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  • jane@northside

Comparison of the operational and developmental models of supervision

This summary article is an introductory comparison of supervision models. Models of clinical supervision generally fall within two areas; developmental and operational. Some models integrate both approaches (e.g. The Integrated Model) but for the moment, we will take a look at the developmental and operational models as separate and compare the two.

Developmental Models

Operational Models

Generally, developmental models focus on the supervisee's growth and progression through the different stages of competence.

Operational models focus on the day to day operational aspects of clinical practice such as decision making processes or contextual factors that impact on the supervisee's work.

A supervisee's skills develop over time as they become more experienced in their work with clients. Developmental models account for ongoing growth.

Operational models focus on strategies for delivering effective support for clients.

Developmental models are supervisee-centred in that the supervisor works with the supervisee in the current stage and then helps to facilitiate growth through directing or supporting the supervisee through their individual goals and challenges.

Operational models account for the broader system within which clinical practice sits. Clear contracting or access to clinical resources would fall under this.

Developmental models look at enhancing specific skills or knowledge for clinical practice and aim to support supervisees to build expertise, self-awareness and understanding.

​A typical supervision encounter may be exploring clinical scenarios, identifying the challenges and developing strategies to address them.

Through self-awareness, the supervisee deepens their understanding of what it means to be a therapist; their role and responsibilities.

Operational models may focus on decision making, analysis and problem solving skills.

Supervisees are encouraged to reflect on their work and practice.

Supervisees are encouraged to recognise contextual factors within the work e.g. ethical and cultural factors.

Supervisees take an active role in their own development as therapists/counsellors.

Supervisees expand their skills and knowledge through experiential working.

As you can see, there are some clear distinctions although there is also some blurring of boundaries or areas of cross-over.


Brand image for the Diploma in Supervision

Find out more about the different models of supervision, their uses, strengths and weaknesses on the Diploma in Supervision course. An online course taught over 4 weekends and starting in December 2023.


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