Conflicts between student and supervisor can occur for a number of reasons and impact on each person’s experience of the clinical placement.

Potential conflict areas to watch out for:

(i)    differences in theoretical orientation and beliefs about effective interventions

(ii)   differences in supervisory style (e.g. too little supervision, a lack of positive reinforcement, the absence of constructive criticism or little opportunity to observe one’s supervisor actually doing the work)

(iii)  personality differences that interfere with the supervisory relationship or situations in which there are varying perceptions of the relationship

(iv)  conflict when trainees are unsure of supervisory expectations

(v)   a mismatch between student-supervisor expectations

(vi)  when students receive conflicting messages about expectations

Adapted from Moskowitz and Rupert, 1983, & Olk and Friedlander, 1992, cited in Giddings, Vodde, & Cleveland, 2008

Tools for dealing with conflict

It is an important area to address early so that placements are a successful part of the clinical journey. Please refer to the ‘managing difficult situations’ section of the website for strategies to deal with conflict resolution.

Further information regarding Managing Difficult Situations can be found here.

Moving on from conflict can be difficult as we often get stuck in our own thoughts, beliefs and opinions.  It is worth considering the ‘Positions of Perception’ when addressing a conflict.  What am I feeling or doing that may impact on the other person?  How might the other person feel?  How might this impact on the team/organisation/client?

 positions of perception


Consideration of the three positions of perception can help resolve a conflict by removing the ‘you versus me versus them’. Understanding all positions can lead to a focus on the fourth position of perception, creating a sense of the whole system and how to achieve the goal.



Giddings, M., Vodde, R., & Cleveland, P. (2004). Examining Student-Field Instructor Problems in Practicum, The Clinical Supervisor, 22(2), 191-214.

Hoag, J. (2013). NLP Perceptual positions. Retrieved from NLP Training, coaching, therapy:


Reflection Activity: Conflict Resolution

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