School of Applied Human Sciences

PhD research tackles perceptions and experiences of clinical supervision in South Africa

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Dr Shariefa Hendricks

Written up as four self-contained studies, the findings highlight the lack of training in supervision in South Africa, especially for supervisors based at public hospitals and Higher Education Institutions. ‘The issues relating to perceptions of competence, confidence and insufficient preparation for supervisory duties found in one of the studies, underscore the need to prioritise and regulate supervision training in South Africa,’ said Hendricks.

Her research also examined Psychology supervisees’ experiences of negative supervision. ‘“Harmful” supervision emerged as part of a negative relational cycle which revolves around “a dance of insecurity” that is enacted through cycles of domination and submission. Supervisors engaged in a power struggle with trainees, and were described as overly critical and hostile, with poor interpersonal skills, engaged in unethical behaviour and were uninvested in supervision, resulting in the breakdown of the supervisory alliance,’ explained Hendricks.

According to her supervisor, Professor Duncan Cartwright, the research has important implications for supervision policy and training. Given the relative paucity of published work on clinical supervision in South Africa, it makes a substantial contribution to the field. One of Hendricks’ examiners commended her for the ‘thoroughness of the dissertation, in particular the theoretical basis and foundation for the series of investigations, the general quality of the research methods and analyses, and the quality of writing.’

Highlights of her PhD journey included publication of a paper from her dissertation in the South African Journal of Psychology, and an invitation to present her research findings at an international conference hosted by the Society for Psychotherapy in Amsterdam last year.

Hendricks said that she could not have completed the study without her participants, the unwavering support of her supervisor and the understanding and sense of balance provided by her family. She dedicated her PhD to her mother and late father, AK Hendricks.

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