Supervision in teams that know each others clients has both advantages and disadvantages, as often in supervision you are attending not to the client ‘out there’ but to how the client has entered into the intrapsychic life of the supervisee. For example:

In a residential home where a staff member, Jane, was exploring her profound irritation with one of the difficult boys called Robert, the other members of the team all piled in with their ways of handling Robert. The supervisor had to work very hard to reopen the space for Jane to explore what it was that Robert triggered in her, who he reminded her of, and to help her generate more options for herself. He created this space by pointing out to the team that the Robert she was struggling with could almost be thought of as a different Robert from the Roberts they were each relating to. This was true on two counts: first, Robert was a very fragmented and manipulative boy who would present quite differently to each staff member; second, every staff member was differently affected by him, depending on their own personality, history and ways of reacting.
It was crucial in this case that Jane’s space was protected or she would have quickly become the staff member seen as the one who couldn’t cope with Robert and been covertly elected to carry the helpless aspects of Robert and of the team working with him. By letting the team flood her with good ideas for dealing with this boy, the Supervision would have colluded with intensifying the split within the team and hence in Robert. Certainly after having worked with the feelings of helplessness in Jane and helping her to understand and generate more creative options for herself, it was then possible to return to the team and explore their differing experiences and views of the boy, so that the fragmented feelings that had been scattered throughout the team could gradually he put together.




Hawkins, P. and Shohet, R. (2000). Supervision in the helping professions: An individual, group and organizational approach. Second Edition. Buckingham: Open University Press. pp.136-137