Using Action Methods in Supervision with Couple’s Therapy
AFTA Conference 6/8/13
Paula Ochs MSW, LCSW & Jude Webster MSW, LCSW
Following is an outline of our presentation on using action
methods in supervision. Please contact Paula Ochs if you
have any questions or you are interested in receiving this
kind of supervision or learning how to do it.
Help supervisors become more effective working with therapists
who are counseling couples by incorporating action methods into
the supervisory process. The work is focused on the therapist
and her/his relationship to the clients, not on the clients.
Our work is based on Psychodrama, an interactive form of group
therapy which uses action in order to explore thoughts, feelings
and behavior; Movement Therapy, the psychotherapeutic use of
movement as a process which furthers the emotional, social,
cognitive and physical integration of the individual; and research
on Experiential Learning which support the idea that
incorporating the body and movement significantly enhances
learning in a number of ways.
The use of movement or action bypasses the conscious process
in the brain and works more directly with the unconscious
process allowing an alternative to the logical and linear way we
most frequently work, thereby allowing more possibilities when
we feel stuck.
When we use this approach with action, we choose to temporarily
give up speech as a way to communicate. By focusing on
movement and the body, we can shift from cognitive, linear
thinking, to a more intuitive and creative process.
Action enhances learning and experience by adding kinesthetic
and affective aspects to cognitive process. Action can tell us
more than words by showing us both conscious and unconscious
aspects of our thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs. Action
gives us an opportunity to explore more with our supervisees
because it gives us a better picture of relationships than words
Putting ideas into action and incorporating the body, helps us
move from “left brain” to “right brain” activity. The right side of
the brain is considered the more creative, intuitive part of the
brain. By moving from the cognitive, left side of the brain, we can
tap into more creative solutions with therapists and their clients
When we used this method in a group, we saw that movement
enhanced the therapist’s learning dramatically. The observing
group not only saw everything the therapist wanted to portray in
her presentation, they saw even more. Thoughts and feelings that
she had not yet been able to articulate came from the movement
and were transmitted to the group who then played them back to
her. It was a powerful sequence for the therapist and the group.
3. Demonstrate the process of supervision in action
a) Talk. The therapist first describes the work being done with
the couple. The therapist identifies the problem she/he is having
with the couple. This should be stated in one sentence. For
example: “I feel that we are going in circles.”
b) The supervisor asks the therapist to create a “sculpt” of
the couple without using words. Then the supervisor asks the
therapist to put her/himself into the sculpt. The sculpt can be
static or have movement. Care should be taken to include body
position, facial expression and gaze. The process should,
however, be spontaneous and come from the gut. Don’t let the
therapist over think!
c) The supervisor asks the therapist to describe her/his
experience. The therapist should answer through “I statements”
in the here and now. For example, “I’m feeling nauseous. I feel
anxious, like something bad is going to happen.”
d) The supervisor (and group) makes her/his own
observations about the therapist’s relationship to the couple.
For example: “You seem to let your clients push you around; you
don’t seem to be in charge of the session.”
e) The supervisor asks the therapist to create a new sculpt
with the couple remaining in the same position. The directive is
to create a new sculpt where the therapist feels more competent.
For example: “Now create a sculpt where you feel grounded and
relaxed with the couple. Don’t think, just do. You can try a few
different sculpts until you find one that works the best for you.”
f) The therapist does a new sculpt—the “solution” part of the
process. Again, the therapist does not speak.
g) The supervisor asks the therapist to speak using “I
statements” in the here and now. For example: “I feel in control
now. I feel settled.” The supervisor might move the therapist out
of the sculpt and put her/himself in the therapist’s place so the
therapist can see the solution. This is called the “mirror” position
h) When the sculpt is complete and the therapist has spoken
from the position in the sculpt, the supervisor can have the
therapist sit and move into a more cognitive place by processing
the experience more analytically.
1. Abbey, David et al. Variations on a Theme by Kolb: A New Perspective for
Understanding Counseling and Supervision. Counseling Psychologist, v13 n3 p
477-501 Jul 1985
2. Carter, P. D. (2010). Using action methods in post-graduate supervision.
International Journal of Education & the Arts
3. Burkard, A. W. et al. (2006) Supervisor’s Cultural Responsiveness and
Unresponsiveness in Cross-Cultural Supervision. Journal of Counseling
Psychology. 53(3), 288-301.
4. Carson, D. (1999). The Importance of Creativity in Family Therapy: A
Preliminary Consideration. The Family Journal. 7:36, 326-334.
Using Action Methods in Supervision
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