Overview: Distinctiveness and Complexity
The adage “training shapes practice” describes the
work of most marriage and family supervisors.
this metaphor one step
d, most marriage and fam-
ily supervisors also believe that “theory shapes training.”
In terms of theory, the defining hallmark of marriage and
family supervision during its brief history has been a sys-
temic orientation (Smith, 1993).
Other distinguishing fea-
tures include a reliance on live forms of supervision, and
the viewing of ethical issues within larger familial, cul-
tural, and societal contexts (Smith, 1993).
The Complex Family System and Its Influence on
A family system is often described as constantly
evolving and self-regulating.
During counseling, systemic
change occurs via interactions among family members
and via interactions with other systems (e.g., the super-
visor, the counseling team, social service agencies, legal
systems, and others) (Pirrotta & Cecchin, 1988).
more, each client family can be understood as a special
group of people sharing a unique history, and featuring
unique operating rules and social behaviors.
For these reasons, marriage and family supervisees
face a particularly complex and powerfully dynamic
counseling situation in which they may experience a high
level of anxiety (Pirrotta & Cecchin, 1988).
used supervisory approaches, described below, may be
thought of as avenues to effectively manage both the com-
plexity and power of the family system, and any result-
Anxiety also may occur when supervisees face coun-
seling situations that parallel their own family back-
Typically, rather than helping supervisees re-
solve family of origin concerns, marriage and family su-
pervisors focus on helping supervisees develop clinical
skills (AAMFT, 1993).
Accepted practice among marriage
and family supervisors is to provide competency-based
supervision that is “clearly distinguishable from personal
psychotherapy” (AAMFT, 1993, p. 17).
speaks to the general belief that with a solid repertoire of
clinical goals and skills, supervisees can manage both their
own emotions and issues and those of the families they
Marriage and Family Supervisory Modalities