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Learning about Supervision Part 1

Supervision and Peer-Supervision in the mental health community

By Heather Corringham

Psychotherapy Healing Space and StrongStone Haven

In the world of mental-health practitioners we all understand the necessity of having a formal supervisor. An individual who has more experience and training than us, that can help navigate the murky water that is ethical integrity. Peer supervision on the other hand has been generally recognized as way to learn and receive feedback without the power imbalance inherent in supervision. As Alexandra Cross says, it is a “a rich source of learning for clinical trainees” (Cross, 2011).

In professional settings, formal supervision plays a vital role in supporting individuals to develop their skills, reflect on their practice, navigate challenges, continuous learning, skill development, and ethical practice. There is a clear power dynamic between supervisor and supervisee, with the supervisor taking on the professional accountability of the supervisee. If there is a question that the supervisee acted unethically, or a complaint made against the supervisee, their supervisor is also under scrutiny. Formal Supervisors in general are required to have a certain level of training, years of practice and the desire to become one. I understand that not everyone wishes to be a supervisor but you also cannot replace a formal supervisor with peer supervision.

While traditional supervision typically involves a hierarchical relationship between a supervisor and supervisee, an alternative approach gaining traction is peer supervision (Basa, 2019). Too often practitioners believe that peer-counselling is the work around to finding their own formal supervisor. Sometimes it’s because they do not want to do the work, or pay someone for their time or even don’t believe they need one. But, here at PHS we acknowledge the requirements from most, if not all, counselling associations (HKPCA, BPS, PACFA, ACA, CCPA). They require that each ethical therapist/counsellor/psychologist/psychiatrist must have a formal supervisor that you see regularly and if you do not then you cannot call yourself an ethical practitioner.

Peer supervision can be adapted to various professional contexts, including healthcare, education, social work, counselling, and more. It can be formalized within organizations, professional associations, or informal networks. The frequency and duration of sessions can be adjusted to meet the needs of the participants. The flexibility of peer supervision allows professionals to tailor the process to their specific requirements and preferences.


So, what is peer supervision?

It is a collaborative process where colleagues within the same profession come together to provide mutual support, guidance, and feedback (Benshoff 1992; Cross,2011). The group members take turns acting as both supervisors and supervisees, creating a reciprocal learning environment

Unlike supervision, where one person holds a position of authority, peer supervision encourages equal participation and shared responsibility among peers. Wagner and Smith (1979) note that peer supervision provides a safe and non-judgmental space for professionals to explore challenges, share experiences, and seek guidance from one another.

When done right, peer-supervision has the power to shape and support mental-health professionals who may be struggling or even in a rut. It brings together professionals with diverse perspectives and experiences. This diversity allows for a rich exchange of ideas, insights, and approaches to problem-solving. Wagner and Smith (1979) further this idea by stating that it has the ability to act as a model for teaching new skills have accountability partners who are able to empathise and understand their work.

Basa (2019) describes three forms of peer supervision that could be beneficial to include in your ethical practice. There is a Dyadic Peer supervision where two peers meet and alternate the role of supervisor. Next, we have Triadic Peer supervision where the peers meet in three’s and again alternate the role of Supervisor, usually alternating each session. Pulling on Lawson et al, (2009) Basa explains that the sessions could “[focus]on one supervisee each week…. [divide] the time equally between both supervisees each week or rotate within the session. In group supervision one usually sees 4-11 peers who “meet regularly as a group to give feedback and supervise each other” (Kassan, 2010, p.1). Responsibility is shared equally, peers are at similar levels in their career and they support each other but “do not depend on each other” (Basa, 2019).

Final thoughts

Peer Supervision is a wonderful addition to your self-reflection routine as it is able to leverage the collective wisdom and support of colleagues. Black et al (2003) explain that counsellors often accept the critique from someone they view as a peer as it is “less emotionally loaded”. By creating a safe and non-hierarchical space for reflection, feedback, and learning, peer supervision fosters self-awareness, skill development, and emotional support. Collaborative projects and joint learning endeavours can arise from these connections, leading to enhanced professional opportunities and innovation.

This being said, it is important to consider ethical considerations. Group members should establish guidelines to ensure confidentiality, respect for professional boundaries, and appropriate use of personal information shared within the group. Ethical considerations also include recognizing the limits of peer supervision and knowing when to seek additional support or guidance from formal supervision or other professional resources.

One final note that peer supervision should not replace formal supervision, nor professional guidance when necessary. It is an additional resource that complements existing support structures and provides a unique space for collaborative learning and growth among peers.

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Akhurst,J.E and Kelly,K (2006). Peer Group Supervision As An Adjunct To Individual Supervision Optimising Learning Processes During Psychologists Training. Psychology Teaching Review, 12, 1, 3-15


Basa, V. (2019). Peer supervision in the therapeutic field. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF COUNSELLING THEORY, RESEARCH AND PRACTICE, 3.

Black.P, Harrison.C, Lee.C, Marshall.B and Wiliam.D.(2003) Assessment For Learning: Putting It All Into Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press Benshoff, J.M (1992) Peer Consultation for Professional Counsellors. Ann Arbor, MI:ERIC/CASS

Cross, A. (2011). Self- and Peer-Assessment: the case of Peer Supervision in Counselling Psychology. Investigations in university teaching and learning, 7, 73-81. Retrieved from

Kassan, L. D. (2010). Peer Supervision Groups: How They Work and Why  You Need One. New York:  Jason Aronson Inc

Lawson, G., Hein, S. F., & Getz, H. (2009). A model for using triadic supervision in counsellor preparation programs. Counsellor Education and Supervision, 48: 257-270

Wagner, C. A., & Smith, J. P., Jr. (1979). Peer supervision: Toward more effective training. Counsellor Education and Supervision, 18: 288-293

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