The SuperSkills Model: A Supervisory Microskill Competency Training Model

Dusty Destler

Streamlined supervision frameworks are needed to enhance and progress the practice and training of supervisors. This author proposes the SuperSkills Model (SSM), grounded in the practice of microskills and supervision common factors, with a focus on the development and foundational learning of supervisors-in-training. The SSM worksheet prompts for competency-based supervisory behaviors from pre-session to post-session, highlighting a culturally aware supervisory relationship; goals and tasks; and feedback and reflection. The versatility of the SSM allows for utility in various settings, accommodates supervisor developmental level, and may be used to evaluate supervisor-in-training development.

Keywords: supervision, supervisors-in-training, SuperSkills Model, microskills, common factors

The profession of counseling has experienced an evolution regarding counseling training methods over the past decades (Capuzzi & Gross, 2009). Compared to literature on training counselors, literature on training supervisors has received less attention and the topic is less understood (Watkins, 2010). Thus, it is not surprising that systems of development for counselors-in-training (CITs) are more advanced than systems for supervisors-in-training (SITs; Watkins, 2010). For example, Ivey, Normington, Miller, Morrill, and Haase (1968) introduced microskills to the field of mental health care, and after four decades, the approach remains a training prototype (Ridley, Kelly, & Mollen, 2011); yet supervisors still lack a standard training model (Watkins, 2012b). Although much overlap exists in counseling and supervision tasks, the process of supervision adds more skill complexity than clinical tasks alone (Pearson, 2000). Further complicating the situation, many clinicians have assumed supervisory positions without training (Knapp & VandeCreek, 1997). Research has found that many supervisors feel incompetent and could be well-served by more supervisory training (Uellendahl & Tenenbaum, 2015).

A movement toward efficient methods of training supervisors should be informed by existing theory. Identifying with a theoretical model is paramount to facilitating growth in CITs (Lampropoulos, 2003). Various models of supervision have been proposed. Bernard and Goodyear (2014) broadly delineated first-wave supervision models into one of three categories: models grounded in psychotherapy theory, developmental models, and process models. Second-wave models are more eclectic, with the ability to combine or cycle between first-wave models as needed. The third-wave models reflect a common-factors approach, gleaning substantiated elements of supervision from the literature to amalgamate into a best-practices method (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). Despite the combined breadth of models, there remains a lack of knowledge on what constitutes sound supervisory training, signifying the need for consolidation and movement toward supervisory competency models (Milne, Reiser, Cliffe, & Raine, 2011). Established theories of supervision may be enhanced when translated through microskills, which focus on specific behaviors to link theory and practice (Ivey, 1971; Ivey et al., 1968).

Any model that is chosen or created for effective supervisory training should be competency-based, and microskills may be a viable option. The microskills approach has been adapted for the training of supervisors with successful outcomes (James, Milne, & Morse, 2008; Richardson & Bradley, 1984; Russell-Chapin & Ivey, 2004), and there has been a call in the profession to move toward more competency-based forms of supervisor training (Milne et al., 2011). The SuperSkills Model (SSM) proposed in this article combines microskills training with supervision common factors to create a framework with which to enhance the development and training of supervisors. The SSM worksheet provides a consolidated and user-friendly tool to assist with the supervision of SITs (please contact the author for a copy of the worksheet).

A Brief Background of Microskills

The use of microskills as a training instrument was born from the world of education. Succinctly, microtraining uses a systematic format to teach individual helping skills and may utilize recordings of practice, step-by-step training, and self-observation (Ivey et al., 1968). Fortune, Cooper, and Allen (1967) simplified and codified teaching skills into a model they called micro-teaching, aiming to provide students with an introduction to the experience and practice of teaching. The model provided experienced teachers with a vehicle for training novice teachers and gave the research team more control to track training effects.

When Ivey and colleagues (1968) introduced microskills within mental health care, they proposed the training of microcounseling, which focused on the specific behaviors of counseling skills, as useful in counselor education for the quick and effective teaching of counselor trainees. Ivey and colleagues’ adaptation of microskills to the mental health field allowed counselor preparation programs to move from nebulous training techniques to a more systematic approach, providing supervisors with a more delineated method to track trainees’ progress in actual skill behaviors. The structured method of tracking progress assists supervisors in the process of gatekeeping, making it easier to filter out candidates with difficulties or barriers to learning the core counseling skills (Lambie & Ascher, 2016).

The concept of utilizing microskills in the process of training supervisors has been broached by other researchers. Richardson and Bradley (1984) combined microskills and supervision training to create a microsupervision model, which breaks down the supervision skill acquisition process to assessment, modeling, and transfer. These three stages suggest how an SIT’s supervisor identifies skill areas for growth, provides educative and corrective information to the SIT, and allows the SIT opportunities to integrate and display new skills. Russell-Chapin and Ivey (2004) utilized microskill design to develop the Microcounseling Supervision Model (MSM). The Counselling Interview Rater Form (CIRF) is a component of the MSM, which breaks down the counseling session into stages that are then comprised of specific skills to be assessed (Russell-Chapin & Ivey, 2004). The MSM is a useful tool to practice providing constructive feedback, because the CIRF “is mostly used as a method of providing positive, corrective, qualitative and quantitative feedback for supervisees” (Russell-Chapin & Ivey, 2004, p. 167). James, Milne, & Morse (2008) adapted microskills to the dialogue used by supervisors within a cognitive-behavioral supervisory approach. These models can be useful in the development of supervisors; however, there is a need for the creation of a supervision model that rises above current approaches, yet provides enough focus to be specific to clinical supervision (Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007). The proposed SSM acts to fill potential deficiencies by balancing focus between more detailed supervisory actions and a wider breadth of supervisory behaviors.

The Progression of Supervision Models

Clinical supervision is recognized in the mental health professions as the signature pedagogy (Barnett, Erickson Cornish, Goodyear, & Lichtenberg, 2007; Goodyear, Bunch, & Claiborn, 2006). Introducing students to the foundational skills within mental health care has been a practice of supervisors for over 40 years (Ridley et al., 2011). Different professions within mental health care vary in job function and purpose, but the skills, processes, and objectives of supervision remain somewhat uniform across disciplines and cultures (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). Supervision as an intervention shares characteristics with other interventions—namely teaching, psychotherapy, and consultation—yet is distinct (Milne, 2006). The unique aspects of supervision include the propensity to be provided by and to individuals in the same profession, an evaluative and hierarchical nature, and an extension over time (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014).

The process of supervision is often referred to as isomorphic, meaning that the relationship between client and counselor is often similar in structure to the concurrent relationship between counselor and supervisor (Koltz, Odegard, Feit, Provost, & Smith, 2012). However, this triadic configuration does not take a fourth entity into account: the relationship between the supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor. This lapse is partially because of the underrepresentation of supervisory training knowledge in the counseling literature (Richardson & Bradley, 1984).

Another parallel between counseling and supervision is the utilization of theory to inform practice. Models of supervision may be classified in a number of ways. Bernard and Goodyear (2014) broadly delineated first-wave supervision models into one of three categories: models grounded in psychotherapy theory, developmental models, and process models. Psychotherapy-based models utilize psychotherapy’s theoretical approaches as a framework for use in supervision. Choice of psychotherapy-based models is often informed by the supervisor’s theoretical approach when in the counselor role. Familiarity with one’s own theory may provide the supervisor a level of comfort and an added sense of competence. Developmental models focus on the developmental needs of the CIT based on the status, pace, or standard of professional development. Focus on individual development allows the supervisor to tailor interventions to the current needs of the supervisee. Also, under the developmental model umbrella, models of social roles take further consideration of CIT contextual needs, based on such factors as cultural or experiential background (Aten, Strain, & Gillespie, 2008). Process models focus on the process within each supervision session, spotlighting the relationship and interactions between supervisor and CIT. Bernard and Goodyear (2014) proposed that these broad categories are best utilized in conjunction with one another.

From the broad first-wave supervision models, Bernard and Goodyear (2014) identified second-wave models of the next generation: combined models and target-issue models. Combined supervision models may blend multiple approaches within one of the above three categories (e.g., two psychotherapy theories) or between the above three categories (e.g., one developmental model and one process model). This approach may allow supervisors to provide what is needed to themselves and their supervisees within the supervisory process. Target-issue models hone in on specific elements or needs within supervision. These may be helpful to supervisors who need a more direct, concentrated approach to address a specific issue that arises in supervision.

Third-wave models have emerged from continued research on specific supervision models, providing an index of evidence from which supervisors and researchers may benefit. A paucity of evidence for efficacy between supervision models has created a movement toward gleaning aspects found to be effective within supervision models (Sprenkle, 1999). Supervisory common factors refer to core components that remain consistent when cutting across models and perspectives (Watkins, Budge, & Callahan, 2015). Integrating different approaches to create common-factors models hinges on the assumption that supervision models are unique; by borrowing strengths from multiple models, new frameworks may be created to fill in weaknesses (Lampropoulos, 2003). For example, Lampropoulos (2003) used the notion of eclecticism by blending common supervisory pathways, stages, and processes to make a case for the incorporation of empirically validated practices both within and outside mental health care. Morgan and Sprenkle (2007) provided a similar process, utilizing broader supervision models and popular supervision conceptualizations to create a model focused on relationship, development, and role continuums in the supervisory position. Aten et al. (2008) described an integrative model that they referred to as transtheoretical.

The Case for Systematizing Supervisor Training

Aside from choosing a model of supervision, there are other elements that affect supervisory development. There are two environments supervisors practice within. Some assume the role in settings that primarily serve the public, acting as a supervisor to clinicians or interns working directly with clients. Others supervise in academic settings, primarily supervising the development of novice counseling students.

A large percentage of mental health professionals will ultimately act in a supervisory role (Norcross, Hedges, & Castle, 2002). This circumstance makes it especially perplexing that counseling professionals receive only minimal supervisory training (Pelling, 2008) and oftentimes no training at all (DeKruyf & Pehrsson, 2011). Supervisors are frequently placed into supervisory positions to learn on the job (Knapp & VandeCreek, 1997). Gonsalvez (2008) referred to this route of becoming a supervisor via the maxim see one, do one, teach one. When training does take place, it may come in the form of didactic (e.g., seminars, workshops, class instruction) or experiential (e.g., supervision of supervision) means (Watkins, 2012a). However, inconsistencies in training requirements for supervisors have been documented as recently as 2014 (Nate & Haddock, 2014). The Center for Credentialing & Education, an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors, established the Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) credential, with 15 states having adopted the requirements as of 2016 (Center for Credentialing & Education, 2016). The compulsory conditions of becoming a supervisor still vary greatly.

Becoming a supervisor has developmental hurdles parallel to those of becoming a counselor (Milne, 2006). Processes and activities in both may look identical (Aten, Madson, & Kruse, 2008; Burns & Holloway, 1990). Encountering the shift in perspective from mental health practitioner to mental health supervisor can be troublesome (Watkins, 2013). SITs may experience feelings of anxiety and demoralization, trouble with forming a supervisory identity, and difficulty finding conviction about the meaningfulness of supervision (Watkins, 2013). Not unlike novice counselors, novice supervisors deal with the juggling of new skills and awareness, the discomfort of trying to find one’s own style, and self-doubt (Gazzola, De Stefano, Thériault, & Audet, 2013). These challenges may account for supervision models that aim to utilize SITs’ inherent therapeutic skills (Pearson, 2006).

The role of supervisor adds layers of responsibility that may not be present in the role of counselor alone. Counselors are responsible for advocating on behalf of clients (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2014); however, supervisors advocate for clients and CITs. The dual role of advocacy places the supervisor in the role of gatekeeper of the profession, charged with CIT development and the well-being of clients (Gaete & Ness, 2015). Balancing the duality of advocacy and evaluation may be taxing on new supervisors (Johnson, 2007).

The added responsibility of the supervisory role ushers in ethical issues beyond those incurred by clinicians alone (Rubin, 1997). Practitioners placed unwillingly into the supervisory role with little interest in the practice of supervision may pose a threat to the development of clinicians and future supervisors (Ladany, Mori, & Mehr, 2013). If trained in supervision by someone lacking passion for the practice, the meaningfulness of supervision is unlikely to be transmitted to the SIT (Watkins, 2013). It is more ideal to develop a supervisory identity while surrounded by others in a similar learning process (Watkins, 2013), a dynamic that may not be present for practitioners in the field learning new skills of supervision.

Essential Supervisory Microskills: The SuperSkills Model (SSM)

The purpose of the SSM is to fill the need for a functional training model focused on supervisory behaviors gleaned from the supervision literature and deemed to be common across research. The focus is less on (but may be combined with) conceptualizations of supervisor theory and roles, and more on practical utility of supervisory behavior and process before, during, and after a given supervision session. The goal of the SSM worksheet and each of the foci is to help SITs integrate important aspects of supervision into each session. With this approach and tool, SITs are not left to remember all topics simultaneously; instead, the checklist included in the worksheet assists with staying on task and works toward laying the foundation for more adept integration of key supervisory factors as SITs gain more experience. The SSM worksheet may be utilized in a checklist or written fashion, incorporated into necessary supervision notes for documentation purposes, and completed to varying degrees of formality. Depending on supervisory style, the worksheet may be used during a supervision session or supervision-of-supervision meeting, or outside of these (prior to and/or after session). The SSM worksheet also can be used as a tool for supervisors to track individual progress and accordance with supervisory common factors. Generally speaking, the SSM and its worksheet can be adapted to meet the needs of the individual and environmental context.

Within the SSM, there is an assumption that appropriate preparation has taken place prior to or concurrently with supervision (e.g., supervisory training, development of a supervision contract, continued growth toward approach and identity/style, alignment with a model or structure, vetting of supervisees, ethical and legal considerations). These assumptions suggest that the SSM is not a stand-alone method for teaching and learning supervision, but rather a means to assist the foundational learning of SITs and provide supervisors at any stage in development with continued prompting of current supervisory focal points. As new potential supervisory common factors emerge from the literature, focal points may be altered or added. The first element of the current SSM is a pre-session contemplation that encourages intentionality and consideration of focus in an upcoming supervision session. The second component of the SSM emphasizes tangible supervisory behaviors that work toward creating and fostering a strong supervisory relationship hinging on cultural interest and awareness. The third facet of the SSM highlights supervisory goals and tasks and differentiates between practical and process goal and task foci. Feedback and reflection is the SSM’s fourth dimension, which also gives consideration to SIT response to practical and process events, and includes attention to direct and indirect feedback and positive and constructive feedback. The final item of the SSM is post-session reflection, which allows for assessment of the supervision session. SITs may use this portion of the SSM to evaluate supervisory skill, consider future areas for focus, and document concerns or needs regarding the CIT.


The first component of the SSM is pre-session reflection. Prior to beginning a supervision session, it may be necessary for an SIT to refer to notes from previous sessions to recall past areas of focus or pressing issues. A CIT may be working on specific counseling skills chosen for review in the upcoming supervision session and SITs need to be mindful of the focus for the session. The focus also includes supervisory skills that the SIT plans to intentionally practice, which should be written in the initial pre-session consideration on the worksheet. However, flexibility is necessary; when CITs experience difficult client presentations, such as suicidal ideation, SITs may need to adjust focus to best serve the development of the CIT and the supervisory environment (Hoffman, Osborn, & West, 2013). As client welfare falls on the shoulders of both the CIT and the supervisor, there may be a need for SITs to inquire for updates in matters that have legal implications (Branson, Cardona, & Thomas, 2015).

Coming into session considering one’s theoretical stance and supervisory style can be beneficial. Even though supervision is highly contextual with many areas to consider, supervision models act as a conceptual map to follow during sessions (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). The “newness” of the supervisory role and the added layers of awareness may not equate to seamless use of a supervision model; however, using intention in supervision with regard to theory and style may aid continued understanding and improvement as a supervisor. The second pre-session consideration allows SITs to document intentions related to supervisory model, theory, or role.

Culturally Conscious Supervisory Relationships

The SSM’s second component is creating and maintaining a relationship with a focus on cultural factors. The supervisory relationship is a significant mediating factor for successful supervision outcomes (Ellis, 1991). Not only is supervisor focus on culture correlated with positive supervisory relationships (Schroeder, Andrews, & Hindes, 2009; Wong, Wong, & Ishiyama, 2013), but emphasizing culture fulfills the supervisor’s responsibility to facilitate deeper awareness of cultural realities for supervisees (Fukuyama, 1994). Bordin (1983) conceptualized the supervisory relationship as the emotional bond between supervisor and supervisee and one of the triadic components in the supervisory working alliance (SWA). When SITs bring cultural considerations into supervision, stronger SWAs are created (Bhat & Davis, 2007; Crockett & Hays, 2015). Consequently, a lack of comfort in the supervisory relationship may create a less conducive atmosphere for broaching cultural dialogues (White-Davis, Stein, & Karasz, 2016). The SWA positively affects the therapeutic alliance (DePue, Lambie, Liu, & Gonzalez, 2016), CIT satisfaction with supervision (Crockett & Hays, 2015), CIT willingness to disclose information (Gunn & Pistole, 2012; Mehr, Ladany, & Caskie, 2010), and CIT work satisfaction (Sterner, 2009).

The supervisory relationship is a large component of the SWA, and thus correlations of the SWA on other important supervisory factors may have bearing on building cultural relationships. SITs initiating productive conversations surrounding counseling self-efficacy (Ganske, Gnilka, Ashby, & Rice, 2015), CIT anxiety (Gnilka, Rice, Ashby, & Moate, 2016), and sources of stress and coping (Gnilka, Chang, & Dew, 2012; Sterner, 2009) may ultimately strengthen the supervisory relationship. Focus on these factors has been shown to increase the prevalence of CITs bringing up cultural issues in supervision (Nilsson, 2007). Likewise, supervisors who bring cultural considerations into supervision engender higher levels of supervisee self-efficacy in skill and multicultural competence (Constantine, 2001; Crockett & Hays, 2015; Kissil, Davey, & Davey, 2013; Ladany, Brittan-Powell, & Pannu, 1997; Vereen, Hill, & McNeal, 2008).

A culturally conscious supervisory relationship is beneficial to both supervision and counseling environments; thus, documenting relationship-building actions on the worksheet gives appropriate and necessary focus to the actual relationship-building behaviors by the SIT. Providing time in supervision to focus on CIT relationships in both professional/academic and personal settings is important because both domains influence professional development (Rønnestad & Skovholt, 2003) and may ultimately relate to deepening the supervisory relationship (Mutchler & Anderson, 2010). Challenging dominant ideologies in supervision also has positive implications for broaching the concept of power within the supervisory and counseling environments (Hernández & McDowell, 2010). It may be useful for an SIT to inquire about a CIT’s values, beliefs, and on what the counselor places importance, because highlighting culture and relationships in supervision works toward exemplifying the importance of focusing on culture to create therapeutic relationships with clients (Willis-O’Connor, Landine, & Domene, 2016). The SWA is compatible with a multicultural perspective in supervision (Bordin, 1983) and is considered transtheoretical, making the SWA adaptable to different counseling and supervisory theories (Bordin, 1983; Wood, 2005).

Goals and Tasks

The SSM’s third component, goals and tasks, is based on the two other components of Bordin’s (1983) SWA. These are important to include because the SWA may be the most commonly cited factor in supervision literature (Watkins, 2014b). The goals refer to mutually agreed upon and understood objectives between the SIT and supervisee pertaining to the development of the CIT. The tasks refer to the action steps taken to achieve those objectives and the negotiation between SIT and supervisee to frame these steps in appropriate and achievable ways. Goals help to focus and direct supervision sessions while tasks act to pursue and attain the goals (Watkins, 2014b). The SSM worksheet includes space for the SIT to write goals and tasks for the supervision session, and the 11-point Likert scales provide the means to document the degree to which goals/tasks are agreed upon and achieved.

It is natural for novice supervisors to function from the perspective of a clinician, considering that this framework may be most comfortable or available (Watkins, 2014a). However, in doing so, the SIT may miss important components of CIT growth (Ponton & Sauerheber, 2014). Focus for goals and tasks should be directed at the process of counseling the client and the process of becoming (or being) a counselor; the SIT must attend to the space where the counselor’s “professional” meets the “personal” (Ponton & Sauerheber, 2014). For example, if a supervisee is unsure how to proceed with a client’s presenting issue, sole focus on goals and tasks aimed at client conceptualization and practical measures may foster dependence within the CIT to seek answers externally and work against a sense of self-efficacy and independence. Likewise, only attending to goals and tasks centralized to the counselor’s personal process may miss the opportunity to locate practical skills. Balancing goals and tasks with emphasis on the CIT’s process (e.g., potential feelings of inadequacy, confusion, difficulty with ambiguity) and practical abilities (e.g., specific skill use, conceptualization through a specific theoretical lens) may address individual needs and applicable skills to facilitate growth as a counselor. Differences will exist in CIT personality, ability, and developmental progress; therefore, SITs need to determine the appropriate equilibrium between process and practical focus for each supervisee (Reising & Daniels, 1983). The SSM worksheet contains space for the consideration of both practical and process goals and tasks, and the level of agreement and achievement.

Feedback and Reflection

Feedback and reflection comprise the fourth component to the SSM. An integral component to the supervision process, feedback is considered to be a change mechanism consistent across supervisory theory (Goodyear, 2014). Developmental levels of CITs vary (Rønnestad & Skovholt, 2003) and may influence the style of feedback (e.g., direct, indirect). Using the example of CITs who self-criticize their demonstration of skill, it may be useful for SITs to provide direct positive feedback to communicate successful skill demonstration (e.g., “That is a good example of reflecting a feeling.”). However, it is important to be mindful that feedback is a learning mechanism and to gradually remove oneself as support and transfer responsibility to the CIT (van de Pol, Volman, & Beishuizen, 2010). To that end, SITs may consider using indirect feedback to assist CITs to self-identify strengths (e.g., “If you had to identify a skill you did really well, what would it be?”). Instances exist throughout counselor development calling for various levels of direction in supervision (Goodyear, 2014), and SITs will develop a feel for when to provide direct and indirect feedback as they gain experience. To assist with this process, the worksheet includes a conceptual continuum for SITs to document feedback as direct or helping the CIT to self-identify.

Similar to goals and tasks, feedback for CITs should encompass both skill and process components (Liddle, 1986). Focus on learning counseling skills increases a CIT’s professional competency and identity (Aladağ, Yaka, & Koç, 2014). The ability to make skills explicit helps CITs to know what to look for and may assist the CIT and SIT in providing guidance and structure to the feedback process (Russell-Chapin & Sherman, 2000). Likewise, allowing CITs to use self-reflection to explore personal process components and arrive at meaningful conclusions may help facilitate learning, growth, and development (Guiffrida, 2015). For an example of skill versus process focus, consider a CIT learning to reflect feelings. By reviewing a recording of a counseling session, the SIT may witness the client expressing anger; or the SIT may choose to focus on skill, prompting the CIT to try identifying what feeling is being expressed or how to effectively reflect anger to the client. By focusing on process, the SIT may explore the CIT’s relationship with anger (e.g., how others have displayed anger to the CIT or how the CIT expresses anger), as self-reflection could reveal a barrier toward accurately identifying and reflecting anger. The SSM worksheet contains both practical and process feedback and reflection sections for the SIT to consider.

It is an ethical imperative for supervisors to provide ongoing feedback and evaluation to CITs (ACA, 2014). Positive feedback to CITs has been found to increase counseling self-efficacy and lower anxiety, while negative feedback decreases counseling self-efficacy and elicits more anxiety (Daniels & Larson, 2001). Negative feedback may include such elements as vagueness, inconsiderate tone, hidden meaning, delay between an episode and reference to an episode, and subjectivity (Baron, 1988). Alternately, constructive feedback is relevant, shared immediately, factual, helpful, confidential, respectful, tailored, and encouraging (Ovando, 1994). Constructive feedback in supervision has been found to be the highest-ranked demand among CITs (Ladany, Lehrman-Waterman, Molinaro, & Wolgast, 1999), and when combined with microskills training, it has been found to contribute to learning effectiveness (Fyffe & Oei, 1979). CITs who do not receive constructive feedback may experience stagnation in skill progress (Russell-Chapin & Ivey, 2004). Constructive feedback can be challenging for SITs to provide (Motley, Reese, & Campos, 2014), especially because supervisors are trained as counselors and giving evaluative judgment may seem counterintuitive to the therapeutic skill set (Ladany et al., 1999). The struggles associated with constructive feedback may require supervisors to call upon the supervisory relationship, taking inventory of CIT self-efficacy and confidence levels, to inform how and when to provide constructive feedback (Daniels & Larson, 2001). Supervisor impediments to providing quality feedback are recognized by both CITs and SITs (Heckman-Stone, 2004); thus, the addition of positive and constructive feedback sections on the worksheet may prompt SITs to practice providing both forms of feedback to CITs. The explicit cue for feedback also acts as a practical measure to inform SITs’ recording of supervision progress notes following the supervision session.


The SSM’s final component is post-session reflection. Utilizing the post-session for documentation benefits the CIT and the SIT. Maintaining supervision notes is an ethically sound practice and can assist supervisors in documenting practical, ethical, and legal issues (Luepker, 2012). Keeping records of supervision also proves beneficial to the development of SITs’ style and theoretical stance (Bernard, 2014). Timely and accurate documentation may act as a future reminder for areas on which to focus for the CIT or SIT.

The supervision note may have an evaluative component to it. Where applicable, a supervisor may begin to evaluate a CIT based on criteria set by an associated institution (e.g., university, occupational setting) or on agreed-upon standards between the supervisor and CIT (e.g., a measure found in the literature based on specific need). Likewise, the SIT may utilize documentation to evaluate their progress as a supervisor. Each microskill suggestion may act as an area to consider for evaluation or self-evaluation. These areas may include progress on deepening the cultural relationship, assessment of supervisory actions in working toward agreed-upon goals, appraisal of goal achievement, appropriate balance of direct feedback and assisting the CIT to formulate their own answers, appropriate balance of focus on counseling instruction and personal process, examples of interventions consistent with a theoretical model or supervisory role, and exploration of countertransference during the session.


The SSM’s flexibility and focus on a behavioral framework may be efficacious in training supervisors from varying cultural identities and helping SITs learn how to supervise counselors of differing backgrounds. CITs gain multicultural knowledge in their development as counselors; this continual learning process is suitable to microskill techniques, as research has shown that newly acquired skills can be employed during continued multicultural awareness (Hall & Richardson, 2014).

The flexibility of the SSM gives SITs freedom in pace and style of development. Just as neophyte counselors are to focus on their own skills and process in early training, gradually increasing their abilities to work effectively with clients, SITs may follow a similar path of needing to focus on supervisory abilities before providing effective supervision (Lampropoulos, 2003).

The freedom to be flexible in supervisory development is corroborated by existing models. Morgan and Sprenkle (2007) suggested a model that conceptualizes supervisor behaviors and roles on continuums, assuming that supervisors will have knowledge of their own styles and strengths to adjust and flex where needed. Goodyear (2014) created a model that provides SITs the ability to choose how to provide feedback, landing anywhere between direct instruction and self-directed learning. The SSM’s composition of common-factor components allows for adaptation to other models with both flexible and focused supervisory interventions. The SSM also utilizes updated research and literature to inform more specified behaviors associated with positive supervisory and therapeutic outcomes.


Supervision continues to become more recognized, accepted, and vital to the mental health professions for the preparation of multiculturally competent counselors (Watkins & Milne, 2014). There remains a dearth of information on how to effectively train supervisors, and a movement toward competency-based models has been suggested (Milne et al., 2011). Just as Ivey and fellow researchers (1968) adapted microskills training to counseling in order to study and bridge theory and practice, consolidating supervisory common factors “could not only provide a template for supervision research, but also for teaching and providing supervision as well” (Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007, p. 2). The SSM and accompanying worksheet are a step toward a simplified conceptualization and user-friendly tool to continue progressing supervision training and practice.

Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure

The authors reported no conflict of interest or funding contributions for the development of this manuscript.



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Dusty Destler is a doctoral candidate and Counseling Clinic Supervisor at Idaho State University – Meridian. Correspondence can be addressed to Dusty Destler, 1311 E. Central Drive, Meridian, ID 83642,

The Common Factors Discrimination Model: An Integrated Approach to Counselor Supervision

A. Elizabeth Crunk, Sejal M. Barden

Numerous models of clinical supervision have been developed; however, there is little empirical support indicating that any one model is superior. Therefore, common factors approaches to supervision integrate essential components that are shared among counseling and supervision models. The purpose of this paper is to present an innovative model of clinical supervision, the Common Factors Discrimination Model (CFDM), which integrates the common factors of counseling and supervision approaches with the specific factors of Bernard’s discrimination model for a structured approach to common factors supervision. Strategies and recommendations for implementing the CFDM in clinical supervision are discussed.

Keywords: supervision, common factors, specific factors, discrimination model, counselor education

Clinical supervision is a cornerstone of counselor training (Barnett, Erickson Cornish, Goodyear, & Lichtenberg, 2007) and serves the cardinal functions of providing support and instruction to supervisees while ensuring the welfare of clients and the counseling profession (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). Numerous models of clinical supervision have been developed, varying in emphasis from models based on theories of psychotherapy, to those that focus on the developmental needs of the supervisee, to models that emphasize the process of supervision and the various roles of the supervisor (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). However, despite the abundance of available supervision models, there is little evidence to support that any one approach is superior to another (Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007; Storm, Todd, Sprenkle, & Morgan, 2001). Thus, a growing body of clinical supervision literature underscores a need for strategies that integrate the most effective elements of supervision models into a parsimonious approach rather than emphasizing differences between models (Lampropoulos, 2002; Milne, Aylott, Fitzpatrick, & Ellis, 2008; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007; Watkins, Budge, & Callahan, 2015). Common factors models of supervision bridge the various approaches to supervision by identifying the essential components that are shared across models, such as the supervisory relationship, the provision of feedback, and supervisee acquisition of new knowledge and skills (Milne et al., 2008; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007). Other common factors approaches to supervision draw on psychotherapy outcome research, aiming to extrapolate common factors of counseling and psychotherapy—such as the therapeutic relationship and the instillation of hope—to clinical supervision approaches (Lampropoulos, 2002; Watkins et al., 2015)

Although reviews of the supervision literature allude to commonalities among supervision approaches (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014), there is a dearth of published literature offering practical strategies for bridging common factors of counseling and supervision. Perhaps even more limited is literature that addresses the necessary convergence of both common and specific factors, or the integration of common factors of supervision with particular interventions that are applied in various supervision approaches (e.g., role-playing or Socratic questioning; Watkins et al., 2015). In a recent article, Watkins and colleagues (2015) proposed a supervision model that extrapolates Wampold and Budge’s (2012) psychotherapy relationship model to specific factors of supervision, encouraging supervisors to apply such relationship common factors to some form of supervision. However, there remains a need for a structured approach to supervision that integrates the common factors of counseling and supervision with the specific factors of commonly used, empirically supported models of clinical supervision.

Because the common factors are, by definition, elements that are shared among theories of counseling and supervision, it can be argued that common factors approaches can be applied to almost any supervision model. However, we argue for the integration of common factors with the discrimination model for several reasons. First, the relationship has been found to be the essential common factor shared among counseling (Lambert & Barley, 2001; Norcross & Lambert, 2014) and supervision approaches, and is often cited as the most critical element of effective supervision and other change-inducing relationships, such as counseling, teaching and coaching (Lampropoulos, 2002; Ramos-Sánchez et al., 2002). The supervisory roles of teacher, counselor and consultant are built into the discrimination model, providing supervisors with natural avenues for fostering a strong supervisory relationship. However, the proposed Common Factors Discrimination Model (CFDM) expands on the discrimination model by providing specific recommendations for how supervisors might use such roles as opportunities for developing and maintaining the supervisory relationship. Second, we consider Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model to lend itself well to common factors approaches to supervision, as both are concerned with process aspects of supervision, such as tailoring supervision interventions to the needs of the supervisee. Finally, because the discrimination model is widely used by practicing supervisors (Timm, 2015), common factors approaches are likely to fit naturally with customary supervision practices of more experienced supervisors who espouse the discrimination model, yet the CFDM is concise enough for novice supervisors to grasp and apply. Thus, the purpose of this manuscript is to build on Watkins and colleagues’ (2015) model by presenting the CFDM, an innovative approach to supervision that converges common factors identified in both counseling and supervision and integrates them with the specific factors of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model. Specifically, we will (a) review the relevant literature on common factors approaches to counseling and supervision and the discrimination model; (b) provide a rationale for a model of supervision that integrates the specific factors of the discrimination model with a common factors approach; and (c) offer strategies and recommendations for applying the CFDM in clinical supervision.

The Common Factors Approach

The notion of therapeutic common factors resulted from psychotherapy outcome research suggesting that psychotherapies yield equivalent outcomes when compared against each other and, thus, what makes psychotherapy effective is not the differences between therapies, but rather the commonalities among them (Lambert, 1986). Wampold’s (2001) landmark research revealed that the theoretical approach utilized by the therapist (e.g., psychodynamic therapy) explained less than 1% of therapy outcome. In light of these findings, researchers and clinicians have been urged to minimize the importance placed on specific clinical techniques and interventions; instead, an emphasis on the commonalities among therapies that are associated with positive outcomes (Norcross & Lambert, 2011), such as the therapeutic alliance, empathy, positive regard, and collaboration within the therapeutic relationship (Norcross & Lambert, 2014; Norcross & Wampold, 2011), is more useful for describing therapeutic changes.

Among the most influential common factors approaches is Lambert’s model of therapeutic factors (see Lambert & Barley, 2001, for a review). Although lacking in stringent meta-analytic or statistical methods, Lambert and Barley (2001) presented four primary factors that are shared among therapeutic approaches (with the percentage that each factor contributes to therapy outcome indicated): (a) extratherapeutic factors (i.e., factors associated with the client, as well as his or her environment; 40%); (b) common factors (i.e., relationship factors such as empathy, warmth, positive regard, supporting the client in taking risks; 30%); (c) placebo, hope, and expectancy factors (i.e., the client’s hope and expectancy for improvement, as well as trust in the treatment; 15%); and (d) skills/techniques factors (i.e., components specific to various therapies, such as empty chair or relaxation techniques; 15%). Although a variety of common factors have been identified in the psychotherapy outcome research, numerous meta-analyses have identified the therapeutic relationship as the sine qua non (Norcross & Lambert, 2011, p. 12) of common factors that account for positive outcomes irrespective of the specific treatment utilized (Norcross & Wampold, 2011). They stated: “although we deplore the mindless dichotomy between relationship and method in psychotherapy, we also need to publicly proclaim what decades of research have discovered and what tens of thousands of relational therapists have witnessed: The relationship can heal” (Norcross & Lambert, 2014, p. 400).

Although the common factors are necessary for producing positive counseling outcomes, this does not mean that specific factors are irrelevant (Norcross & Lambert, 2011). On the contrary, prior research indicates that engaging in specific treatment interventions is associated with the working alliance and with positive counseling outcomes (Tryon & Winograd, 2011; Wampold & Budge, 2012). Watkins and colleagues (2015) noted that treatment interventions are necessary in maintaining client hope and expectations for positive counseling outcomes, stating, “The specific ingredients create benefits through the common factor of expectations, and respecting that interdependent common/specific factor dynamic is vital to treatment outcome” (p. 221).

Common Factors Approaches to Supervision

Although the concept of common factors in counseling and psychotherapy is not a new one and has been the focus of considerable empirical research (Frank, 1982; Lambert & Barley, 2001; Lambert & Ogles, 2004; Rosenzweig, 1936), applying the common factors approach to clinical supervision is relatively novel (Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007). Counseling and clinical supervision are distinct interventions; however, Milne (2006) makes a case for extrapolating findings from psychotherapy research to supervision, as both share common structures and properties of education, skill development, problem-solving and the working alliance. Furthermore, Bernard and Goodyear (2014) noted, “because therapy and supervision are so closely linked, developments in psychotherapy theory inevitably will affect supervision models” (p. 59).

Despite frequent reference to the similarities among supervision models, literature that specifically addresses common factors of supervision approaches is scarce (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). In our review of the supervision literature, we identified five articles that endorsed common factors approaches to supervision and counselor training (Castonguay, 2000; Lampropoulos, 2002; Milne et al., 2008; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007; Watkins et al., 2015). Following Castonguay’s (2000) seminal work on training in psychotherapy integration, Lampropoulos (2002) was among the first to address the parallels that exist between common factors of both counseling and supervision, advocating for a theoretically eclectic approach to supervision and for the prescriptive matching of common factors to supervisee needs. For example, Lampropoulos (2002) suggested that supervisors might integrate psychodynamic theory as a means of increasing supervisees’ awareness of countertransference and attachment patterns, or cognitive theory in order to restructure supervisees’ unhelpful thoughts about counseling and supervision.

In contrast to Lampropoulos’s (2002) model, which extrapolates common factors of counseling to supervision, Morgan and Sprenkle (2007) and Milne and colleagues (2008) endorsed approaches that bridge similarities between supervision models. Morgan and Sprenkle (2007) identified a number of common factors among models of supervision, grouping these factors into the following three dimensions falling on their respective continua: (a) emphasis, ranging from specific clinical competence to general professional competence; (b) specificity, ranging from the idiosyncratic needs of supervisees and clients to the general needs of the profession as a whole; and (c) supervisory relationship, ranging from collaborative to directive. The authors (Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007) then proposed a model of supervision that applies these three dimensions of supervision to the supervisor roles of coach, teacher, mentor and administrator. In contrast, Milne and colleagues (2008) conducted a best evidence synthesis of the supervision literature to summarize the current state of empirical research on supervision practices and applied their findings to a basic model of supervision. Although both models (Milne et al., 2008; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007) contributed viable descriptive models of common factors approaches to supervision, they were limited in providing specific strategies for supervisors to employ in a given situation. Furthermore, neither model specifically addressed the intersection of common factors of counseling and common factors of supervision. Thus, noting that common factors of counseling and specific factors of supervision approaches are interdependently related, Watkins and colleagues (2015) proposed a common/specific factors model, designating the supervisory relationship as the crowning common factor and encouraging supervisors to apply this relationship-centered model to the specific factors of “some form of supervision” (Watkins et al., 2015, p. 226). Following Watkins and colleagues’ recommendations, we therefore present an integrated approach to supervision by applying the common factors of counseling and supervision to the specific factors of the discrimination model.

 The Discrimination Model

The discrimination model (Bernard, 1979, 1997) provides a conceptualization of clinical supervision as both an educational and a relationship process (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Borders & Brown, 2005). In essence, the discrimination model involves the dual functions of assessing the supervisee’s skills and choosing a supervisor role for addressing the supervisee’s needs and goals. The supervisee is assessed on three skill areas, or foci: (a) intervention (observable behaviors that the supervisee demonstrates in session, such as demonstration of skills and interventions); (b) conceptualization (cognitive processes, such as the supervisee’s ability to recognize the client’s themes and patterns, as well as the supervisee’s level of understanding of what is taking place in session); and (c) personalization (supervisee self-awareness and ability to adapt his or her own personal style of counseling while maintaining aware-ness of personal issues and countertransference). Furthermore, over 30 years ago, Lanning (1986) proposed the addition of assessing the supervisee’s professional behaviors, such as how the supervisee approaches legal and ethical issues.

When the supervisor has assessed the supervisee’s skill level in each of the three foci, the supervisor utilizing the discrimination model assumes the appropriate role for addressing the supervisee’s needs and goals: (a) teacher (assumed when the supervisor perceives that the supervisee requires instruction or direct feedback); (b) counselor (appropriate for when the supervisor aims to increase supervisee reflectivity, or to process the supervisee’s internal reality and experiences related to his or her professional development or work as a counselor); or (c) consultant (a more collaborative role that is assumed when the supervisor deems it appropriate for the supervisee to think and act more independently, or when the supervisor aims to encourage the supervisee to trust his or her own insights). It is important to note that the supervisor does not take on the singular form of any of the three roles, but rather makes use of the knowledge and skills that are characteristic of each role (Borders & Brown, 2005). The discrimination model is situation-specific; therefore, supervisor roles and foci of assessment might change within a supervision session and across sessions. Consequently, supervisors are advised to remain attuned to the supervisee’s needs in order to attend to his or her most pressing focus area and to assume the most suitable role for addressing these needs rather than displaying strict adherence to a preferred focus or role (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014).

The discrimination model is considered to be an accessible, empirically validated model for supervisors and can be adapted in complexity depending on the supervisor’s level of readiness (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Borders & Brown, 2005). Using multidimentional scaling in an empirical study of the discrimination model, Ellis and Dell (1986) provided validation for both the teacher and counselor roles, although the consultant role did not emerge as a distinct role. Their findings are consistent with other studies that provided support for the teacher and counselor roles, but not for the consultant role (Glidden & Tracey, 1992; Goodyear, Abadie, & Efros, 1984; Stenack & Dye, 1982). Thus, the consultant role might be more difficult to distinguish from the teaching and counseling roles, perhaps, as Bernard and Goodyear (2014) noted, because the consultant role requires supervisors to put aside their position of expert or therapist and act more collaboratively with their supervisees. Ellis and Dell provided an alternate (and conflicting) explanation, suggesting that consultation might be an underlying component of both the teaching and counseling roles. These findings indicate a need for future research and possible modification of the discrimination model; however, the discrimination model is generally supported by empirical research.

Rationale for an Integrated Model

Watkins and colleagues (2015) stated: “Akin to the ‘great psychotherapy debate’ about effectiveness (Wampold, 2001), a ‘great psychotherapy supervision debate’ about effectiveness is eminently likely” (p. 17). Several cross-cutting models of clinical supervision have been proposed (Milne et al., 2008; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007), as well as models that extrapolate common factors of counseling to supervision practices (Lampropoulos, 2002; Watkins et al., 2015); however, there has yet to be a model that systematically converges both. Given the abundance of empirical support for common factors in counseling, we have conceptualized a new model, the CFDM, to integrate a supervision approach that is grounded in effective counseling and supervision practices. Furthermore, Watkins and colleagues encouraged supervisors to apply common factors of counseling to the specific factors of some form of supervision; however, to our knowledge, no such model integrating common factors with the specific factors of an empirically supported model of supervision has been published. Thus, the CFDM combines essential factors of supervision models, converges them with common factors of counseling approaches, and applies them to the specific factors of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model for a structured approach that bridges effective elements of both counseling and supervision.

Bernard and Goodyear (2014) pointed to the supervisory relationship as one of the most essential factors in supervision; however, a major criticism of the discrimination model is that the model itself does not thoroughly address the supervisory relationship (Beinart, 2004). Similarly, Freeman and McHenry (1996) found that supervisors ranked the development of clinical skills as their top goal for supervising counselors-in-training and identified that supervision involves taking on the roles of teacher, challenger and supporter, but relationship building did not surface as an emphasis of counselor supervision (Bell, Hagedorn, & Robinson, 2016). Thus, the CFDM builds on the discrimination model by incorporating tenets of the supervisory relationship that are consistent with common factors of counseling and supervision, such as the working alliance (Bordin, 1983), the real relationship (Watkins, 2015), and the instillation of hope (Lambert & Barley, 2001; Lampropoulos, 2002). Historically, the supervision literature suggests that novice supervisors, in particular, might manage feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty by employing a highly structured supervision style, focusing on providing supervisees with feedback on counseling techniques or client diagnosis and placing less emphasis on attending to the supervisory relationship (Hess, 1986; Hess & Hess, 1983). Furthermore, whereas building rapport is a top priority in many therapeutic relationships, counselor supervisors might prioritize other factors instead, such as scheduling, paperwork, and evaluation, before establishing a relationship with the supervisee (Bell et al., 2016). Because the discrimination model is a widely used approach to supervision (Timm, 2015), experienced counselors who wish to incorporate common factors of supervision and counseling into their customary supervision practice will likely find the CFDM to be an intuitive supervision approach. The following section provides a description of the four primary tenets of the CFDM, as well as strategies and recommendations for applying the CFDM in supervision.

The Common Factors Discrimination Model

The CFDM is an innovative model of supervision that aims to integrate the common factors of counseling and supervision with the specific factors of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model for a structured, relationship-centered approach to clinical supervision. The CFDM builds on existing supervision models that extrapolate common factors of counseling to supervision practices (Lampropoulos, 2002; Watkins et al., 2015). The CFDM also draws on the discrimination model (Bernard, 1979, 1997) as a method of assessing supervisee needs and tailoring feedback and support accordingly. Although the melding of common factors with the discrimination model has yet to be empirically tested as an integrated approach to supervision, both approaches have received substantial empirical support as standalone models. Empirical research supports common factors approaches to counseling and other change-inducing relationships; however, the CFDM’s underpinnings in the more prescriptive discrimination model provide a structured approach to common factors supervision. In addition, there is evidence to suggest the effectiveness of common factors approaches across cultures (Dewell & Owen, 2015).

We have proposed a model that combines effective common factors of counseling and supervision with the specific factors of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) widely used, empirically supported and accessible discrimination model for a structured approach to common factors supervision. The primary tenets of the CFDM were derived by reviewing the literature on common factors models of supervision and purposively selecting the most common elements, including: (a) development and maintenance of a strong supervisory relationship, (b) supervisee acquisition of new knowledge and skills, (c) supervisee self-awareness and self-reflection, and (d) assessment of supervisees’ needs and the provision of feedback based on the tenets of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model. The following section provides a brief fictional case illustration followed by specific strategies for applying the CFDM to supervision. Specific examples for matching common factors with tenets of the discrimination model are provided in Table 1, based on an illustrative case example, followed by a discussion of the primary tenets of the case to the CFDM.


Case Illustration

André, a master’s student in mental health counseling, is completing his first semester of clinical practicum at his university’s community counseling center. Although André demonstrates competency across many clinical and professional domains, as a novice counselor trainee he struggles with reflecting feeling with clients in session. His supervisor has noticed that André tends to sidestep emotional topics in session and, instead of reflecting feeling, responds to emotional content by asking the client unrelated questions or by changing the subject. In the few instances in which he has attempted to reflect feeling, André has been inaccurate in his reflections, undershooting the intensity of the client’s feelings or misreading the client’s emotions altogether. This has sometimes led to tension and frustration between André and his clients. Using the CFDM, his supervisor might utilize the following strategies in supervision with André. In the following section, the case of André is discussed, integrating the primary tenets of the CFDM.


Application of the CFDM

The Supervisory Relationship

Bernard and Goodyear (2014) suggested that the supervisory relationship is a critical factor in effective supervision, regardless of the model of supervision that is followed. Thus, the central tenet of the CFDM is the development of a collaborative supervisory relationship that is characterized by the Rogerian conditions of empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard (Lampropoulos, 2002). Utilizing the CFDM with André, the supervisor approaches her supervisory roles of teacher, counselor and consultant with warmth and acceptance as she addresses André’s difficulty reflecting feeling with his client, rather than using a confrontational or critical approach. Furthermore, she explores with André his personal experiences with emotion, taking into consideration his background and cultural factors that could play a role in his relationship with emotion.

The real relationship. The real relationship (Lampropoulos, 2002; Watkins, 2015) refers to a supervisory relationship that is unaltered by transference or countertransference and is characterized by empathy, warmth, genuineness, unconditional positive regard and trust. The expression of humor and optimism also is recommended in developing a common factors-influenced supervisory relationship. Extrapolating from Gelso’s (2014) tripartite model of the psychotherapy relationship, Watkins (2015) defined the real relationship as “the personal relationship between supervisor and supervisee marked by the extent to which each is genuine with the other and perceives/experiences the other in ways that befit the other” (p. 146). Factors of the real relationship are critical in supervision, as they allow supervisees to develop trust in the supervisory relationship and provide safety for supervisees to disclose vulnerabilities, mistakes and personal concerns (Storm et al., 2001).

Because the evaluative and hierarchical nature of supervision might make the supervisory relationship vulnerable to supervisory ruptures (Burke, Goodyear, & Guzzardo, 1998; Nelson & Friedlander, 2001; Safran, Muran, Stevens, & Rothman, 2007), the CFDM utilizes a collaborative evaluation process (Rønnestad & Skovholt, 1993), in which supervisees have the opportunity to practice evaluating their skills independently throughout their training either by journaling or by completing an evaluation form about their session and submitting their self-evaluation to their supervisor. Supervisee self-evaluations are then processed in supervision. The CFDM supervisor in the case illustration might use this strategy with André to allow him to raise self-awareness and to receive regular feedback on his skills. Furthermore, assuming the teacher role of the discrimination model, his supervisor might direct André to conduct a self-assessment of his reflections of feeling following each session, which he could bring into supervision to discuss and receive her feedback.

Because the supervisory relationship is the central tenet of the CFDM, it is advisable to evaluate and monitor the relationship throughout supervision. Furthermore, Lampropoulos (2002) recommended that supervisors identify and attempt to repair ruptures as soon as possible, as ruptures can be deleterious to supervision process and outcome. One such measure for evaluation of the supervisory relationship is the Supervisory Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ; Palomo, Beinart, & Cooper, 2010), a 67-item assessment of the supervisee’s perceptions of the supervisory relationship. Other plausible measures include the Working Alliance Inventory (Bahrick, 1990) and the Revised Relationship Inventory (Schacht, Howe, & Berman, 1988). Allowing André to assess the supervisory relationship and give his supervisor feedback can provide insight into André’s perception of their relationship and can allow the supervisor to consider making changes in her approach, if necessary. This also conveys to André that his feedback is valuable and that their supervisory relationship is collaborative.

The working alliance. The working alliance in supervision refers to the collaborative development of goals and tasks for supervision (Bordin, 1983; Constantino, Castonguay, & Schut, 2002; Lampropoulos, 2002). The working alliance is established in the CFDM by collaboratively developing a supervision contract between the supervisor and the supervisee (Lampropoulos, 2002) at the very beginning of the supervisory relationship. Goals for supervision that are addressed in the contract include evaluating supervisees’ strengths and areas for growth and identifying specific skills to be learned, as well as issues related to supervisee theoretical orientation. The tasks used to reach these goals can include process notes, live supervision, and interpersonal process recall (IPR; Kagan & Kagan, 1997) as a collaborative approach to processing André’s strengths and areas for growth, and for facilitating André’s self-reflection and self-awareness. The purpose of these tasks is to provide structure and opportunities for instruction, feedback, and evaluation, while allowing the supervisee to engage in self-evaluation, application of new skills, corrective action, and exploration of alternative approaches. The CFDM draws from the discrimination model when developing the contract as a means of evaluating supervisee’s three levels of foci (i.e., intervention, conceptualization and personalization). For example, when developing the supervision contract with André, the supervisor would consider André’s current level of competency with regard to techniques and clinical skills, case conceptualization skills, and self-awareness and personal style.

Instillation of hope and the creation of expectations. Frank and Frank (1991) noted the impact of positive expectations and hope in effecting change in counseling. Placebo, hope and expectancy factors emerged as a single common factor among most counseling approaches, with Lambert and Barley (2001) noting that instillation of hope accounts for 15% of client outcome. Watkins (1996) addressed the issue of demoralization in supervision, stating that beginning counselors can experience poor self-efficacy and might feel overwhelmed as they navigate their professional identity development. Watkins (1996) stated that supervisors are able to utilize the supervisory relationship as a means of encouraging supervisees and providing structure within the relationship to foster hope. Recently, Watkins and colleagues (2015) endorsed the creation of expectations and the provision of some method of supervision as a pathway by which supervisee change occurs. CFDM supervisors can incorporate hope and expectancy into supervision by using the consultant role of the discrimination model to explain to supervisees the process of supervision, and by collaborating with supervisees to provide supervision that builds on those expectations. Practical tools that André’s supervisor might implement to promote hope and positive expectations include developing a supervision contract with André or providing him with a professional disclosure statement in order to explain the process of supervision and to set supervisory rituals in motion (Watkins et al., 2015). Lampropoulos (2002) also suggested setting short- and long-term goals with supervisees as a means of instilling hope.

Supervisee Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection

An additional tenet of the CFDM is supervisee self-reflection concerning issues that influence professional development (Lampropoulos, 2002). CFDM supervision emphasizes the importance of encouraging supervisees to explore their strengths and areas for growth, and personal issues that might affect their work in counseling, as well as their therapeutic styles (Lampropoulos, 2002; Milne et al., 2008). The CFDM attempts to facilitate supervisee self-reflection by implementing strategies such as collaborative evaluation and the supervision contract (discussed above). Furthermore, the CFDM utilizes IPR (Kagan & Kagan, 1997), in which the supervisor and supervisee watch videotape of a supervisee’s counseling session together, pausing the tape at moments that either the supervisor or supervisee deems critical for further inquiry and processing. Taking on the role of counselor, the supervisor utilized IPR to explore what André was experiencing during that moment of the counseling session that might have prevented him from demonstrating reflection. Consistent with the common factors model, the supervisor confronted André with warmth, empathy and acceptance.

Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills

According to the discrimination model (Bernard, 1979, 1997), one of the primary roles of the supervisor is that of teacher. Thus, in addition to providing support and feedback, supervisors are in a position to impart knowledge and to facilitate supervisees’ acquisition of skills—a factor of supervision that surfaces in the majority of supervision models (Milne et al., 2008; Morgan & Sprenkle, 2007). Lampropoulos (2002) stated that supervisees might learn through direct instruction, through shaping (i.e., gradual learning of a desired behavior) and through their own personal experience. In addition, supervisees have opportunities to learn by imitating the behaviors of their supervisors and other counselors (Lampropoulos, 2002). Given that skills and techniques factors account for 15% of counseling outcome (Lambert & Barley, 2001), supervisors are in a position to model skills and techniques of counseling in supervision as a means of fostering supervisee learning and skill acquisition. Integrating common factors with the discrimination model, André’s supervisor might take on the role of teacher to watch a video clip with André of a recent counseling session in which André struggled to reflect feeling, directing him to role-play with his supervisor other ways that he could respond to his client when emotional content is disclosed. André’s supervisor also could provide him with a list of “feeling words” or other relevant resources in order to help him to increase his awareness of emotion and to broaden his feelings vocabulary.

Assessment of Supervisee Needs and the Provision of Feedback

A final tenet of the CFDM is assessment of supervisee needs and the provision of feedback utilizing the roles and foci presented in the discrimination model. Using the CFDM, the supervisor would implement tailoring (also referred to in the counseling literature as prescriptive matching)—or adapting supervision to fit the characteristics, worldviews and preferences of the supervisee—as would be done with clients in common factors approaches to counseling (Norcross & Halgin, 1997). In their review of the literature on clinical supervision, Goodyear and Bernard (1998) identified attending to supervisees’ individual differences as an essential component of effective supervision. Furthermore, tailoring is inherent in the discrimination model, which recommends matching the supervisor’s role to supervisee needs (Bernard, 1979, 1997). As a beginning clinician, André might express a greater need for structured, directive supervision compared to more experienced supervisees (Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Crethar, 1994). Because André self-disclosed his perception of emotion and how this relates to his identity as a male, his supervisor should include this in her conceptualization of André and how he approaches work with clients. Furthermore, this is a value that she might continue exploring with André in future supervision sessions if it could have an impact on his clinical work with clients. Multiple supervision models have recommended matching supervision to the supervisee’s therapeutic approach and cognitive and learning styles (e.g., level of cognitive complexity; Loganbill, Hardy, & Delworth, 1982; Stoltenberg, 1981), and Norcross and Halgin (1997) suggested beginning the supervisory relationship with a needs assessment to determine the supervisee’s unique needs, goals and preferences for supervision. Although tailoring can pose unique challenges for supervisors providing triadic or group supervision, individual differences such as supervisees’ level of experience, learning goals, gender and ethnicity can be taken into account in these formats.

Table 1

CFDM: Examples of DM Focus and Role Intersections and Common Factors Strategies (CFS)

Supervisor Roles (DM)
Supervision Focus Area (DM) and CFS




Intervention André reports that he is uncertain of how to perform a lethality assessment. André struggles to reflect feeling and meaning with clients. André is interested in using children’s books in session with elementary-aged children.
Common Factors Strategy: Supervisor teaches André the necessary steps of assessing for lethality, then the dyad engage in a role play in which the supervisee tests his new knowledge by performing a lethality assessment with the supervisee acting as the client.(Acquisition of New Knowledge and Skills) Supervisor asks André to reflect on the fact that he demonstrates empathy toward his clients while in supervision but struggles to show empathy by reflecting feeling and meaning in session.(Self-Exploration, Awareness, and Insight) Supervisor provides André with resources for using bibliotherapy in child counseling and offers to help the supervisee brainstorm methods for utilizing this intervention in counseling.(Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills)
Conceptualization André struggles to provide client with accurate diagnosis. André perceives himself as being an ineffective counselor because he has difficulty choosing interventions in session. André requests more information on client stages of change.
Common Factors Strategy: Supervisor and André practice diagnosing fictional clients using case studies from a DSM-5casebook. Supervisor then assigns André homework to practice completing a few case studies independently. Supervisor and André review and discuss André’s answers collaboratively during following supervision session.(Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills) Supervisor reflects supervisee’s feelings of inadequacy, offers encouragement, and normalizes the developmental challenges of supervisees. (Supervisory Relationship – Instillation of Hope and Raising of Expectations) Supervisor assists supervisee with locating information on client stages of change and discusses with supervisee the idea of conceptualizing client’s progress in counseling within the context of the client’s stage of change. (Acquisition of Knowledge of Skills)
Personalization André exhibits behaviors that resemble racial microaggressions. André’s performance anxiety causes him to appear distracted in session. André shares that a client reminds him of his deceased mother.
Common Factors Strategy: Supervisor reviews videotape of session with André and identifies an instance in which he exhibits a microaggression toward client. Supervisor gives André feedback on microaggressions and encourages André to engage in self-reflection on personal biases. (Provision of Feedback) Supervisor reflects André’s feelings of anxiety and asks André to reflect on how his anxiety may be affecting his work with clients. (Supervisory Relationship – The Real Relationship) Supervisor offers to help André process countertransference and communicates to André that he has handled the situation ethically and professionally by sharing with his supervisor his feelings of countertransference toward his client. (Supervisory Relationship and Provision of Feedback)

Practical Challenges and Limitations

Utilization of the CFDM might pose challenges that warrant discussion. For example, the CFDM might intensify the parallel process due to its similarities to the structures and processes of counseling. Moreover, CFDM’s parallels to counseling might blur the lines between supervision and counseling, making it important for supervisors to clearly delineate the role and functions of supervision. Thus, the CFDM endorses utilizing the Rogerian condition of genuineness to facilitate an open, collaborative discussion between the supervisor and supervisee when potentially problematic issues of parallel processing arise in supervision. Furthermore, the CFDM might be vulnerable to challenges in dual relationships, as the various discrimination model roles that the supervisor might assume could blur the lines between the supervisory relationship versus other relationships that the supervisor might have with the supervisee, such as that of instructor. Therefore, supervisors utilizing the CFDM are encouraged to have an open discussion with supervisees from the beginning of supervision concerning the purposes, limitations and boundaries of the supervisory relationship. Such conversations can be facilitated with the use of a professional disclosure statement that outlines the supervisor’s roles (Blackwell, Strohmer, Belcas, & Burton, 2002; Cobia & Boes, 2000).

Because the central tenet of the CFDM is the identified supervisory relationship, a potential challenge that is perhaps inherent in the CFDM is addressing weaknesses and ruptures in the supervisory relationship. The CFDM might also be challenging for supervisors or supervisees who inherently struggle to establish strong supervisory and therapeutic relationships. Supervisees who demonstrate limited ability to establish a strong therapeutic relationship might benefit from direct instruction on behavioral skills that facilitate the therapeutic relationship, such as reflections of feeling and meaning. Lampropoulos (2002) recommended that gatekeeping measures be implemented for students who consistently demonstrate deficiency in establishing a strong therapeutic relationship with clients. Finally, outcome research is indicated to examine the validity of applying common factors principles of psychotherapy to clinical supervision, as well as the empirical merit of an integrated common factors and discrimination model of supervision.


The supervision literature abounds with approaches for supervising counselors; however, there is little evidence that any one approach outperforms another. Common factors approaches to counseling and supervision draw on the components that are shared among models for a parsimonious approach that places emphasis on the factors that are essential in producing positive counseling and supervision outcomes. However, although such factors are necessary, they are not sufficient for yielding positive change. Therefore, Watkins and colleagues (2015) noted the necessity of applying the specific factors of some form of supervision to a common factors approach. We have responded to this call by presenting the CDFM, which integrates the specific factors of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model with the most common elements of counseling and supervision approaches: (a) the supervisory relationship, (b) supervisee acquisition of new knowledge and skills, (c) supervisee self-awareness and self-reflection, and (d) assessment of supervisees’ needs and the delivery of feedback according to the tenets of the discrimination model.

Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure

The authors reported no conflict of interest or funding contributions for the development of this manuscript.


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A. Elizabeth Crunk is a doctoral candidate at the University of Central Florida. Sejal M. Barden is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida. Correspondence can be addressed to Elizabeth Crunk, University of Central Florida, College of Education and Human Performance, Department of Child, Family, and Community Sciences, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., P.O. Box 161250, Orlando, FL 32816-1250,