The utility of peer group supervision for psychologists in practice.
Peer group supervision has the potential to play an important role in the continuing professional development of practising psychologists, by providing a forum where practitioners can learn from each other in a supportive environment, while still maintaining their autonomy. However, research in the area is limited and theoretical conceptualisation around the topic is still at an elementary level. Therefore, one of the aims of this study was to evaluate the utility of peer group supervision for psychologists in practice. The second aim was to generate theory on the relationships between the various factors that play a role in determining the utility of peer group supervision and the mechanisms through which these factors operate. In order to achieve these aims, the research approach was exploratory and qualitative. The naturally occurring group processes of a single group of practising psychologists, who used a model of peer group supervision proposed by Akhurst (2000b), was the focus of this study. Five of their group sessions were audio-taped and transcribed to form the major data source. A brief questionnaire was also administered. A general analytical approach derived from grounded theory was used to analyse the data, with a particular focus on the processes and interactions within the group. Theoretical insights from the field of group dynamics were used to interpret and explain the findings generated from the analysis. The findings of this study suggest that peer group supervision has the potential to meet a number of the professional needs of practising psychologists and is therefore able to make a positive contribution to their professional development. A number of factors that mediate the potential utility of peer group supervision were identified. These factors include membership diversity, group developmental level, group orientation, facilitation style, interaction patterns and the use of structure. Plausible relationships between these factors were suggested, providing an initial picture of the complex interlocking web of factors that act on the group process to determine the utility of peer supervision groups. This understanding was used to suggest possible adaptations that may increase the utility of the model used to structure the group that participated in this study.