On the Presence and Absence of Supervisors

Abstract

The presence or absence of another person, and the relationship between these two contradictory and complementary relational phenomena, significantly influence people’s emotional experiences and developmental processes. These phenomena are often intertwined and in continuous dialectic with each other, thereby creating relational paradoxes in infant-parent, patient-therapist, and supervisee-supervisor relationships. Similar to other relational paradoxes, those created in supervision by supervisors’ intermittent presence, cannot and should not be resolved, but have to be comprehended and accepted by both partners, preferably through negotiating their meanings. Negotiations help supervisees to contain contradictory supervisory realities, to internalize integrated aspects of their supervisors, and to include other identification figures, thereby creating durable and resilient “internal supervisors” that mold their clinical analytic selves. Negotiations of these paradoxes also help supervisors to renounce an omnipotent and potentially destructive fantasy of being ever-present for their supervisees.

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Correspondence to Hanoch Yerushalmi.

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Hanoch Yerushalmi, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and a professor emeritus at the Department of Community Mental Health of the University of Haifa, Israel.

Address correspondence to: Hanoch Yerushalmi, Ph.D., Professor emeritus, Department of Community Mental Health, University of Haifa, 48a Eder Street, 3475293, Haifa, Israel. Email: hyerush1@gmail.com

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Yerushalmi, H. On the Presence and Absence of Supervisors. Am J Psychoanal 79, 398–415 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-019-09207-0

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Keywords

  • supervisory space
  • presence-absence
  • clinicians’ development
  • relational paradoxes
  • negotiation