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The Problematic Shadow of Super-Vision in Analytic Supervision

The Letter, Issue 25, Summer 2002, Pages 93 - 108


Alan Rowan

Freud made hardly any reference to the topic of supervision. When he did, as for example in his paper The Question of Lay Analysis (1928), he merely acknowledges its existence as a component of psychoanalytic training and, moreover, defines it loosely in terms of inexperienced practitioners having the opportunity to discuss their cases with more experienced practitioners.[1] Indeed he states that the movement from beginner to Master 'must be acquired by practice and an exchange of ideas in the psychoanalytic societies in which young and old members meet together',[2] which, if anything, de-emphasises supervision, and with it the supervisor as knowledge holder, in favour of a more open and group based research agenda which has, at its core, the experience of analytic practice.

Today, however, things are different and in general great weight is placed on the importance of supervision not only in psychoanalysis but in psychotherapy generally.[3] More and more one sees publications on this topic alongside increasingly specified guidelines by professional bodies. To take one recent example one can note how the UK Association for Family Therapy has recently made a recommendation that in effect advises that supervision should continue throughout the working life of the systemic psychotherapist.[4]

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