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Miller, L., Twomey, J.E. (1999). A Parallel Without a Process: A Relational View of a Supervisory Experience. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35:557-580.

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(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):557-580

A Parallel Without a Process: A Relational View of a Supervisory Experience

Linda Miller, M.S.W., LICSW and Jean E. Twomey, Ph.D.

PARALLEL PROCESS has long been considered a prominent concept in psychodynamic supervision. Its identification and use in the supervisory process has been thought by many to be valuable in promoting the understanding of the treatment under supervision. Theorists have begun to examine the supervisory situation from a perspective that incorporates some of the current relational thinking about the clinical encounter. There is a growing appreciation of the influence of the particular supervisor and the larger relational context on the supervision and understanding of the supervised treatments. The phenomenon known as parallel process, however, has not received much scrutiny in light of these newer perspectives. We believe that the concept is no longer a useful one, and cannot be maintained once a careful and detailed analysis of the supervisory exchange is undertaken.

Clinicians increasingly appreciate the complex relational aspects of such basic psychoanalytic concepts as transference, countertransference, and projective identification, giving detailed attention to the ways in which an individual's internal world is continually shaped and known through his interpersonal experiences, both past and present. Many therapists are less confident than in the past about their ability to stand outside of the clinical exchange and make objective observations about the patient or the therapeutic relationship. They are attempting to incorporate an awareness of the role of their own subjectivity, as it affects what they see, what it may mean, and how it influences the therapy as it evolves.

The concept of parallel process as a supervisory phenomenon is closely related to those of transference, countertransference, and projective identification.


The authors would like to thank Deborah J. Woodford, Ph.D. for her careful reading and valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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