How to Self Reflect

Why is it important to self-reflect and how will it improve my general practice in the art therapeutic mindset?

Reflecting helps me to develop my skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as I have always done them. It is about questioning, in a positive way, what I do and why I do it and then deciding whether there is a better, or more efficient, way of doing it in the future.

“If you coached a session once a week for a year without self-reflecting, you have essentially delivered the same session 52 times, as without reflection you have no development of your sessions”  Martin McCann, Performance Paddlesport.

A good friend of mine Martin who is a world-class paddlesport instructor for the Irish Surf Squad told me this on a course and it has stuck with me ever since. he was essentially saying to us that without any form of self-reflection you would never develop your sessions, this was a good moment to realize that without self-reflection you couldn’t grow personally and professionally.

Reflection is an important part of learning. Thinking about my own skills can help me identify changes I might need to make in my Sessions.

Self-reflecting helps me tailor my sessions to better suit the client and further deepen the therapeutic relationship, this is achieved by reflecting on my sessions, what went well? what didn’t go well? what worked? what didn’t? what could I change? what could I add in? 

Other Reasons it is beneficial to self-reflect:

  • Self-reflection helps to build emotional self-awareness. By taking the time to ask myself the important questions, I gain a better understanding of my emotions, strengths, weaknesses and driving factors. Once I understand the important aspects of the myself, I can become better able to adapt to changing situations and tough circumstances.
  • Integrity increases when I take time to reflect on core values. Having a clear understanding of what values I deem most important puts them at the forefront of My mind and strengthens my decisions.
  • Our lives often become a cycle of doing/producing where we try to maximize productivity and minimize time spent. When we are always acting and moving from one thing to the next we sometimes forget to stop and think. Taking time to think allows for new ideas to emerge and counters the risk of becoming stagnant. New ideas and continuous change, no matter what your situation, is necessary.

Reflecting on myself and the sessions can raise questions in myself that in turn would make my sessions better and my overall thinking behind these more attuned to the sessions flow and clients needs, questions may arise.


Reflecting trees at Lough Macrory, Philippa McAleer

Things to look at when self-reflecting

I love the idea of the Q.U.I.C.K model of self-reflection. I became aware of this model through an online book Rethink, Rebuild, Rebound: A Framework for Shared Responsibility and Accountability in Education (2nd Edition) and the associated R3Workbook, published by Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. This book was found through the University’s Resources on the student portal, while not all relevant there was a few key chapters in which I found a lot of reflective practice information which I liked.

The quick model was one of these which I adapted to suit an art therapy environment:-

Q…..Question yourself (what went well? what didn’t go as well? what would I change?)

U…..Understand how to get to develop your sessions for the client’s needs

I…..Inquire of others (client & peer).

C.….Complete honesty, always.

K…..Keep a journal (jot down your reflections and responses for future use).

“There is an unlimited number of ways to reflect; some are very structured, while others can be completely unstructured. There is also an unlimited number of settings for self-reflection. Choose the one that best fits you. ” This quotation from the aforementioned literature was particularly important to me, while there are a lot of ways to do this it is ultimately my decision the way in how I will do this.

my main learning points from this are:-

  • Ask yourself poignant questions on what happened today and how the session went. what was good, bad or indifferent understand how to use reflective practice to develop a session based on clients needs and interactions.
  • Inquire of others who witnessed your performance, this can be peer related during my placement or a simple asking a client how did you think we did today? anything you particularly like or dislike?
  • Complete honesty in my personal reflection (be uncomfortably truthful) is essential.
  • Keep a journal. It need not be elaborate or extensive. It provides me with an opportunity to reflect on my sessions and progress.

I believe reflective practice can help improve quality of learning, in the form of critical analysis, understanding my own learning process, creativity, improve professional development, better writing skills and striving to give clients the best possible sessions I can. 

I believe this process will help me go a long way into making me a better Art Therapist and be able to adapt, improve and overcome any obstacles I face in my sessions but also my daily life, and a necessary part of my career development.

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