Supervisory Styles Inventory (SSI)

The Supervisory Styles Inventory (SSI) is a 25 item scale which measures the interpersonal or relational aspects of supervisors as perceived by supervisees. The SSI is completed by a supervisee to rate their perceptions of their supervisor’s style based on three subscales: Attractive, Interpersonally Sensitive, and Task-Oriented. This scale can be useful to start a discussion around the preferences a supervisee has for their supervision. 

In addition to being used to rate the supervisor’s style, the scale can be useful during the initial stages of a supervisory relationship to ask the supervisee about their preferences of how they would like supervision to be (as opposed to how supervision actually is). The process of asking for the supervisee’s preferred style before supervision starts can be helpful so the supervisor can tailor their style in accordance to the supervisee’s preferences. In addition, if the scale is administered again during the course of supervision the supervisor can assess the consistency of the supervisee’s preferences versus their experience of supervision. 

In addition, the supervisor may choose to use this scale to self-assess by self rating their supervisory style and compare the results to the perception of the supervisee. 

The SSI has been used in assessing the supervisory relationship with regards to supervisee satisfaction (Fernando & Hulse-Killacky, 2005; Nelson & Friedlander, 2001), the impact of gender and supervisory style on supervisee satisfaction (Rarick & Ladany, 2013), and supervisory style related to perceptions of satisfaction with individual, triadic, and group supervision (Newgent & Davis, 2003).

The style of the supervisor is related to a supervisee’s perception of satisfaction with their supervision as all subscales of the SSI are highly correlated with supervisory satisfaction (Bussey, 2015).  The strongest correlation was that of attractiveness and satisfaction (r=.79) suggesting that a friendly, warm, and supportive supervisor is highly desirable for supervisees in their early stages of development (Bussey, 2015).

Psychometric Properties

Derived from research identifying relationship and relational aspects as an important part of successful supervision, Friedlander and Ward (1984) identified dimensions of supervisory style that were consistent among supervisors and supervisees. Through content analyses of transcribed interviews, a number of items were developed and then assigned a category based on applicability to supervisor or supervisee. The most stable items were kept for use in the instrument, and they found the three underlying constructs (attractive, interpersonally sensitive, task-oriented). 

Herbert and Ward (1995) found the SSI to have internal consistency reliabilities of .93 (Attractiveness), .91 (Interpersonally Sensitive), and .92 (Task-oriented). Test-retest reliabilities are .92 (Friedlander & Ward, 1984) suggesting that the instrument is consistent over time and with various populations.

Research by Bussey (2015) obtained norms from 90 supervisees who were recently graduated or enrolled in a mental health / school counselling program, and their mean subscale scores (and standard deviations) were:

  • Attractive: 6.24 (1.02)
  • Interpersonally Sensitive: 6.05 (1.08)
  • Task-Oriented: 5.57 (1.16)

Note the original version of the SSI had eight items that did not correspond to the above factors, so they have been excluded from the scale on NovoPsych. In addition, the instructions have been modified to ask that at least five questions be rated as average or below, which helps reduce ceiling effects. 

Scoring and Interpretation 

The SSI has three subscales:

  • Attractive (items 11, 12, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25): refers to a supervisor who is warm, friendly, supportive, and trust-worthy.
  • Interpersonally Sensitive (items 2, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20, 21, 22): refers to attributes such as committed to the relationship, resourceful, and perceptive.
  • Task-Oriented (items 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16): refers to the attributes such as practical, concrete, evaluative, and focused. 

Higher scores in each subscale indicate supervisee’s / supervisor’s perception of that particular supervisory style. The SSI is scored on a seven point Likert scale. The attractiveness scale has seven questions which are summed and then divided by seven. Interpersonally sensitive scale has eight questions which are summed and divided by eight, and the task oriented scale has 10 questions which are summed and divided by 10. 

The instructions of the scale asked that at least five questions were marked as average or below, which helps the scale discriminate which of the three supervision styles are most and least endorsed. Noting the pattern of the highest and lowest subscale scores can help a supervisor understand the supervisee perceptions, and adjust supervision if appropriate. 

If the scores on all subscales are consistently high (above 6) it may indicate one of the following:

  1. The supervisee is extremely happy with the supervision
  2. The supervisee did not critically examine the nature of the supervisory relationship
  3. The supervisee does not feel comfortable providing critical feedback to the supervisor


Friedlander, M., & Ward, L. (1984). Development and validation of the Supervisory Styles Inventory. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31, 541–557.


Bussey, L. E. (2015). The Supervisory Relationship: How Style and Working Alliance Relate to Satisfaction among Cyber and Face-to-Face Supervisees.  PhD thesis, University of Tennessee, 2015. 

Fernando, D. M., & Hulse‐Killacky, D. (2005). The relationship of supervisory styles to satisfaction with supervision and the perceived self‐efficacy of master’s‐level counseling students. Counselor Education and Supervision, 44, 293-304.


Herbert, J. T., & Ward, T. J. (1995). Confirmatory factor analysis of the supervisory style inventory and the revised supervision questionnaire. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 38, 334-339.


Nelson, M., & Friedlander, M. L. (2001). A close look at conflictual supervisory relationships: The trainees’s perspective.Journal of Counseling Psychology,48, 384-395. 


Newgent, R. A., Davis, H., & Farley, R. C. (2004). Perceptions of individual, triadic, and group models of supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 23, 65-79. doi: 10.1300/J001v23n02_05


Rarick, S. L., & Ladany, N. (2012). The relationship of supervisor and trainee gender match and gender attitude match to supervisory style and the supervisory working alliance. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 13,138-144. doi: 10.1080/14733145.2012.732592