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Burck, C. & Daniel, G. (Eds.) (2010) Mirrors and Refl ections: Processes of

Systemic Supervision. London: Karnac Ged Smith

The latest in the Karnac “Systemic Thinking

and Practice” series, edited by Burck and Daniel, you just know this is going to be good. And of course it is, with many innovative contributions to the theory and practice of systemic supervision. Many books and articles on similar themes have emerged in recent times within the systemic literature, and indeed Context had a special edition on this very topic for the fi rst time in August 2011. Notwithstanding this however, this book is full of rich new ideas and possibilities which all supervisors and supervisees/trainees will fi nd enormously useful. The editors’ hope is to bring to the

fore the emotional experiences of live supervision, our visceral responses, and the resultant intimacy and intensity. Supervision, like therapy, is an emotionally powerful experience and yet the intensity of it has received insuffi cient attention within the systemic fi eld until now. This book closely examines the question of how supervision works, what the isomorphisms with therapy are, and the links between psychodynamic and systemic supervision, with liberal doses of post-modern theory throughout. It is divided into four sections; Evolving Theories, Group Processes, Power and Diversity, Agency and Professional Contexts. There are many familiar names here, but welcome contributions from others less well-known, including supervisors from as far afi eld as Malta and Slovenia. And interestingly, the chapters are not all written by single authors/supervisors, but there are three multiple-authored chapters which, as the editors explain, allows for more relational and egalitarian explorations of the supervision processes than is often found in supervisor-authored accounts. Boston’s chapter concerns what she

calls the Three Faces of Supervision, citing the Greek goddess Hecate as a metaphor. These three positions are; supporting the students’ development, attending to group

Context February 2012

processes, and the evaluative aspect of the professional gatekeeper. She draws on Lang/Maturana’s domains of aesthetics, explanation and production, which were welcome reminders for me of old KCC training, and gives a dramatic example of a husband who reveals his ownership of a gun which, despite being a threatening disclosure, is dealt with in a less-than- alarmed way by the supervisee. The supervisory discussions that follows around safety and clinical responsibility are handled with great skill, as is the very interesting account of one supervisee’s intense emotional reaction to clinical material, and the contested positions of what is and is not off limits in refl ections with regard to, among other things, professional accountability. It is good to see Burnham restating his familiar teachings on Kolb and Schön, as he explores refl exivity and isomorphism. He speaks of his supervisee’s gulp while, in the next chapter by Spellman and Smith, their supervisees gasp (This book is certainly full of emotion and visceral reactions to supervisory situations and conversations). They deconstruct “emotion discourses” that position therapists, supervisors and clients, and explain clearly how, in their work as supervisors, they link stuckness to emotional responses in supervisees’ lives or minds. In a later section Dutta also focuses on emotions and “inner conversations”, asking what happens when a supervisee dislikes her client, providing examples of responses to this situation. There are four Group Processes chapters, including Gwyn Daniel et al. on supervisor failure – a refreshingly open account, from both supervisor and supervisees, of the processes and refl ections from all perspectives. Burck writes on “group relational-refl exivity”, which is all but ignored in the systemic literature. She writes very helpfully of processes in systemic- supervision groups, of keeping the family’s clinical interests at the heart of the matter,

while attending to the impact of the family on the therapist and on the group, as well as the impact of the supervision group on the family. These group processes are crucial for,

as Burck informs us, there is anecdotal evidence that a number of family therapists experienced chronic and unresolved diffi cult relationships in their supervision groups during their training. She off ers ideas about resolving diffi culties in the group, and reminds us that supervisees can also be trusted to move things on without the supervisor. The Power and Diversity section includes

Ayo’s small research study, showing that open talk of racialisation and the power of the supervisor help make race and culture central in the supervisory and therapeutic relationships. Within a context of collaboration and transparency, this is required to avoid supervisees’ experiences remaining “inside their head”. Bond takes this up with her account of working in a mental health agency in inner London, which she identifies as institutionally racist. Maltese supervisors Abela and Sammut

Scerri point out how much of our systemic ideas about boundaries are from the Anglo-American literature, which is not universal. Somewhat provocatively, she gives an example of providing supervision in the supervisor’s home, and asks; “What would happen if the supervisee gets tipsy and fl irts” with a colleague? As she explores this, it reminds me of two weeks I spent in Lapland/Scandinavia where communities were so small and intensive that family therapy teams had no choice but to see families which sometimes included their hairdresser or their children’s teachers, for example. There is so much more in this book but limited space means you will just have to buy it to see what other riches lie within, and I’m sure it is a purchase you will not regret.


Burck, C. & Daniel, G. (Eds.) (2010) Mirrors and Refl ections: Processes of Systemic Supervision. London: Karnac

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