Deutsch: Paralleler Prozess / Español: Proceso paralelo / Português: Processo paralelo / Français: Processus parallèle / Italiano: Processo parallelo

Parallel Process in the context of psychology refers to a phenomenon observed primarily within psychotherapy and counseling, but it can also be seen in other relational dynamics such as supervision, mentoring, and organizational behavior. It describes a situation where patterns of behavior, communication, or emotional responses are mirrored or replicated in a separate but related context. In therapeutic settings, this often manifests when dynamics from the client-therapist relationship are unconsciously repeated or enacted in the relationship between the therapist and their supervisor or consultant.


The concept of parallel process is rooted in psychodynamic theory, where it is understood as a reflection of the deeper, often unconscious processes occurring within individuals as they interact with others. For example, a therapist might experience feelings of frustration with a client who is resistant to change. If the therapist then brings this issue to supervision, they might find their supervisor responding with similar frustration or resistance to the therapist's ideas, thereby mirroring the original client-therapist dynamic.

Parallel processes can offer valuable insights into the underlying issues of the therapy or supervision relationship, acting as a diagnostic tool to uncover hidden resistances, transference, or countertransference issues. Recognizing and addressing these mirrored dynamics can facilitate a deeper understanding and resolution of the issues at hand.

Application Areas

Parallel process is relevant in several psychology-related areas:

  • Psychotherapy and Counseling: Therapists use awareness of parallel processes to enhance their understanding of client dynamics and to improve therapeutic outcomes.
  • Supervision and Training: Supervisors and trainees can identify and explore parallel processes to deepen the supervisory relationship and to address challenges in clinical work.
  • Organizational Psychology: Understanding parallel processes can help in diagnosing and addressing organizational dynamics, leadership issues, and team interactions.

Well-Known Examples

A classic example of a parallel process might involve a therapist working with a client who feels undervalued and ignored in their personal relationships. If the therapist then feels undervalued or ignored by their supervisor during supervision, this might indicate a parallel process at play. Exploring this dynamic can help both the therapist and the supervisor gain insights into the therapeutic and supervisory relationships.

Treatment and Risks

While parallel process is not a condition that requires treatment in the traditional sense, recognizing and addressing it is crucial for effective therapy and supervision. The main risk associated with unrecognized parallel processes is the potential for perpetuating unhelpful dynamics, which can hinder progress in therapy or supervision. Interventions might include reflective practice, discussion of the dynamics within supervision, and ongoing professional development to enhance self-awareness and relational skills.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Reflective practice
  • Mirroring in therapeutic relationships


Parallel process is a phenomenon in psychology where behaviors, emotions, or dynamics from one relationship are unconsciously replicated in another, particularly in therapeutic and supervisory contexts. Recognizing and exploring these parallel dynamics can provide deep insights into the relationships involved, facilitating growth, understanding, and more effective interaction patterns among individuals.


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