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Title: Attachment theory and the supervisory relationship : an interpretative phenomenological analysis of supervisee experiences
Author: Read, Kirsty E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 840X
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2017
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Background A positive supervisory relationship is considered essential in ensuring a psychotherapist’s safe and effective practice. Attachment Theory (AT) has been used to investigate factors that may impact upon the quality of the supervisory relationship, for trainee psychotherapists. A literature review revealed inconsistent findings as to whether attachment styles of supervisors and supervisees were associated with the quality of the alliance, suggesting an incomplete understanding the attachment-supervision construct. Objectives To improve our understanding of the attachment-supervision construct, this study aimed to explore, in-depth, how supervisees experienced and understood the supervisory relationship and to explore what within this may be relevant to AT. Method Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to interview and analyse data from seven trainee clinical psychologists (supervisees). Results Several participant experiences resonated with AT, including the supervisor demonstrating secure attachment figure qualities, which help the supervisee feel worthwhile. Rather than the supervisory relationship merely being influenced by past infant-caregiver attachment, it appears that there is the potential for a new attachment to form, similar to the freshness of an infant-caregiver attachment. However, unlike an infant, the supervisee has more influence over the attachment, in a collaborative effort with the supervisor, where the relationship seems to benefit from a goodness-of-fit between both relational styles. Non-attachment factors such as reciprocal disclosure were also important in the supervisory relationship. Conclusion Overall, AT appears a useful way to think about the supervisory relationship, particularly for inexperienced trainees. However, as trainee clinical psychologists are trained to think in attachment terms, it remains unclear whether the supervisory relationship is truly a “full-blown” attachment relationship (rather than one consisting of attachment dynamics), or whether this is just the way that trainees approach it. Regardless, the findings suggest that the supervisory alliance may be improved via supervisor attunement to supervisee needs.
Supervisor: Gleeson, Kate Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available