Title: Reflexive Team Supervision: questioning ‘by whose authority’
Authors: Philip Boxer & Dr Carole Eigen
Where published: Organizational and Social Dynamics
Consultants working in large complex systems face a daunting task. They must address the problem as presented by the client, but in the process they must access the larger organizational 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 the way this larger context shapes problematic behavior in its attempt to manage anxiety. The aim of the method is to discover how those problematic behaviors are driven by the way ’truth’ is being authorized. The shadow team challenges itself to question its own thinking and to experience its own tendency to manage anxiety through ignoring the painful issues and intractable resistance to movement exhibited by the consultant as she intervenes in the client system. The team offers a composite voice through the way it makes sense of its experience, accentuating the impossibility of the situation and making the dilemmas of the case visible as it exposes the lacunae in its own ways of thinking about what is going on. In this way the shadow team becomes a learning system with the consultant by making transparent its difficulties of shared thinking and collaborative hypothesis building.
The methodology of reflexive team supervision combines key elements of group relations conference dynamics and the practices of systemic shadow consultancy. The paper presents a case example of work with a single consultant within the UK’s National Health Service. The supervision design, consulting processes and client outcomes associated with the case are discussed and conclusions drawn about the nature of the anxieties confronted.