What is the feminist model of supervision?

A hallmark of all good psychotherapy supervision is that all parties in the triad- therapist/trainee, client, and supervisor- are transformed in a positive manner by the supervisory experience. The feminist emphases on analysis of power, on the disruption of oppressive narratives that emerge in the psychotherapy process via an integrated analysis of experiences of oppression and dominance and on development of systemic methodologies for generating egalitarian relationships in therapy and supervision, all function so as to increase the probability of positive psychotherapy outcomes. Feminist psychology also emphasizes understanding and interrogating the experience of living a gendered life within intersectional identities

Feminist supervisory models are among those, including multicultural and critical psychology supervisory models, which explicitly identify the toxic effects of pervasive and systemic bias on the supervisory processes. Feminist supervision embodies a commitment to the interrogation and disruption of both manifest and non-conscious modes of relating stemming from structural hierarchies of bias, with an emphasis on the manner in which bias about aspects of intersectional identity affect psychotherapeutic dynamics. Feminist supervision notices those dynamics in the therapist-supervisor-client relationship in which any member of the supervision triad is devalued or disempowered by systemic aspects of social hierarchy. Feminist practices in supervision engage with assumptions about pathology or incompetence of the persons with lesser role power in those relationships. Feminist analysis is particularly attentive to those assumptions arising from biases and stereotypes about marginalized identities in all members of the supervision triad.

Feminist supervision thus situates itself as a liberatory project in which supervisor and supervisee join together to think critically about dominant cultural norms in the practice of psychotherapy. The task of the feminist supervisor is not simply to train students in the practice of psychotherapy or the application of particular evidence-based interventions.

The goal of a feminist supervision practice is, instead, to also invite trainees to see how that practice either upholds or subverts structural norms of systemic marginalization, oppression, and devaluation, both in psychotherapy practice itself and in the larger social context. The feminist supervision model locates pathologies and challenges to competence not in vulnerable individuals – either clients or trainees — but in the rigidities and biases of the larger systems in which they struggle to exist.

Feminist therapy supervision is inherently developmental and strengths-based. It is tailored to meet the specific needs of individual supervisees while assuming that they will progress developmentally in the course of the supervisory relationship. Feminist supervision practice acknowledges strengths and skills brought to the experience by both parties, not simply those of the supervisor. The embedded power dynamics that are inherent in supervision relationships in formal training settings are not ignored by the feminist model, but the feminist supervisor is directly curious about how power can become more equalized as supervision progresses.

To learn more about my work on the topic of supervision, I invite you to investigate the resources that follow. A complete list of my work on this topic is also available in my CV.

Upcoming talks and workshops about supervision

All talks and workshops about supervision

Written work about supervision

Recorded media about supervision