Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Social workers-Supervision of, Attachment behavior, Therapeutic alliance, Social workers-Psychology, Supervisors-Psychology, Attachment, Supervision, Working alliance


The present study explored the alliance between Masters in Social Work (MSW) student trainees and their clinical supervisors using the lens of attachment theory. The sample consisted of 95 participants: 77 trainees (81.9% White; 88.3% female) and 18 of their supervisors (100% White; 83.3% female). Trainees completed The Experiences in Close Relationships-Relationship Structures questionnaire (ECR-RS; Fraley, Heffernan, Vicary and Brumbaugh, 2011) to assess their attachments to their supervisors, as well as their perceptions of their supervisors' attachments to them. Supervisors completed The ECR-RS to assess their attachments to their trainees, as well as their perceptions of their trainees' attachments to them. Trainees and supervisors rated various aspects of their relationship using the Supervisory Working Alliance Inventory (SWAI; Efstation, Patton and Kardash, 1990). Relationships between attachment and the supervisory alliance were explored. Findings revealed that anxiety is a salient factor in trainees' and supervisors' evaluations of the working alliance; trainees' attachment anxiety, their perceptions of supervisors' attachment anxiety, and the supervisors' perceptions of the trainees' attachment anxiety were all negatively related to trainees' evaluations of the working alliance. Trainees' attachment avoidance also was related to their ratings of the working alliance. The present study provides evidence that trainees are particularly attuned to their perceptions of attachment anxiety in themselves and their supervisors. Supervisors and trainees may benefit from training and/or reflection regarding the connection between supervisees' attachment styles and the working alliance; recommendations for supervisors, trainees, and field offices are discussed.




iv, 110 p. : ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 54-58, 108-109)