Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Eric Sauer

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathryn Lewis-Ginebaugh


supervision, supervisory working alliance, qualitative, bond, supervisory relationship, interpretative phenomenological analysis


The current study explores the bond aspect of the supervisory working alliance through the lens of relational-cultural theory (RCT). Previous research posits a quality supervisory relationship is important for effective supervision and clinical outcomes. The Supervisory Working Alliance (SWA; Bordin, 1983) is a pan-theoretical model for the growth process in supervision including (a) mutual agreement on goals for supervision, (b) mutual agreement on associated tasks for accomplishing the goals, and (c) the emotional bond in the supervisory relationship. The process for mutual agreement of goals and tasks seems clear, the bond aspect of the SWA seems less clear. Research concerning supervisees’ perspectives on quality supervisory relationships describes supervisor behaviors or demeanor, leaving gaps in the literature for a clear description of the bond aspect of the SWA. The primary purpose of the current study is to add a clearer description of the bond aspect of the SWA by exploring strongly bonded supervisory relationships from supervisees’ perspectives through the lens of RCT. RCT is a counseling theory that posits growth and change happen through connection with others (Jordan, 2010).

The current study utilizes an interpretative phenomenological analysis method of qualitative inquiry (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Participants included nine pre-doctoral interns from accredited university counseling centers who acknowledged having a previous or current strongly bonded supervisory relationship and received multicultural training in their program or internship site. Participants provided two interviews either face-to-face or over Zoom video conferencing. Analysis resulted in discovery of six themes: Intimacy in the Supervisory Relationship, Supervisor Guided Supervisee Development, Cultural Attunement, Supervisor Way of Engaging, Supervisor Integrity, and Positive Outcomes.

Intimacy in the Supervisory Relationship was discovered as a core theme as it set strongly bonded supervisory relationships apart from other supervisory relationships. It is possible Intimacy in the Supervisory Relationship is the difference between strongly bonded and “good” supervisory relationships. The results also support RCT as a potentially effective approach to supervision due to the overlap between the themes of this study, descriptions of quality supervisory relationships in the literature, and core theory tenets. Finally, the results reflected and extended research that suggests the importance of supervisors’ multicultural competence in quality supervision. Results of the current study suggest direct and on-going multicultural dialogue initiated by the supervisor is additive to strongly bonded supervisory relationships, and in some instances, integral to the initiation of the strong bond. The findings of the current study have particular relevance for the practice of supervision and the training of future supervisors. The results of the current study suggest the importance for supervisors and supervisors-in-training to have strong relational skills, and on-going development of multicultural competence—specifically, quality skills for initiating and maintaining multicultural dialogue. Quality supervisory experiences support supervision outcomes, which are vital for producing quality clinicians and quality clinical outcomes. Adding clarity to the bond aspect of the supervisory working alliance increases opportunities for quality supervision and clinical outcomes.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access