Core ideas and character

The core ideas of peer group supervision

Peer group supervision can be understood as structured case consultation by a self-organised group of employees, without a designated leader. This allows participants to systematically reflect on current cases from their work practice within an inspiring and safe space.

In peer group supervision, a group reflects on situations and challenges that individuals experience in their work practice. The structure of the consultation process allows each participant in turn to become a moderator in the whole process. The various perspectives and contributions of each group member are highly valuable to develop a meaningful range of solutions within the group.

In many occupational areas, peer group supervision empowers employees to effectively handle professional issues, to better cope with existing challenges, to develop result-driven behaviours, to strengthen cooperation and leadership, to make well-founded decisions, to reduce work strain, and to become more successful in business. This makes peer group supervision an attractive and powerful tool for skills, personnel and executive development with a focus on the professional practice. 

While the core ideas of peer group supervision might be evident, the successful implementation does not happen by no means automatically. Successful peer group supervision reaches its best potential with a supportive framework, committed participants, and a good group interaction within a cooperative, trustful, and friendly environment.

The approach is often called »peer group supervision«, even though it is actually about consultation among peers. In practice and in the literature, the terms »peer group consultation« and »intervision« are also common synonyms, and there are many concepts similar to peer group supervision, such as »reflective practice groups« or »professional co-development groups«.

We have decided to use the term »peer group supervision« because it is the most widely used. Here we discuss the question of terminology in depth.

Practical cases: What is currently important or challenging?

Peer group supervision focuses on current issues in the occupational practice of participants who are looking for solutions. Such issues can be situations, constellations or interactions which are experienced as difficult, complex, or confrontational and can be related to customers, clients, employees, managers, or colleagues. Furthermore, disappointing developments, failed plans, decision-making dilemmas, role conflicts, contradictory expectations or challenging forthcoming events are also addressed.

The range of case topics depicts the reality of the participants and therefore varies with their professional background.

  • I observe tensions between three employees and a fourth one. The three employees seem to be cutting off the fourth one and withhold important information. How can I effectively affect this situation as a manager?
  • I took over a project from another project manager where two stakeholders seem to have different opinions on goals and procedures. How can I sort this out and consolidate my position?
  • I have an important appointment to counsel a family client next week. How can I achieve that the family members engage themselves more in finding a solution to the problem?

The goal of peer group supervision is an empowerment of those who seek advice on reflective, goal-oriented, and meaningful actions. Participants gain a better understanding, more clarity and expand their scope of cognition, evaluation, and actions.

Anführungszeichen vor einem Zitat

The observer of a well-working peer group would be puzzled until she realized there was no one supervisor.

Brigid Proctor, a British author and clinical supervisor



The group: many minds, many ideas

The framework and tool for peer group supervision is the group. Practical cases are evaluated through various perspectives and experiences from multiple angles. The diverse perspectives substantially broaden the horizon to reflect on possible and valuable solutions.

A good number for a fruitful peer group supervision group is five to ten participants. Within this range, the method can develop its full potential and there will be enough opportunities for everyone to find solutions for their own practical cases.

To ensure a safe space to reflect on sensitive experiences, the group agrees on discretion regarding any case information or statements shared in the peer group. Participants keep an open, benevolent, and solution-oriented attitude to facilitate constructive and encouraging consultation processes for each other. Trust and confidentiality are essential requirements for peer group supervision.

The participation in peer group supervision should always be voluntary to make sure that everyone is willing to reflect and ready to bond with the group. Competition, tensions and hierarchies are not compatible with creative, constructive and critical dialogues in consultation processes that aim to offer new insights.

Systematics: keeping the group on the track to consultation

For a goal- and result-oriented peer group supervision, participants follow a methodological concept that defines the process and tasks for each participant in every single step. This makes skilled peer group supervision a genuine consultation experience.

In structured peer supervision, every group member is responsible for a certain task based on the individual assignment. One member is being consulted by the remaining group, while an assigned fellow is responsible for the moderation of the whole process. This structure allows for a joint and productive peer group supervision even for professionals with no or only little clinical supervision or consultation experiences.

Icon als Symbol für Selbststeuerung der Gruppe

A central feature of peer group supervision is the independence of external expertise. Participants design the consultation process autonomously according to the process flow. In this way, the group is responsible for a productive peer group supervision altogether.

Self-regulation: autonomous, cooperative, and coordinated

The assigned roles in peer group supervision alternate with every session. This allows for everyone to be consulted and to actively take part in supervising others. The skillset for peer group supervision lies within the participants. No one is being rewarded or compensated individually for their contribution in peer group supervision. 

The group is responsible for its own organisation and coordinated by its own members. There is no formal group leader. Group members make agreements on how often, for how long and where they meet (online or in-house). The peer group agrees on basic rules and principles to interact with each other and ensure their work ability.

Icon für kollegiale Beratung per Videokonferenz

The peer group can meet in-person at one location. Or live online via videoconference, with similar quality of the consulting process. They can also alternate both modes.

A space to reflect irrespective of the space: in-person or online

Peer group supervision can be successfully done in both delivery modes – online and in-person. A peer group may decide their operating mode depending on the preferences, opportunities, and local conditions of their members.

Online peer group supervision has been successfully implemented for over 20 years. Research findings and reports by participants indicate that the consultation processes and the performance of online peer group supervision are comparable to in-person settings. The online mode obviously requires awareness and adjustments. In return, online peer group supervision enables people to meet regardless of their location, saving travel time and costs.

Online peer group supervision can be combined with in-person sessions, or they can alternate. We offer qualifying in-person and online classes to help you to get the most out of each setting.

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