Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 993–1004 | Cite as

Supervisory Alliance: Key to Positive Alliances and Outcomes in Home-based Parenting Support?

  • Marieke de GreefEmail author
  • Marc J. M. H. Delsing
  • Bryce D. McLeod
  • Huub M. Pijnenburg
  • Ron H. J. Scholte
  • Judith van Vugt
  • Marion J. C. van Hattum
Original Paper



This study investigated whether the supervisory alliance between professionals and supervisors contributes to strong client-professional alliances and positive outcomes of home-based parenting support provided by youth care organizations.


Multi-informant self-report supervisory alliance, alliance, and outcome data from 124 parents (M age = 39.83 years, SD = 6.98), professionals (n = 84, M age = 43.66 years, SD = 10.46), and supervisors (n = 26, M age = 47.18 years, SD = 8.28) collected early and late in care were analyzed using structural equation modeling.


A stronger professional-reported supervisory alliance was related to a stronger professional-reported alliance early in care (β = 0.27, p < 0.01), and predicted higher levels of parent-reported satisfaction with care (β = 0.19, p < .05; β = 0.25, p < 0.01), and professional-reported satisfaction with care (β = 0.21, p < 0.01). A stronger supervisory alliance reported by supervisors predicted parent-reported improvement in parent functioning (β = 0.26, p < 0.05), and higher levels of professional-reported satisfaction with care (β = 0.19, p < 0.05; β = .14, p < 0.05). Finally, effects of professional-reported supervisory alliance on professional-reported satisfaction with care were mediated through higher levels of professional-reported alliance (β = 0.06, p < 0.05; β = .07, p < 0.05).


A strong supervisory alliance may relate to strong alliances and positive outcomes of home-based parenting support. Future research needs to identify factors that contribute to strong supervisory alliances and explain linkages between the supervisory alliance, the alliance, and outcomes.


Alliance Parent Professional Supervisor Parenting support Youth care 



We thank all participating parents, professionals, supervisors, and youth care organizations for their contribution and constructive collaboration. We also thank colleagues and students who have assisted in data collection and data entry.

Author Contributions

M.G.: designed and executed the study, collaborated with the data analyses, and wrote the manuscript. M.J.M.H.D.: analyzed the data and collaborated in the writing of the manuscript. BDM: collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. H.M.P. and R.H.J.S.: collaborated with the design and writing of the manuscript. J.V.: collaborated with the execution of the study and writing of the manuscript. M.J.C.H.: collaborated with the design and writing of the manuscript.


This work was supported by ZonMw (grant number 729101013), participating youth care organizations, province of Noord-Brabant, and HAN University of Applied Sciences. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The research was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Radboud University) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all parents included in the study. Directors of participating organizations provided active consent for their organization to participate in the study, and organized active participation of professionals and supervisors providing home-based parenting support.


  1. Accurso, E. C., Taylor, R. M., & Garland, A. F. (2011). Evidence-based practices addressed in community-based children’s mental health clinical supervision. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 5, 88–96. Scholar
  2. Alexander, L. B., & Luborsky, L. (1986). The Penn Helping Alliance Scales. In L. S. Greenberg & W. M. Pinsof (Eds.), The psychotherapeutic process: A research handbook (pp. 325–366). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  3. Anglin, J. (1999). The uniqueness of child and youth care: A personal perspective. Child & Youth Care Forum, 28, 143–150. Scholar
  4. Bambling, M., & King, R. (2014). Supervisor social skill and supervision outcome. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 14, 256–262. Scholar
  5. Bambling, M., King, R., Raue, P., Schweitzer, R., & Lambert, W. (2006). Clinical supervision: Its influence on client-rated working alliance and client symptom reduction in the brief treatment of major depression. Psychotherapy Research, 16, 317–331. Scholar
  6. Barth, R. P., Landsverk, J., Chamberlain, P., Reid, J. B., Rolls, J. A., Hurlburt, M. S., et al. (2005). Parent-training programs in child welfare services: Planning for a more evidence-based approach to serving biological parents. Research on Social Work Practice, 15, 353–371. Scholar
  7. Bodden, D. H. M., & Dekovic, M. (2016). Multiproblem families referred to youth mental health: What's in a name? Family Process, 55, 31–47. Scholar
  8. Bonnet, M., Goossens, F. A., & Schuengel, C. (2011). Parental strategies and trajectories of peer victimization in 4 to 5 year olds. Journal of School Psychology, 49, 385–398. Scholar
  9. Bordin, E. S. (1983). A working alliance model of supervision. The Counseling Psychologist, 11, 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carpenter, J., Webb, C. M., & Bostock, L. (2013). The surprisingly weak evidence base for supervision: Findings from a systematic review of research in child welfare practice (2000-2012). Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 1843–1853. Scholar
  11. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). In-home Services in Child Welfare. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Scholar
  12. De Greef, M., McLeod, B. D., Scholte, R. H. J., Delsing, M. J. M. H., Pijnenburg, H. M., & Van Hattum, M. J. C. (2018). Predictive value of parent-professional alliance for outcomes of home-based parenting support. Child & Youth Care Forum, 47, 881–895. Scholar
  13. DePue, M. K., Lambie, G. W., Liu, R., & Gonzalez, J. (2016). Investigating supervisory relationships and therapeutic alliances using structural equation modeling. Counselor Education & Supervision, 55, 263–277. Scholar
  14. Fjermestad, K. W., Lerner, M. D., McLeod, B. D., Wergeland, G. J. H., Heiervang, E. R.,Silverman, W. K., et al. (2016). Therapist-youth agreement on alliance change predicts long-term outcome in CBT for anxiety disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57, 625–632. Scholar
  15. Forrester, D. (2017). Outcomes in children’s social care. Journal of Children’s Services, 12, 144–157. Scholar
  16. Friedlander, M. L. (2015). Use of relational strategies to repair alliance ruptures: How responsive supervisors train responsive psychotherapists. Psychotherapy, 52, 174–179. Scholar
  17. Ganske, K. H., Gnilka, P. B., Ashby, J. S., & Rice, K. G. (2015). The relationship between counseling trainee perfectionism and the working alliance with supervisor and client. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93, 14–24. Scholar
  18. Glisson, C., & Green, P. (2011). Organizational climate, services, and outcomes in child welfare systems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35, 582–591. Scholar
  19. Granic, I., Otten, R., Blokland, K., Solomon, T., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Ferguson, B. (2012). Maternal depression mediates the link between therapeutic alliance and improvements in adolescent externalizing behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 880–885. Scholar
  20. Hatcher, R. L. (1999). Therapists’ views of treatment alliance and collaboration in therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 9, 405–423. Scholar
  21. Hatcher, R. L., & Gillaspy, J. A. (2006). Development and validation of a revised short version of the working alliance inventory. Psychotherapy Research, 16, 12–25. Scholar
  22. Horvath, A. O., Del, Re,A. C., Flückiger, C., & Symonds, D. (2011). Alliance in individual psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 48, 9–16. Scholar
  23. Horwath, J. (2016). The toxic duo: The neglected practitioner and a parent who fails to meet the needs of their child. British Journal of Social Work, 46, 1602–1616. Scholar
  24. Hukkelberg, S. S., & Ogden, T. (2016). The short Working Alliance Inventory in parent training: Factor structure and longitudinal invariance. Psychotherapy Research, 26, 719–726. Scholar
  25. Jurrius, K., Havinga, L., & Stams, G. J. (2008). Exit-Vragenlijst Jeugdzorg. Amsterdam: Stichting Alexander.Google Scholar
  26. Kadushin, A., & Harkness, D. (2002). Supervision in Social Work. 4th edn. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Keeley, M. L., Geffken, G. R., Ricketts, E., McNamara, J. P. H., & Storch, E. A. (2011). The therapeutic alliance in the cognitive behavioral treatment of pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25, 855–863. Scholar
  28. Killian, M., Forrester, D., Westlake, D., & Antonopoulou, P. (2017). Validity of the Working Alliance Inventory within child protection services. Research on Social Work Practice, 27, 704–715. Scholar
  29. Lange, A. M. C., Van der Rijken, R. E. A., Delsing, M. J. M. H., Busschbach, J. J. V., Van Horn, J. E., & Scholte, R. H. J. (2017). Alliance and adherence in a systemic therapy. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 22, 148–154. Scholar
  30. Lewis, C. C., Scott, K. E., & Hendricks, K. E. (2014). A model and guide for evaluating supervision outcomes in cognitive-behavioral therapy-focused training programs. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 8, 165–173. Scholar
  31. Locke, J., Violante, S., Pullmann, M. D., Kerns, S. E. U., Jungbluth, N., & Dorsey, S. (2018). Agreement and discrepancy between supervisor and clinician alliance: Associations with clinicians’ perceptions of psychological climate and emotional exhaustion. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 45, 505–517. Scholar
  32. Maas, C. J. M., & Hox, J. J. (2005). Sufficient sample sizes for multilevel modeling. Methodology, 1, 86–92. Scholar
  33. MacKinnon, D. P., Lockwood, C. M., Hoffman, J. M., West, S. G., & Sheets, V. (2002). A comparison of methods to test mediation and other intervening variable effects. Psychological Methods, 7, 83–104. Scholar
  34. McLeod, B. D. (2011). Relation of the alliance with outcomes in youth psychotherapy: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 603–616. Scholar
  35. McLeod, B. D., & Weisz, J. R. (2005). The Therapy Process Observational Coding System-Alliance Scale: Measure characteristics and prediction of outcome in usual clinical practice. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 323–333. Scholar
  36. McWey, L. M., Holtrop, K., Stevenson Wojciak, A., & Claridge, A. M. (2015). Retention in a parenting intervention among parents involved with the child welfare system. Journal of Child and family Studies, 24, 1073–1087. Scholar
  37. Mor Barak, M. E., Travis, D. J., Pyun, H., & Xie, B. (2009). The impact of supervision on worker outcomes: A meta-analysis. Social Service Review, 83, 3–32. Scholar
  38. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2012). Mplus user’s guide. 7th edn, Los Angeles: Author. 1998-.Google Scholar
  39. Muthén, B., & Satorra, A. (1995). Complex sample data in structural equation modeling. In P. V. Marsden (Ed.), Sociological Methodology (pp. 267–316). Oxford, England: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  40. Norcross, J. C. (2010). The therapeutic relationship. In B. L. Duncan, S. D. Miller, B. E. Wampold & M. A. Hubble (Eds.), The heart and soul of change. Delivering what works in therapy (pp. 113–141). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Palomo, M., Beinart, H., & Cooper, M. J. (2010). Development and validation of the supervisory relationship questionnaire (SRQ) in UK trainee clinical psychologists. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49, 131–149. Scholar
  42. Patton, M. J., & Kivlighan, D. M. (1997). Relevance of the supervisory alliance to the counseling alliance and to treatment adherence in counselor training. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 108–115. Scholar
  43. Pearce, N., Beinart, H., Clohessy, S., & Cooper, M. (2013). Development and validation of the supervisory relationship measure: A self-report questionnaire for use with supervisors. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 52, 249–268. Scholar
  44. Pijnenburg, H. M. (2010). Zorgen dat het werkt. In H. M. Pijnenburg (Ed.), Zorgen dat het werkt: Werkzame factoren in de zorg voor jeugd (pp. 11–59). Amsterdam: SWP.Google Scholar
  45. Schweitzer, R. D., & Witham, M. (2017). The supervisory alliance: Comparison of measures and implications for a supervision toolkit. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 18, 71–78. Scholar
  46. Southam-Gerow, M. A., & Kendall, P. C. (2016). Supervising a manual-based treatment program: Experiences from university-based and community-based clinics. In T. K. O’Neill (Ed.), Helping others help children: Clinical supervision of child psychotherapy (pp. 123–126). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  47. Staudt, M. (2007). Treatment engagement with caregivers of at-risk children: Gaps in research and conceptualization. Journal of Child and family Studies, 16, 183–196. Scholar
  48. Stichting Alexander. (2008). Pilot Exit-vragenlijst jeugdzorg – zorgaanbieders. Procesbeschrijving, evaluatie en aanpassing. Amsterdam: Stichting Alexander.Google Scholar
  49. Stinckens, N., Ulburghs, A., & Claes, L. (2009). De werkalliantie als sleutelelement in het therapiegebeuren. Tijdschrift Klinische Psychologie, 39, 44–60.Google Scholar
  50. Tracey, T. J., & Kokotovic, A. M. (1989). Factor structure of the Working Alliance Inventory. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1, 207–210. Scholar
  51. Veerman, J. W., & De Meyer, R. E. (2015). Consistency of outcomes of home-based family treatment in The Netherlands as an indicator of effectiveness. Children and Youth Services Review, 59, 113–119. Scholar
  52. Watkins, C. E. (2014). The supervisory alliance: A half century of theory, practice, and research in critical perspective. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 68, 19–55. Scholar
  53. White, J. (2007). Knowing, doing and being in context: A praxis-oriented approach to child and youth care. Child & Youth Care Forum, 36, 225–244. Scholar
  54. Whittaker, K. A., & Cowley, S. (2012). An effective programme is not enough: A review of factors associated with poor attendance and engagement with parenting support programmes. Children & Society, 26, 138–149. Scholar
  55. Wilkins, D., Forrester, D., & Grant, L. (2017). What happens in child and family social work supervision? Child and Family Social Work, 22, 942–951. Scholar
  56. Wilkins, D., Lynch, A., & Antonopoulou, V. (2018). A golden thread? The relationship between supervision, practice, and family engagement in child and family social work. Child & Family Social Work, 23, 494–503. Scholar
  57. Williams, N. J., & Glisson, C. (2014). Testing a theory of organizational culture, climate and youth outcomes in child welfare systems: A United States national study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38, 757–767. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Centre for Social Support and Community CareHAN University of Applied SciencesNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.PraktikonNijmegenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUnited States
  5. 5.HAN University of Applied SciencesNijmegenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.TranzoTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Combinatie JeugdzorgEindhovenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations