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Theories and models of professional supervision and developing policies


This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: This page has been quality assured for 2023 as per our Quality Assurance policy.

For this assessment criterion, you will be required to critically evaluate theories and models of professional supervision to help inform practice. A selection of these are explored below.


Cognitive-behavioural supervision


This model of professional supervision is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT is a talking therapy that aims to help individuals identify the links between their thought processes and behaviours and how ‘faulty’ negative thinking and behaviours can affect their life and work. It works by challenging any ‘faulty’ thinking so that the individual can replace them with a more realistic and positive outlook.


For example, an individual with anorexia may be under the false belief that they are fat, which results in the behaviour of them not eating enough. A CBT therapist would help them to break down these beliefs and ascertain if they are helpful or unhelpful before supporting the individual to find solutions to change their way of thinking.

Professional supervision based on CBT uses similar techniques and structure to a CBT therapy session, including:

  • Setting an agenda
  • ‘Bridging’ from previous sessions
  • Assigning homework to the supervisee
  • Capsule summaries by the supervisor

The following papers discuss models of Cognitive-behavioural supervision in more detail:


In the context of supervision, CBT may be used by the supervisor to help supervises frame (in their mind) any issues they have and discuss how they may be able to solve them themselves. The supervisor would offer their own knowledge and experience and may set ‘homework’ for the supervise to perform some research or reflect on the issue. The next session would begin with a discussion of the homework.


This method of supervision is usually used in clinical professions and the supervisor acts as both mentor and counsellor to the supervisee. This means that the supervisor may need additional training to be able to use these techniques effectively. It would also require the supervisee to ‘buy in‘ to the process.

Integrated Developmental Model


The Integrated Development Model (IDM) is underpinned by over 25 years of research and is extensively taught and applied in clinical settings.

IDM is used to assess and track the supervisee’s progress over three levels (novice, intermediate and expert) and is focused on three areas of development; self-awareness, motivation and autonomy. The supervisor’s role is to support the supervisee to traverse these levels.


For example, a novice supervisee will have lower levels of self-awareness but this will increase as they develop. Similarly, autonomy will increase with each level. With regards to motivation, a novice supervisee will usually have high levels, which will then dip at the intermediate level and rise again at the expert level.

A useful guide to the IDM, along with the supervisor’s role at each level can be found here (Stoltenberg & McNeil, 2010). For more in-depth information about this model, the authors have published a book about the subject.


Although this model is backed up by a lot of evidence, critics argue that it is overly complex and has a steep learning curve.

Systems Approach to Supervision


Holloway’s System’s Approach to supervision focuses on the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee, with six further dimensions arising from it. These dimensions are the supervisor, the supervisee, the client, the organisation, the supervisor functions and the learning tasks.

This approach is detailed in Holloway’s book, Supervision Essentials for a Systems Approach to Supervision, however, the first chapter is available here for free and provides a good introduction to the model.


Assessment Criteria

Learners critically evaluate theories and models of professional supervision to help inform practice, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioural supervision
  • Integrated Development Model
  • Systems Approach to Supervision
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