On the Presence and Absence of Supervisors

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The presence or absence of another person, and the relationship between these two contradictory and complementary relational phenomena, significantly influence people’s emotional experiences and developmental processes. These phenomena are often intertwined and in continuous dialectic with each other, thereby creating relational paradoxes in infant-parent, patient-therapist, and supervisee-supervisor relationships. Similar to other relational paradoxes, those created in supervision by supervisors’ intermittent presence, cannot and should not be resolved, but have to be comprehended and accepted by both partners, preferably through negotiating their meanings. Negotiations help supervisees to contain contradictory supervisory realities, to internalize integrated aspects of their supervisors, and to include other identification figures, thereby creating durable and resilient “internal supervisors” that mold their clinical analytic selves. Negotiations of these paradoxes also help supervisors to renounce an omnipotent and potentially destructive fantasy of being ever-present for their supervisees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-415
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychoanalysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis.


  • clinicians’ development
  • negotiation
  • presence-absence
  • relational paradoxes
  • supervisory space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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