On Supervisees’ Sense of Agency and Safety

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To be alive and maintain an analytic stance amid transference–countertransference challenges, therapists need to experience both agency and safety. Their sense of safety increases when they connect with their internal analytic community’s representations and their sense of agency increases when they disengage from these representations. When therapists maintain the dialectical tension between these positions, they can choose a third position, to move between connecting and disengaging from the internal representations, in tune with the clinical context. Supervisors help their supervisees to contain this dialectical tension by manifesting their own sense of safety and agency when taking responsibility for their failures to understand the supervisees’ and the patients’ experiences. Furthermore, supervisors help foster the supervisees’ agency and safety separately. They help foster agency by finding autonomous and spontaneous solutions to clinical issues and help foster safety by drawing on the analytic community’s knowledge, to anchor the supervisees’ intuitive discoveries in a conceptual network, and clarify and stabilize the reality and boundaries in supervised therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-43
Number of pages17
JournalPsychoanalytic Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Agency
  • analytic community
  • professional self
  • safety
  • supervision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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