What do “Interpersonally Sensitive” Supervisors Do and How Do Supervisees Experience a Relational Approach to Supervision?

Author/Creator ORCID





Citation of Original Publication

Shaffer, K. S., & Friedlander, M. L. (2017). What do “interpersonally sensitive” supervisors do and how do supervisees experience a relational approach to supervision?. Psychotherapy Research, 27, 1-12.



Objective: In two investigations, we identified explicitly relational supervision strategies and examined whether use of these strategies was associated with perceptions of the supervisory alliance and evaluations of the supervisor. Method: First, ratings by nine supervision researchers identified five clearly relational in-session strategies ( focus on countertransference, exploration of feelings, attend to parallel process, focus on the therapeutic process, focus on the supervisory alliance) in the Critical Events model of supervision. Based on these expert ratings, we created and assessed the Relational Behavior Scale (RBS). Results: Analyses with two samples of supervisees at all levels of training supported the measure’s reliability and factorial validity. The RBS’s validity was further indicated by its unique association with the “interpersonally sensitive” style of supervision. In both studies, supervisees perceived more frequent use of relational behavior on the part of psychoanalytic/psychodynamic/ humanistic supervisors than cognitive-behavioral supervisors. Moreover, as hypothesized, supervisors’ use of relational behavior in a specific session mediated the association between trainees’ alliance perceptions and evaluations of their supervisors in that session. Conclusion: The identification of specific in-session supervision behaviors that explain one way in which a strong alliance contributes to trainees’ positive experiences of their supervisors has implications for supervision theory, research, and practice.