Supervision is a key feature of professional development in a wide range of professions. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, in its ‘Statement on approval of training schemes for basic specialist training for the MRCPsych’ (available on request from the Postgraduate Educational Services Department of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 17 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PG) dictates that each basic specialist trainee should have a “protected hour per week” with his or her educational supervisor. This time should belong “exclusively” to the trainee and be “for the benefit of the trainee”. The Higher Specialist Training Handbook (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1998) also emphasises the central importance of supervision as part of higher training for specialist registrars. Training consultants are expected to be “readily available” to trainees, and to provide a “regular, weekly, timetabled supervision session”. Supervision is obviously perceived by those responsible for standard-setting in psychiatry as a key activity. However, there is a marked lack of clarity as to what constitutes good and effective supervision and there are often few opportunities for learning how to supervise. Hayes (1996) writes about research supervision but his comments are equally applicable to other forms of supervision. He suggests that quality supervision, where it exists, is often by accident rather than by design. It is likely to have been acquired experientially and not without some past hurt to either supervisor or supervised or both. He argues that too much attention has been paid to the quality control of supervision and not enough to quality assurance, with insufficient attention paid to all the possible roles of a supervisor and the key personal attributes necessary to fulfil these roles.