What is it about?

Nine experienced postdoctoral psychodynamic supervisors were interviewed and asked to describe their general thoughts about parallel process in clinical supervision and to give a case example of bottom-up parallel process (PP; PP started in the therapeutic relationship and was enacted in the supervisory relationship). Consensual Qualitative Research methods (CQR) were used to analyze de-identified transcripts of the interviews. A general pattern emerged from the analysis of the supervisors’ reports that typically started with a precipitating event. Then generally (across all cases), the clients behaved unusually in session, therapists “got hooked” by this change, therapists enacted the client’s behavior in supervision, supervisors “got hooked,” supervisors reflected on their reactions and intervened in a different way, which led to mostly positive and some neutral outcomes for the supervisors, therapists/supervisees, and the clients.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

There are few empirical investigations of parallel process. This systematic qualitative study makes a significant contribution to the literature through its examination of common occurrences across nine examples of bottom-up parallel process. We found evidence for an 8-step pattern that typically starts with a precipitating event (e.g., therapist is leaving practicum site) and then generally follows this pattern: client behaves unusually, therapist/supervisee "gets hooked," therapist/supervisee enacts client behavior in supervision, supervisor "gets hooked," supervisor reflects, and supervisor intervenes, resulting in generally positive and some neutral outcomes. These results will help supervisors identify and respond to bottom-up parallel process in supervision. Results will also inform future research on the topic.


This investigation led to consistent and meaningful observations of how supervisors identify, reflect on, and respond to parallel process that starts in the therapeutic relationship and is enacted in the supervisory relationship. The paper includes a illustrative case that exemplifies the results. There is plenty of "food for thought," that may be used by supervisors to enhance their understanding of parallel process and to consider various ways of using their own capacity to identify, reflect on, and intervene in a manner that supports supervisee development and promotes client welfare.

Heidi Zetzer
University of California Santa Barbara

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Parallel process in psychodynamic supervision: The supervisor’s perspective., Psychotherapy, June 2020, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pst0000274.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page