Friday, November 9, 2012

Mapping Expert Counseling Supervisors’ Cognitions

Gülşah Kemer, PhD, NCC

The critical role of counseling supervision in counselor growth and effectiveness is considered to be unchallengeable. Thus, many researchers have investigated the complex factors involved in effective counseling supervision. However, within a large body of work, very few researchers have sought to describe the master, or expert, supervisor. An investigation of expert supervisors, specifically their cognitions/thoughts regarding their supervision sessions, was considered to be a crucial avenue for furthering our understanding of effective counseling supervision practices as well as improving supervisor training efforts.
Expert supervisors’ cognitions and cognitive categories were investigated through a mixed-method approach called concept mapping. Concept mapping was considered to be a good fit for the present study because it allowed expert supervisors to craft the content of the full study by first providing their cognitions/thoughts while they are preparing, conducting, and evaluating their supervision sessions through an online survey; second, assigning those cognitions into cognitive groups and rating their priority level while working with easy and challenging supervisees; and finally reshaping the results through discussion in a focus group session. A total of 18 expert supervisors participated in the study. A final number of 195 statements/cognitions were summarized into 25 cognitive categories.
Expert supervisors’ cognitions and cognitive categories represented many different supervision components. There were traces of the supervision models at the cognition/statement level, but none of the cognitive categories were named after these models. This result seemed to support the idea that supervision models are simplistic descriptions of supervisory process; the experts’ cognitive maps were more complex and nuanced than the models.
Cognitive categories/areas of expert supervisors’ thinking were Supervisor’s Goal Setting/Agenda Setting, Supervisor’s Reflective Process, Additional Supervisor Reflections about Working with a Challenging Supervisee, Planning and Managing Supervision Interventions, Conceptualizing the Work, Choice Points/In-Session Decisions, Needing Immediate Attention, Helping the Supervisee Attend to and Pick up on Important Things in His/Her Counseling, Assessing the Intrapersonal and Cognitive Experiences of the Supervisee, Supervisee’s Professional Behaviors, Supervisee Development, The Client and The Counseling Session, Administrative Considerations, Systemic Considerations, Supervisee in Relationship to the Client, Supervisee’s Intervention Skills, Supervisee’s Conceptual Skills, Supervisee’s Reflective Process, Parameters of Evaluation, Supervisee’s Response to Feedback, Collaboration with the Supervisee, Supervisor’s Experience of the Working Relationship, Supervisor’s Assessment of and Reflection on His/Her Work, Supervisee’s Receptivity to Supervision, and Understanding the Client.
Based on the conceptual similarities among these cognitive categories, five separate but related regions appeared. These regions were Assessment of the Supervisee and His/Her Work, Supervisory Relationship, Supervisor Self-Assessment and Reflection, Conceptualization of Supervision and Intervening, and Administration Considerations.
Moreover, expert supervisors presented more importance or higher priority to almost all of the cognitive categories while they were working with challenging supervisees when compared to easy supervisees. Expert supervisors’ ratings also indicated that “Supervisee Development,” “The Client and the Counseling Session,” and “Supervisor’s Goal Setting/Agenda Setting” cognitive areas were in the higher importance/priority list for both easy and challenging supervisees.
Lastly, even though the present study did not investigate cognitive processing abilities of supervision experts, results provided preliminary findings for the study of expertise in counseling supervision. In the same line with some of the previous findings in counseling and other areas of expertise, expert supervisors’ cognitions in this study involved self-monitoring, self-reflection, desire to be genuine and collaborative with their supervisees, and intentional use of self/interventions.
Results of the present study have implications for both counseling supervisors and supervisor training programs. Supervision practitioners may consider cognitive categories – in a broader view, the regions of expert supervisors’ thinking – as important components of their practices while they are working with their supervisees. Moreover, supervisor training programs may use strategies in their curricula to trigger these areas of thinking in supervisor trainees’ practices with their supervisees. In particular, the most notable of the regions were supervisors’ self-assessment and reflective thoughts, because very few researchers have mentioned or explored supervisor reflectivity. Thus, supervisors may pursue the chances of self-reflective practice as well as transparency not only for their own self-awareness and improvement, but also modeling reflective practice and transparency to their supervisees.
As in all other studies, the results of the present study must also be considered within the context of its limitations. First, generalizability of the present study results is limited to the expert supervisors involved in this study. Thus, a more culturally diverse group of expert supervisors and their thinking may lead to further information. Second, there may be other potential variables which influenced expert supervisors’ knowledge and practices of supervision (e.g., years of experience as a supervisor, their training, and their range of supervisees varied) that were not considered here.

Labels: Expert counseling supervisors, supervisor cognitions

Labels: Expert counseling supervisors, supervisor cognitions

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