Supervisory mindsets and strategies applied in postmodern narrative and collaborative approaches for group supervision

Hsin Yi Li, Hsiu Lan Shelley Tien*, Shi Jiuan Wu, Meng Ning Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Clinical supervision is an indispensable learning process in counseling education. Research on supervisory mindsets and strategies in clinical supervision is also essential because it can advance knowledge and skills in this field (Tsai, 2012). In the last 40 years, the humanities and social sciences (including psychology and counseling) have been influenced by postmodern social constructionism (PSC; Anderson, 2009, 2012, 2013; Bob, 1999; Carlson & Erickson, 2001; Hair & Fine, 2012; Neal, 1996; Whiting, 2007; Wu, 2010). This influence led to the development of postmodern narrative and collaborative approach (PNCA) therapy. PNCA supervision-related studies have explored the perceived experiences of supervisees (Attridge, 2007; Hair & Fine, 2012) and assessed the effect of PNCA supervision on supervisees (Attridge, 2007; Hair & Fine, 2012; Nadan, 2020; Shachar et al., 2012; Huang, 2015). Their findings have suggested the positive effect of PNCA supervision on the learning and developmental experiences of supervisees. A literature review revealed that few studies have explored what and how postmodern supervisory mindsets and strategies are adopted during the supervision process. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to explore the supervisory mindsets and supervisory strategies adopted by a supervisor during the PNCA group-supervision process (GSP). Nine certified counseling psychologists with masters’ degrees participated in a monthly group supervision that was supervised by a senior clinical PNCA supervisor (the third author) for 8 months. During these 8 months, the nine participants did not receive any other supervision groups. Eight verbatim drafts of the GSP were collected and analyzed by grounded theory. The results indicated that the supervisor exhibited eight types of postmodern supervisory mindsets namely demonstrating appreciation, not taking things for granted, normalization, being public, practicing de-expertization, being not-knowing, practicing validation, and privileging the local knowledge. The present study revealed that the supervisor exhibited the characteristics of PSC. The aforementioned eight types of supervisory mindsets corresponded to the findings of previous studies (Behan, 2003; Carlson & Erickson, 2001; Hair & Fine, 2012; Jenkins, 1996; Kahn & Monk, 2017; Shachar et al., 2012; Sutherland et al., 2013; Ungar, 2006; Weingarten, 2016), which have reported that the characteristics of PNCA supervision include appreciating and applying the experience and knowledge of supervisees, appreciating supervisory dialogue, and maintaining an equalitarian supervisor-supervisee relationship (Carlson & Erickson, 2001; Sutherland et al., 2013; Kahn & Monk, 2017). Behan (2003) emphasized the crucial role of a supervisor in maintaining a curious attitude and being public because such behavior not only can reduce the burden undertaken by the supervisor as an expert but also promote supervisees’ autonomy and expertise. Ungar (2006) also highlighted the role of the supervisor in the modeling of deconstruction and not taking things for granted. The present study also revealed that the supervisor adopted 13 types of supervisory strategies, including seven types of supervisory strategies were common adopted in every supervision approach, and six were unique to PNCA supervision. The six types of supervisory strategies unique to PNCA supervision were the exploration of unique outcomes, narrative deconstruction/ externalization/naming, witnessing, teaching/sharing/modeling of PNCA philosophy and strategies, using of meaning-oriented questions and using of metaphors. This study found that the supervisor had adopted four types of witnessing-related behaviors to recognize and empower supervisees, namely the application of a supervisee’s opinion at multiple time points, application of other individuals’ perspectives in supervisee’s narration during supervision, and application of supervisor and other supervisees’ feedback. For example, the supervisor asked supervisees to recall and reflect on what they had done during the past year. The supervisor also asked supervisees to consider what’s the contributions of themselves as a counselor from the perspective of the client and what the client might say regarding this topic. The supervisory strategy of witnessing enhanced the development of the supervisee’s previously absent (but implicit) narrative, unique outcomes, and subjective inner-expertise knowledge. The supervisor who participated in this PNCA GSP also taught, shared, and adhered to the philosophies and strategies of PNCA supervision. These supervisory strategies are widely used in clinical supervision (Hair & Fine, 2012; Hsu, 2011; Shih, 2015; Stoltenberg, 2005) and aid supervisees in achieving appropriate counseling function and learning how to appropriately apply case conceptualization, processing, and personalization skills. In the present study, the supervisor also played the role of a teacher, consultant, and mentor. This observation is consistent with those of previous studies, which have proposed that supervisors need to provide instruction, guidance, direction, and feedback; these comprise specific directions and guidance for specific issues, the use of modeling and discussions to promote the skills of the supervisee, and the promotion of supervisees’ reflections through supervision (Shachar et al., 2012; Ungar, 2006; Watkins, 2017). Our study further revealed that PNCA supervision not only achieved the required functions and tasks of clinical supervision but also met the learning requirements of supervisees and promoted the well-being of clients. The present study verified that PNCA supervision is characterized by attentive listening, empathic responses and recognition, and the use of questions to encourage supervisees to reflect on themselves. This finding corresponded to those of other PSC supervision studies, which emphasized that PSC supervision incorporates attentive listening, empathic responses, and walk side by side in the supervision process (Andersen, 1987; Anderson, 2009, 2012, 2013; Carlson & Erickson, 2001; Neal, 1996; Jenkins, 1996; Weingarten, 2016; Whiting, 2007; Wu, 2017). The other seven types of supervisory strategies adopted by the supervisor are common in other supervision models; the strategies adopted were responsive-active listening, the use of positive and nonjudgmental questions, understanding the supervisee’s supervision needs, immediately checking, understanding the client’s context, reframing, and providing instructions. These seven strategies corresponded to those used in counseling and group counseling, suggesting that they are basic and entrylevel strategies and skills in counseling education. Wu (2017), Anderson (2009, 2012, 2013), and Weingarten (2016) have all highlighted the key role of the supervisor in implementing attentive listening, empathic feedback, and walk side by side and promoting a supervisee’s reflection and reconstruction during the supervision process. Guindon (2010/2012) also suggested that immediately checking and reframing are basic skills for providing help in counseling. This finding suggested that the seven strategies can be applied in supervision theories and models, and they can be treated as basic and entry-level helping skills in the context of counseling and supervision. Research on effective and common supervisory strategies applied in supervision theories and models is essential for counseling education because it promotes the application of knowledge and skills that enhance the development and learning experiences of supervisees. PSC-based PNCA supervision emphasizes attentive listening, empathic responses, and positive connotations in relation to supervisees. The goal of PNCA supervision is to generate benefits for both clients and supervisees. With respect to clients’ benefits, the goals of PNCA supervision are dissolving the dilemma of the supervisee and promoting the acquisition of knowledge and skills associated with PNCA conceptualization, processing, and personalization. With respect to supervisees’ benefits, the goals of PNCA supervision are reanchoring the counseling values, beliefs and theories of the supervisee; promoting the emergence and development of the supervisee’s absent (but implicit) narrative, unique outcomes, and subjective innerexpertise knowledge; and enhancing the supervisee’s self-efficacy and counseling effectiveness (Wu, 2019). The findings of the present study can be used as a reference to aid the application of PNCA supervision in clinical supervision and counseling education. However, the present study had some limitations and its results must be cautiously interpreted and applied. First, the present study was a qualitative-only study. Second, the supervisees who participated in the study were all licensed psychologists with at least 2 years of practical experience, and all of them participated voluntarily. Third, researchers’ mindsets might have influenced the research results during the analysis phase. Future studies can examine the experiences of supervisee with respect to PNCA supervision, the effect of PNCA supervision on supervisees, and whether the patterns or characteristics of PNCA supervision vary depending on the participants involved. For example, whether the patterns or characteristics of PNCA supervision vary when it is applied to master’s level part-time practicum students versus master’s level full-time internship students? With such knowledge, we can better understand the characteristics of PNCA supervision and enrich postmodern supervision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-222
Number of pages24
JournalBulletin of Educational Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Grounded theory
  • Group supervision process
  • Postmodern narrative-collaborative approach (PNCA)
  • Supervisory mindsets
  • Supervisory strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Supervisory mindsets and strategies applied in postmodern narrative and collaborative approaches for group supervision'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this