The Effects of Clinical Supervision on Supervisees and Patients in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Systematic Review

All students who train to be psychotherapists receive clinical supervision from senior psychotherapists. Typically, therapist students record their patient sessions which the supervisor then reviews and provides feedback on. This procedure has been seen as an elemental and essential part of therapist training and is regulated by professional or governmental bodies in most countries. There are however several models for clinical supervision and it may be provided in many different forms and contain different features. In order to determine whether and what forms of clinical supervision has proven to be effective, we made a systematic review of all published scientific papers that empirically evaluated the effects of clinical supervision in psychotherapy.

We found only five published studies that investigated the effects of clinical supervision in psychotherapy and of these, only one could unambiguously show that clinical supervision resulted in increased clinical competence among supervised psychotherapists. The four remaining studies had some methodological shortcomings that made the results more uncertain. Surprisingly few studies have evaluated the value of clinical supervision and it is today unclear how supervision should be conducted in order to be effective. It does seem however that clinical supervision can potentially be provided via online video link and through bug-in-the-eye technology. In conclusion, there is virtually no high quality empirical evaluations of clinical supervision and none of the guidelines or recommendations regarding supervision features hav been assessed properly. There is in other words a continued need for well designed empirical studies on the effects of supervision if we want to conduct evidence based supervision.

Read the full paper: Alfonsson, S., Parling, T., Spännargård, Å., Andersson, G., & Lundgren, T. (in press). The effects of clinical supervision on supervisees and patients in cognitive behavioral therapy: a systematic reviewCognitive Behaviour Therapy. doi:10.1080/16506073.2017.1369559

Sven Alfsson


Photo by: Tim Evanson

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