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Reflecting on Reflecting

Posted Sep 13 2008 3:50am

It has been an interesting process blogging on psychotherapy. There is clearly a certain amount of anxiety as well as narcissistic pleasure in putting one's views out for public viewing and comment. The response from colleagues, students and other psychologists has been extremely positive, supportive and encouraging. One starts a blog with a certain enthusiasm with initially what appear to be numerous ideas on what you will post about. However even a commitment to post, once a week, you soon find your original stock of ideas begins to dwindle rapidly.

This brings me to the point of this more personal posted. Posting to the blog has forced me Reflection5 to go searching for ideas and these have come from a variety of sources. Firstly, it has made me identify all those journals that had papers about technique and the practical aspects of psychotherapy. I now have an alerting system for all these journals that puts an e-mail into my inbox whenever a new issue of the journal is released. Secondly it has forced me to reflect in some detail about my own application of therapeutic technique not only now but in the past. The actual fact of writing rather than just thinking about therapy or talking about therapy means that your ideas are out in front of you in black-and-white, and gives you some reflective distance on what you're thinking about. This idea of some reflective distance or reflective processing is an important part of psychotherapy development that has recently been highlighted in a paper by James Bennett Levy in Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. This complex and somewhat dense paper looks at a cognitive model of how therapists acquire their skills. One of the ideas he proposes is that once basic skills are gained, the ongoing development and progress of the therapist is mainly around self reflection and enhancing of the reflective process in supervision by a supervisor. I am forced to organise my ideas into some sort of coherence and this makes for further reflection on the technique or idea I am talking about.

A similar process has happened for me in reflecting on ideas and themes that interns bring to their supervision with me. A good example of this is a recent supervision with a young female intern. She raised the issue for her of one particular client, a young male client, who every time he saw her gave her a complement about her appearance, clothes or the sound of her voice. The comments clearly had a sexual tone, and the intern felt her boundaries being nudged to the extent that she felt uncomfortable. As an older male therapist this is an issue I have rarely faced. However looking wider than the individual intern, at least 80 or 90% of psychology interns are young and female. I’ve realised that this is likely to be a very common issue that most new psychologists face.

I have found this forced reflective process the greatest value for me in the whole blogging process and it has contributed greatly to my ongoing development as a supervisor.

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