So here it is, my take on reflective writing in sport psychology. The reason I’m writing this blog post is very clear. More experienced consultants encourage the neophyte to reflect, we have to submit reflective diaries for the BPS and we are constantly hearing about why we shoulf reflect. What I rarely hear is actually how do we go about reflecting. Rarely do I hear experienced consultants actually telling us neophytes how to reflect. So here it is, I am going to do just that. I am going to describe my experiences with reflective writing, what I have found useful, what I have disliked about reflection and where I feel my reflection is going in the coming months.
Before we get into the how’s lets explore the whys. Write and Bolton (2012) suggest many reasons why we should reflect from slowing down, allowing time to pause and think, reflection allows you to make time for yourself, express feelings and thoughts, to organise thinking, it also helps to ensure ethical practice, allows for self therapy and dealing with personal issues, allows us to identify prejuices and most importantly allows us to identify skills, strenghts and areas from improvement. The final point is where I think most of the focus is in sport psychology. This is by no means a bad thing, it does however limit the uses of reflective writing (eg, uses with athletes). I think the fact that we have to reflect in a grid that makes us point out where we are using certain skills is fairly limiting.
Lets get into the meaty part of this blog. How to write reflectively. I have come across various models of reflective practice, and I’m sure that you have come across many many more. Firstly lets explore some of these models. Gibbs (1988) model of reflective practice is a cyclical model that clearly defines the stages of reflective practice. There are six defined stages encompasing a description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan. Next we could look at the Johari window, this looks at what is known to others, and what is know to myself. We reflect upon what is known to us, what is known to all, what is know to no-one and what is only known to others. In essence we look to go from the unkown to the known through reflection. Finally the model that I have currently decided to work with is Johns model which originates from nursing. Similar to that of the Johari window and Gibbs (1988) model. This model encourages us to look in and look out. We ask questions around how the process looked, what you were trying to acheive, why you felt a certain way, if it was the best solution and what knowledge did or could have informed the decision for a specific intervention.
Reflective practice is a lot about motivation. Having the right gear to start writing a reflective journal is a must. I chose to write a blog, however I started with a book and a pen (which didnt work for me). I then set aside specific times for reflection. I would write for 30 mins every week (again this didnt work for me), so I started initial reflections in the car on the way home (a more informal way of reflection but more effective for me).
A tips to help start reflective writing:
1. Just have a go, express and explore in your own time.
2. Let go of the rules, there are none with your reflections
3. Trust the process
4. See your reflective time as a gift, away from the fast paced world outside.
5. Be willing to face some uncomfortable feelings and memories, and know the writing will help and make it more managable.
Ultimately reflective writing enables us to practice in an ethical and professional way. The dilemmas that we face can often emerge and the solutions to those problems may become apparent. Finally there is an element of self-care within reflective practice. It can be a way to let go of some of the details of clients stories. It allows you to get some troubling issues out like a sort of exorcism of thought.
I think what I am trying to say here is use what works for you, explore what is out there, and enjoy the process. I went through a phase where I hated reflective practice, no-one was able to tell me how to do it and it was only when I read around a lot, exprienced the process of reflecting and found what worked for me was I really able to see the true benefit of reflection
What I do:
1. I write this blog
2. I reflect informally in the car on the way home or to another client,
3. I write down key issues that come out
4. I don’t see it as a process just for the BPS anymore.
A few books:
Knowles Z., Gilbourne D., Cropley B., and Dugdill L.(2014). Reflective practice in the sport and exercise sciences: contemporary issues. Routledge: Cornwall
Wright J., and Bolton G. (2012). Reflective writing in counselling and psychotherapy. Sage: London