Melanie Harkins, Psy.D., is a 2020 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Roger L. Peterson, PhD, ABPP, Committee Chair
  • Lorraine Mangione, PhD, Committee Member
  • Barb Belcher-Timme, PsyD, Committee Member


Supervision, supervisee shame, supervisory relationship, professional development

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Shame inevitably arises for psychologists in training, as they are required to expose potential mistakes or oversights in their personal and professional selves (Hahn, 2001). However, studies show that shame impedes supervisee’s willingness to disclose information to the supervisor, especially regarding clinical difficulties (Ladany et al., 1996; Yourman, 2003) or concerns with professional competence (Ladany & Lehrman-Waterman, 1999). The presence of shame in supervision threatens the assumption of most supervision models: supervisees will willingly disclose pertinent information (Falender & Shafranske, 2004). Fortunately, strong supervisory relationships can buffer negative emotions and supervisors can encourage disclosures (Hess et al., 2008). Utilizing qualitative research methods, this study used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to examine the interviews of 8 psychologists who have experience supervising clinical and counseling psychology graduate students. The results provide common experiences that supervisors face when dealing with shame within supervision, how they recognize shame, how one might intervene, and what they did to help manage their own uncomfortable feelings. Seven superordinate themes emerged from the analysis: (a) learning how to supervise and manage shame, (b) the supervisory relationship is a protective factor, (c) factors that lead to shame in and out of the supervision room, (d) recognizing shame through nonverbal and verbal cues, (e) “We need to talk about it,” (f) shame can help and hinder growth, (g) feeling stuck. The author applies participants’ reactions to shame to Nathanson’s (1992) “Compass of Shame” theory and implications for supervisory practice are discussed.


Melanie Harkins

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-1358-9515