Supervising Via Distance Technology

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


The use of distance technology has quickly moved from a convenience to a necessity. Distance technology, especially among the digital generation, has become a primary mode of learning and interacting. Anthropologists have always known that if they want to effectively understand and communicate with other tribes and cultures, they need to learn the basics of the other’s language and acquire some fluency. In the field of psychotherapy, the promise and the possibilities of telesupervision, teaching and learning have evolved over the years from a static hierarchical one-way flow of information to a dynamic collaborative exploration.

  • The increased popularity and utilization of TeleMental Health has, as expected, introduced supervision to new technologies and new ways of communication between supervisees and supervisors.
  • Every major organization of mental health professionals has legal and ethical guidelines for utilizing distance technology with clients. These guidelines and their focus on privacy and security are equally applied to TeleMental Health treatments, as well as to telesupersivion, also called E-Supervision.
  • Collaborative models of supervision, such as the Balint model, are increasingly being effectively adapted to distance technology.
    Web-based tools such as virtual rooms, Social Bookmarking e-Portfolio, and in-house virtual portfolios have enhanced exploration, learning and collaboration among professors, supervisors and graduate and post-graduate students.
  • A review of professional journals finds that the number of articles addressing telesupervision has significantly grown in the last couple of decades.
  • The preponderance of research shows that in-person and web-based supervision are equally effective in terms of outcomes.
  • Telesupervision allows greater inter-cultural communication. This is especially important as psychotherapists have increasingly realized the limitations of psychotherapy research and assumptions that have been normed on White Euro-populations.
  • Telesupervision requires having clear discussions about expectations and responsibilities, an understanding of confidentiality and privacy issues concerning information electronically transmitted, discussion of the advantages of telesupervision such as greater scheduling flexibility, and a reduction of isolation.
  • Online peer supervision groups have increasingly proven effective in improving supervisees’ conceptualization ability, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.
  • Telesupervision combined with occasional face-to-face interaction–a so-called hybrid model–appears to elicit more satisfaction and better results than either face-to-face or telesupervision alone.
  • The numbers of students studying abroad or in remote areas increases each year. Telesupervision is especially important for students studying abroad or in rural areas in improving outcomes and reducing isolation.
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