Monday, January 13, 2014
Title: Rediscovering the Impact of Attachment Theory on Counseling Supervision
Author: Stephen P. Hebard, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
What was the purpose of this literature review?
The purpose of this literature review was to analyze the existing conceptual and empirical research regarding the use of Attachment Theory as a way to conceptualize the supervisory relationship. Although there are few empirical studies on supervisor and supervisee attachment, attachment does appear to influence the supervisory working alliance, counselor professional development, compulsive avoidance of closeness to one’s supervisor, and counselor self-efficacy. Nevertheless, the research does not fully encompass appropriate definitions of attachment. Understanding attachment as a theory of emotion and emotion regulation may improve the existing literature and provide more impactful implications for practicing supervisors.
Major findings or points:
· As conceptualized by the majority of supervision researchers working with attachment, supervision can be considered an attachment relationship.
· By providing a secure base (grounding, holding, and freeing supervisees while stimulating their wonder and awe in becoming a therapist) and a safe haven (comfort and security in the face of danger), the supervisory relationship may function optimally.
· Attachment styles between supervisor and supervisee interact to affect the supervisory relationship.
· Supervisor attachment style carries a large amount of influence on the relationship. A secure supervisor attachment style is preferred.
· Supervisee attachment avoidance and compulsive self-reliance are especially unfavorable in that they negatively impact important supervision outcomes.
Current conceptualizations of attachment in supervision are operationally defined differently than how Bowlby and Ainsworth, the founders of Attachment Theory, described the concept. Further, the belief that the supervisor-supervisee relationship is indicative of an attachment bond, a very specific and emotionally critical affectional bond, is a major assumption of the current literature. Additionally, measurement of attachment has significant flaws (i.e., issues with self-report of one’s attachment style, using categorical vs. dimensional data) and many empirical studies have used unreliable or primarily clinically relevant instruments in research. Thus, researchers of Attachment Theory in supervision must agree to an operational definition of the theory to bolster the literature and improve its clinical application.
What does this research mean for counseling practice, settings, and or training?
Supervisors must become accustomed to determining the extent to which supervisee behaviors are reflective of a desire to maintain safety. For instance, overly independent or hypervigilant supervisees may need to process the supervisory relationship with a supervisor. Additionally, it is very important for supervisors to determine how they can provide a safe haven and secure base for each individual supervisee. This may not look the same for every supervisee, depending on their specific ways of regulating their emotions in response to perceived threats. Research on attachment in supervision highlights the importance of monitoring self, other, and the interaction between both parties in hopes of providing the best services possible.
Labels: Attachment, Supervision, Working Alliance
For Further Reading:
Fitch, J. C., Pistole, M., & Gunn, J. E. (2010). The bonds of development: An attachment-caregiving model of supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 29, 20-34.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2003). The attachment behavioral system in adulthood: Activation, psychodynamics and interpersonal processes. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (vol. 35, pp. 53-152). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2008). Attachment theory and affect regulation. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 503-531). New York: Guilford.
Pistole, M., & Watkins, C. (1995). Attachment theory, counseling process, and supervision. The Counseling Psychologist, 23, 457-478
Riggs, S., & Bretz, K. (2006). Attachment processes in the supervisory relationship: An exploratory investigation. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37, 558–566.
Watkins, C. R., & Riggs, S. (2012). Psychotherapy supervision and attachment theory: Review, reflections, and recommendations. The Clinical Supervisor, 31, 256-289.