Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert L. Betz

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward Trembley

Third Advisor

Dr. Malcolm Robertson


How clinical supervisors manage empathy and empathy failure and its relationship to parallel process was explored by interviewing highly experienced doctoral level supervisors. Supervisor responses regarding their experiences in supervision with empathy and parallel process phenomena was examined in this study. This approach was grounded in psychodynamic theory regarding constructs of identification (countertransference, projective identification, introjective identification, parallel process and empathy).

A qualitative research design using the constant comparative method was employed. The sample of supervisors consisted of 10 male and 5 female, Caucasian psychologists, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years. Supervisors had a mean of 19 years of clinical supervision experience and identified psychodynamic theory as their primary theoretical orientation. Supervisor responses to the semi-structured interviews were analyzed using open and axial coding techniques.

Findings from the study primarily supported Searles’ (1952) and Hora’s (1957) view that parallel process can originate in therapy and can be reflected in supervision. Support was also found for Doehrman’s (1976) view, that parallel process can originate in supervision and can be reflected in therapy. Findings supported the proposed theoretical construction that unrecognized parallel process phenomena can be explained by empathy failure which results in countertransfeience or defensive collusion in therapy and/or supervision. The findings also suggest that female supervisors have greater capacities for empathic relating within the supervision relationship. Consequently, female supervisors were somewhat more effective in detecting certain forms of countertransference and parallel process.

Situations which lead to the development of empathic failures (unrecognized parallel process) were identified. Recommendations for supervisors were offered which detailed methods of preventing and/or reducing the negative effects of parallel process.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access