In most professions, reflective practice is the process of reflecting on professional experiences that occur in the job, and learning from them.
It’s also about the approach to the job and being able to see where improvements can be made. This applies to counselling, where reflective practice can support the counsellor’s continued professional development. It works through an understanding of client behaviours and the counsellor’s own behaviour, and how they can apply their reflections to improve their skills.
Why do counsellors need to be reflective practitioners?
To be proficient as a counsellor it’s necessary to reflect and identify where working methods can be changed for the better. Counselling can be a stressful and emotional job, and reflection helps to clarify issues and improve the effectiveness of client sessions.
Knowing your own limits
Sometimes a counsellor has to say no, if they are faced with a case they feel they can’t deal with, for whatever reason. Saying no is not a sign of weakness, and understanding this as the counsellor is essential. We can’t always deal with everything and counsellors are human too. The professional solution is to refer the client to someone else.
Keeping your personal experiences separate
Reflection in this area means the counsellor should never discuss their personal experiences with a client, no matter how similar they may be to a situation being described. The ability to reflect on a client’s experiences and remain emotionally detached, is essential. Comparing a client’s experiences to their own, could mean that they are biased when they give advice, instead of remaining neutral.
Avoiding burn out
Being able to examine a working environment and identify areas of pressure, is essential. Taking a break is important. A counsellor may hear some shocking things from their clients, and being able to separate work and home life is essential.
Counsellors work in many different situations, each bringing their own challenges. Being self-employed and having the responsibility of running a business, requires a lot of organisation, but working for a practice, as part of a team, brings different kinds of pressure. Finding the right work environment will alleviate some day-to-day stresses.
A client wants to see results when they undergo counselling. Of course, they need to understand things may not change immediately and could take months or even years. If not even small changes are observed, the client is likely to feel there is no progress and they are not benefitting from counselling.
A counsellor needs to meet certain professional standards, and being a reflective practitioner helps to ensure that this happens. When standards are not met, problems can occur, resulting in client dissatisfaction.
Reflective practice encourages the growth and development of the counsellor. It assists them with learning from and improving their counselling skills, so they do their job in the best possible way.
How to be a reflective practitioner of counselling
To be a successful reflective practitioner, the counsellor has to be able to identify where changes can or can’t be made, based on their experiences working with clients. They need to be able to extract what works well in client sessions and use it to further their skills as a counsellor.
The counsellor also needs to be able to reflect on what hasn’t worked (as not every method will be successful with every client). This can be difficult, because accepting that something doesn’t work and needs to change, can be demotivating. A successful reflective practitioner will see the positive benefits of change.
Client feedback is also an important factor in counselling reflection. A client is the greatest supplier of information, in terms of how things are working. The skill of obtaining this feedback is very delicate in the counselling sphere, as the counsellor should not show weakness to the client. This feedback can be obtained subconsciously from the client, by questioning how they feel the sessions are going.
Some example questions are:
- In what way do you feel you are benefitting from your counselling sessions?
- Is there anything you would like to change about the way we chat?
- Is there anything you feel uncomfortable talking about?
These questions have to be asked in a sensitive manner, and perhaps only sporadically, so the client does not feel they are under pressure. Once the counsellor has the answers they need, they can use them to analyse what they can do to make beneficial changes to their working methods.
Joint reflective practice
What are the benefits of being a reflective practitioner?
Reflective practice allows the counsellor to do their job to the highest standards. It ensures that they don’t waste time on methods that don’t work and that they repeat methods that do.
Another benefit is that the counsellor is able to self-assess their working methods and apply improvements where necessary. This self-evaluation is an essential part of the role, and helps them become a better counsellor. Without reflection, the counsellor could become stagnant and loose motivation.
So, reflection is a positive aspect of the role of a counsellor, and one which they should constantly try and use to expand their skills.
Our Diploma in Counselling Skills QCF Level 3 qualification provides an in-depth evaluation of counselling skills that can be used in everyday life.
Government funding is available for this QCF Counselling course. If you’re 19 or older on the first day of your course, then we can offer you a 19+ Advanced Learner Loan to fund it.