Reflexive Team Supervision: questioning ‘by whose authority’

Title: Reflexive Team Supervision: questioning ‘by whose authority’
Author: Boxer, P.J. & Eigen, C.A.
Category: Working
Publication Year: 2003
Where Published: OPUS Conference, London

Consultants working in large complex systems, for example the NHS, face a daunting task. They must address the problem as presented, but in the process of so doing, they must also address the context in relation to which the problem is inevitably symptomatic. Reflexive team supervision is a method in which a shadow consultancy team enables the consultant to engage with these issues by utilising the way s/he functions in relation to the consultant-client system. The shadow team challenges itself to question its own thinking and to experience its own tendency to avoid anxiety through ignoring the painful issues and intractable resistance to movement exhibited by the consultant as s/he intervenes in the client system. It offers a composite voice through its circular questioning, paradoxical intervention and systemic hypotheses. As a result, the impossibility of the situation is accentuated and the dilemmas of the case are made visible as it exposes the lacunae in its own ways of thinking and knowing that which is to be taken as being true. The shadow team, in making its difficulties of large system thinking and hypothesis building transparent in this way, thereby makes its learning available for use by the consultant. The methodology of reflexive team supervision combines key elements of working conference dynamics and the practices of systemic shadow consultancy to explore the ways in which problems experienced in the client system are being authorized. The paper presents a case example of work with a single consultant over a 9 month period of time. The supervision design, consulting processes and client outcomes associated with the case are discussed and conclusions drawn.

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