A qualitative investigation of psychologists' perceptions of unresolved negative process in supervision

Laurie A. Costigan (2006)

This research project is a phenomenological investigation of psychologists' perceptions regarding the experience of unresolved negative process in supervision during their training. Unresolved negative process is defined as a rupture or strain in the relationship, conflict or resistance, negative patterns of interaction or transference issues that were never resolved between supervisors and supervisees. Through retrospective interviews with licensed psychologists, this project has examined subjects' perceptions of their experience with regard to the personal and professional impact it had on them at the time and the impact, if any on their present work. A qualitative phenomenological methodology of analyzing narrative data was explicated. The major findings were: (a) subjects identified significant impacts with regard to personal and emotional functioning within and outside of the setting at the time of the experience; (b) subjects reported no significant impact on their clinical work or academic learning at the time; (c) subjects reported positive long term impacts, pertaining to their present role as supervisors; (d) all but one subject reported having come to a sense of personal resolution over time; (e) several subjects reported that dynamics within the training setting contributed to negative process in supervision. The implications for these findings were discussed in relation to the reviewed literature. This project filled a gap in the literature, providing further knowledge and understanding regarding both the immediate and long-term impact of unresolved negative process on the supervisory relationship and the supervisee's personal process. The results have implications for the training of supervisors with respect to the dynamics of negative process and its resolution within the supervisory working alliance.