Monday, January 13, 2014

Title: Two is Company, Three’s a Crowd: Issues and Answers in Triadic Supervision
Author: William B. McKibben, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Purpose: In this literature review, I explored the available literature on triadic supervision structure, processes, and outcomes and discussed implications for research and practice based on current findings. Triadic supervision refers to the pairing of one supervisor with two supervisees simultaneously.
Major Findings: Current CACREP (2009) standards list triadic supervision as an acceptable alternative to individual supervision for counseling students in practicum and internship, and this has remained unchanged in the most recent drafts of the proposed 2016 standard revisions. By establishing triadic supervision as an alternative to individual supervision, the assumption is made that the two modalities are comparable in effectiveness. Researchers have compared triadic to individual and group supervision and found that supervisees viewed triadic as comparable to individual supervision in areas of working alliance, supervisory leadership style, supervision satisfaction and relationship dynamics. However, triadic was rated lower than individual and higher than group on overall effectiveness and meeting supervisee needs. Essentially, supervisees tended to rate individual higher than triadic and triadic higher than group.
What is consistent in the research is what supervisors and supervisees see as important and challenging in triadic supervision. The pros and cons of feedback are a core feature. Having a second supervisee can enhance feedback for a supervisee, and it can also make giving constructive feedback more difficult for peers and supervisors (particularly if the feedback is personal in nature). Safety and trust are highly important to supervisors and supervisees in triadic settings. Vicarious learning (learning from one another through the supervision process) is a commonly noted theme of triadic as well. Finally, matching peers based on similar styles and developmental levels has been noted as a benefit to supervisees and as a challenge to supervisors. The rewards for the second supervisee may very well outweigh the logistical challenges to the supervisor if a triadic modality is possible.
What this means for practice: Although counselors need more conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of triadic supervision and what makes it effective, supervisors have a roadmap for structuring triadic in very helpful ways. First, as is the case in counseling sessions, the relationship consistently emerges as vital in triadic supervision. Supervisors who can attend to the multiple relationships (supervisor-supervisee, supervisee-supervisee) may get the best results. Supervisors should consider a triadic structure that emphasizes collaboration and reduces hierarchical relationships; this may best be accomplished by building trust, modeling how to give positive and constructive feedback, encouraging peer feedback, and linking supervisees’ experiences. Supervisors need to communicate clear expectations for structure, involvement, and feedback at the beginning of the supervisory process.
            Second, there is literature available on structuring triadic supervision in optimal ways; these references are provided below. One option is split-focused triadic supervision in which each supervisee is allotted 30 minutes to present a case or discuss pressing issues. An alternative is single-focused in which each supervisee is allotted a full hour on alternating weeks. These time structures can be helpful, but supervisors may still wonder what to do with two supervisees at once. Many approach triadic in the same way as individual as there is not much guidance in the literature. Stinchfield, Hill, and Kleist (2007) proposed a reflective model of triadic supervision which involved weekly supervision for an hour and a half. Supervisees engage in outer dialogue (engaging with one another in production of meaning) and inner dialogue (ideas constructed internally from listening to outer dialogues) from roles of supervisee, reflective, and observer-reflector. Reflecting from these various roles facilitates clinical learning and insight. This reflective model can be a helpful roadmap for supervisors seeking ways to structure triadic supervision.
Third, supervisors should match peers intentionally. Across several studies, researchers supported that congruent peer matches enhanced the supervision experience while mismatches hindered supervision. Specifically, supervisors should strive to match triadic peers based on developmental level (e.g., both interns, both experienced counselors). This may optimize richness of feedback and vicarious learning.
Finally, researchers have supported that triadic is a distinct modality from individual and group and that lack of supervisor training in this approach is a disadvantage. Thus, supervisors who use or plan to use triadic need to receive training in this modality. Counselor educators need to train future supervisors in triadic-specific supervision, and supervisors need to seek continuing education in triadic supervision. Such training will be limited until additional research is generated, but supervisors should seek out and/or provide training to enhance skills.
For further reading:
Borders, L. D., Welfare, L. E., Greason, P. G., Paladino, D. A., Mobley, A. K., Villalba, J. A., &
Wester, K. L. (2012). Individual and triadic and group: Supervisee and supervisor perceptions of each modality. Counselor Education and Supervision, 51, 281-295.
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2009). 2009
standards. Retrieved from
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2013). Draft #2
of the 2016 CACREP standards. Retrieved from
Goldberg, R., Dixon, A., & Wolf, C. P. (2012). Facilitating effective triadic counseling
supervision: An adapted model for an underutilized supervision approach. The Clinical Supervisor, 31, 42-60.
Hein, S. F., & Lawson, G. (2008). Triadic supervision and its impact on the role of the
            supervisor: A qualitative examination of supervisors' perspectives. Counselor Education
            and Supervision, 48, 16-31.
Hein, S. F., & Lawson, G. (2009). A qualitative examination of supervisors' experiences of the
            process of triadic supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 28, 91-108.
Lawson, G., Hein, S. F., & Getz, H. (2009). A model for using triadic supervision in counselor
            preparation programs. Counselor Education and Supervision, 48, 257-270.
Lawson, G., Hein, S. F., & Stuart, C. L. (2009). A qualitative investigation of supervisees’
            experiences of triadic supervision. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87, 449-457.
Lawson, G., Hein, S. F., & Stuart, C. L. (2010). Supervisors’ experiences of the contributions of
the second supervisee in triadic supervision: A qualitative investigation. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 35, 69-91.
Oliver, M., Nelson, K., & Ybañez, K. (2010). Systemic processes in triadic supervision. The
Clinical Supervisor, 29, 51-67.
Stinchfield, T. A., Hill, N. R., & Kleist, D. M. (2007). The reflective model of triadic
            supervision: Defining an emerging modality. Counselor Education and Supervision, 46,

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