Influence and Vulnerability in Psychoanalytic Supervision and Treatment

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Abstract

This article suggests that struggles regarding personal influence are critical to understanding the supervisory process and the process of change in psychoanalytic treatment. By the nature of their role, supervisors and therapists seek to influence. Yet, they also fear having undue influence. Patients and supervisees, although seeking influence and help, are also wary of the vulnerability to another individual that such influence may entail. The essential question addressed in this article is how the kind of personal influence that patients and supervisees want and need—and also fear—can be enabled, given the conflicts about influence of all parties in the process. It is suggested that a process of reciprocal vulnerability to being influenced, in both the treatment and supervisory relationships, enables an atmosphere of safety and the possibility of having an impact in return. Examples from clinical supervision illustrate these points.

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