Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gender and Supervision

(Note: Doctoral students in CED 781a Counseling Supervision during Fall 2010 completed abbreviated literature reviews on a topic of individual interest. They wrote both a research summary and a summary for practitioners. Here, we present the summaries for practitioners. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions for future summaries. L. DiAnne Borders)

By Lori Notestine

When many of us think about supervision, we think about how best to improve the counseling skills of our supervisees and how to help grow their skills as clinicians. The many things that run through our minds include building a relationship, giving constructive feedback, being supportive and challenging, and providing a space for growth. What may not be on our minds as we prepare for and provide supervision is the effect of gender on the interaction between the supervisor and supervisee.

Gender, primarily that of the supervisee, has been shown in numerous studies to have some effect on supervision. Although many other factors are often at play, gender has been shown to have an effect on supervision in the following ways:

  • Communication style and messages are the most prevalent differences.
  • Males have more task oriented speech.
  • Female supervisees ask for more opinions, analyses, and evaluations of their work.
  • Males ask for more suggestions from supervisors.
  • Females are significantly more likely to have their suggestions built on or accepted.
  • Males are encouraged to send more high-power messages than are female supervisees.
  • Males perceive supervisor/supervisee relationships as better.
  • Females give more praise and supportive comments to supervisors of both sexes than do male supervisees.

Implications for Practice

When it comes to identifying ways to include the topic of gender in supervision, it can be difficult to think about how to address this matter directly. In a study examining the effects of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in supervision, Gatmon, Jackson, Koshkarian, Martos-Perry, Molina, and Patel (2001) identified one crucial aspect to consider when thinking about these issues within supervision. These researchers suggested that addressing these issues in a positive manner within supervision, whether the issues were specifically related to the supervisor, the supervisee, or the client, was critical to positive outcomes. The authors also noted that addressing these issues in a discriminatory or prejudicial way had negative effects on supervisory outcomes.

Some tips for discussing gender within supervision and addressing other gender related issues include the following:

  • Use a developmental model of supervision and address issues within the context of the supervisee’s developmental level. For example, Bernard’s Discrimination Model may be used to facilitate growth in supervisees through interacting as a teacher, counselor, and consultant. A supervisee in the early stages of development may need the supervisor to fill a more concrete teaching role, whereas a more advanced supervisee may require the supervisor to be more of a consultant.
  • Be sensitive to the effects of power differentials on supervisees.
  • Use gender fair practices.
  • Be appreciative of and celebrate both feminine and masculine characteristics.
  • Be vigilant of any ways that gender may impact and/or influence the supervisory relationship.
  • Monitor interactions with supervisees to avoid any unintentional gender biases.
  • Attend to the dynamics of interactions with both male and female supervisees and develop effective strategies for encouraging the development of supervisees’ professional identity.
  • Finally, when you have a supervisee who is of a different gender (or culturally different in any way), be sure to address these potential issues early in the supervisory relationship.

For Further Reading

*Most recommended for supervisor practitioners

*Gatmon, D., Jackson, D., Koshkarian, L., Martos-Perry, N., Molina, A., Patel, N. et al. (2001). Exploring ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation variables in supervision: Do they really matter? Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 29, 102-13.

*Granello, D. (2003). Influence strategies in the supervisory dyad: An investigation into the effects of gender and age. Counselor Education and Supervision, 42, 189-202.

*Nelson, M., & Holloway, E. (1990). Relation of gender to power and involvement in supervision. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 37, 473-81.

Paisley, P., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services. (1994). Gender issues in supervision.

Sells, J., Goodyear, R., Lichtenberg, J., & Polkinghorne, D. (1997). Relationship of supervisor and trainee gender to in-session verbal behavior and ratings of trainee skills. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 406-412. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.44.4.406.

Vonk, M., & And, O. (1996). Female MSW students' satisfaction with practicum supervision: The effect of supervisor gender. Journal of Social Work Education, 32, 415-19.

*Walker, J., Ladany, N., & Pate-Carolan, L. (2007). Gender-related events in psychotherapy supervision: Female trainee perspectives. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 7, 12-18.

Worthington, E., & Stern, A. (1985). Effects of supervisor and supervisee degree level and gender on the supervisory relationship. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32, 252-262. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.32.2.252.

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