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The responsibilities of counsellor supervisors: a qualitative study

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A study was carried out to investigate whether supervisors of counsellors considered themselves to be clinically responsible for the work of their supervisees, what responsibilities they considered themselves to have for the counsellors' work, and how they managed their responsibilities. The purpose of the study was to enhance the counselling profession's understanding of the responsibility of supervisors and of the supervisory relationship. The study was confined to supervisors working in private practice. Ten experts in the field of counselling and supervision were interviewed, using a semi-structured questionnaire. The interviews were analysed using the â–˜constant comparative methodâ–™. They revealed that the participants would not use the term â–˜clinical responsibilityâ–™ to describe their responsibilities. There were mixed views about the nature of the responsibility of the supervisor when supervising counsellors practising independently. The participants indicated a preference to supervise only the most experienced counsellors, with whose practice they were already familiar and in whose work they already had considerable confidence. None of the supervisors interviewed considered themselves to be legally responsible for the counsellors' work. All the participants were aware that the risks associated with counselling in private practice could be considerable and had an acute sense of responsibility for the content of the work. Reluctance to take action against supervisees who were in breach of the code of ethics was expressed. There was scepticism about the requirement for them to have supervision for their supervisory work. Implications for the practice of counselling supervision and for the profession are discussed.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: KEYS Counselling and Psychotherapy, 131A Alcester Road, Birmingham, B13 8JP, UK 2: School of Continuing Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

Publication date: 01 May 1999

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