer Group Clinical Supervision Benefits of Peer Group CS

Challenges of Peer Group CS

* Each group member can offer and receive wisdom, experience and ideas from the group (i.e. enjoy both ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ roles)

* Shared influence and responsibility regarding how the group is run

* Group-owned: Success of the group is dependent upon how group members exercise their responsibilities

* Avoids the chance of getting stuck with an unwanted supervisor

* Can be mutually agreed membership

* Opportunities for personal growth via group dynamics

* An alternative to line manager providing clinical supervision

* Participants as equals encourages lateral help and peer support

* Group members may avoid challenging a member in order to prevent anxiety

* Group must agree on structure, format and roles and keep to these in order to offset the absence of a designated leader, or facilitator

* In an effort to support and empathise, one view may be reinforced rather than alternatives being offered (i.e. consensus collusion)

* Potential for unconscious designation of more experienced/skilled member as de facto supervisor

* Success is dependent upon how group members exercise their responsibilities

* Mutual trust, openness and respect are essential and this takes time. Usually requires that the group remain a closed one, at least for a period of time

* Competition, defensiveness and criticism between peers can occur

* Need for all members to be aware of and to address group processes, especially if they get in the way of group functioning

* Clinical case discussion frequency, depth and intensity is limited by the time available and the number of members participating in the group