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Exploring Systems Concepts in a Supervision Context

Understanding systems concepts is essential for efficient supervision in the field of psychology. The ability to identify complicated relationships within a system is a skill that trainees can develop with the support of their supervisors. The essay will explain three systems concepts—circular causality, feedback, and equifinality—and examine how they play out in supervision. The paper will also include examples of each idea and suggest techniques to aid learners in developing systemic thinking abilities.

Systems Concepts in a Supervision Context

Circular Causality

The idea of circular causality states that events inside a system interact and influence one another rather than being caused and affected in a straight path. Circular causality in supervision recognizes that actions and reactions occur within an ongoing feedback loop (Kelledy & Lyons, 2019). When a trainee’s assessment of a client’s behavior affects their later contacts, this illustrates circular causality in supervision. Consider a trainer who takes a client’s resistance as a sign of defiance and then reacts by asserting themselves further; the client, however, interprets this as aggressiveness and puts up more resistance. By recasting the client’s conduct as a response to the trainee’s response, a supervisor can aid the trainee in understanding circular causality. Recognizing this interaction allows the trainee to change their approach and focus on exploration and curiosity, resulting in a more beneficial therapeutic connection.


Feedback is sharing information within a system to alter or control its operation. It involves positive and negative feedback, which maintains stability or promotes change. Positive feedback amplifies and reinforces current patterns. For trainees to advance professionally under supervision, feedback is crucial. Take a trainer, for instance, who has trouble relating to clients on an emotional level (Avortri et al., 2019). When giving feedback, the supervisor should point out occasions where the trainee successfully showed sympathetic understanding and any areas that require development. Such a feedback loop enables the student to modify their therapy approaches and improve their empathy, eventually improving client outcomes.


Equifinality states that various initial circumstances can produce comparable results in a system. The concept recognizes that there are various approaches to get an inevitable outcome. Equifinality serves as a gentle reminder to trainees during supervision that there is no one “best” method to respond to client issues (Avortri et al., 2019). Consider a situation where several trainees work with families dealing with similar issues, including communication problems. Despite using various therapy strategies, they all produce beneficial results. Thus, by encouraging trainees to consider additional tactics and innovative treatments that fit with their particular therapy approach and the needs of the families, the supervisor can reinforce the idea of equifinality.

Helping Trainees Learn Systemic Thinking

Supervisors can use various techniques to assist trainees in learning systemic thinking. They may first expose them to systems theory, emphasizing how intricate and linked human systems are. Readings, case studies, and debates can be used to accomplish this. Second, supervisors can encourage trainees to engage in reflective practice by urging them to consider their presumptions, prejudices, and values that may affect their interventions. Such promotes self-awareness and enables students to understand their place in the therapeutic system. Supervisors can also assist trainees in creating thorough case conceptualizations that consider systemic aspects; this entails investigating the circumstances, ties, and patterns causing client problems.


Effective supervision in psychology requires an understanding of systems concepts and the development of systemic thinking abilities. Supervisors and trainees can gain essential insights into the complexity of therapeutic systems by using the principles of circular causation, feedback, and equifinality. Supervisors can assist trainees in developing into more knowledgeable and adaptive practitioners in their future jobs by incorporating these ideas into supervision, boosting trainees’ systemic thinking abilities, and encouraging a more comprehensive viewpoint.


Avortri, G. S., Nabukalu, J. B., & Nabyonga-Orem, J. (2019). Supportive supervision to improve service delivery in low-income countries: Is there a conceptual problem or a strategy problem? BMJ global health4(Suppl 9), e001151.

Kelledy, L., & Lyons, B. (2019). Circular causality in family systems theory. Encyclopedia of couple and family therapy, 431-434.


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