When was the last time you reflected upon your work in therapy? Did you set aside time to reflect upon your thoughts, behaviors, and actions after your experience? Self-reflection can significantly support your work in therapy and everyday life. Its impact can be helpful whether you’ve been in therapy for years or just finished your first session. We’ll explore the what and why of self-reflection and share self-reflection questions you can use at home.
“You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” –Maya Angelou
What is self-reflection?
Self-reflection is the intentional act of observing and evaluating our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes. Psychology Today says that “self-reflection is putting a mirror up to ourselves and analyzing what we see or feel as objectively as possible so that we can better understand ourselves and how we think, feel, and behave.” The end goal of self-reflection is often exploring your thoughts and feelings more deeply to understand why you do what you do.
Why is self-reflection so important?
Self-reflection has excellent connections to all the work you’re doing on yourself. The benefits of self-reflection can be meaningful if you’re in individual therapy or couples therapy. You also may experience substantial clarity from self-reflection just by practicing the skill independently. You can move forward with change by reflecting on the why behind your habits, behaviors, and actions. When done thoughtfully and compassionately, self-reflection can significantly impact your day-to-day life and your longer-term goals and wishes. There has even been some recent research on the physical health benefits of self-reflection, including improved late-life cognition and brain health.
Try this self-reflection exercise
When: You can try this exercise at any time. Self-reflection can be beneficial during critical points during your therapy journey, like post-session or post-intervention. You can also ask yourself these questions to reflect upon experiences unrelated to your therapy work, like school or professional situations.
Preparation: You’ll need a notebook or blank paper, your favorite pen or pencil, an open mind, and a distraction-free environment.
Keep in mind: The most impactful self-reflection is done with compassion. So, do your best to be impartial and kind to yourself. Keep any self-judgments at bay!
First, think about a recent experience that stands out.
1. Observe your experience: Consider your experience kindly and as impartially as you can.
- What do you notice?
- What do you feel?
- What do you think?
- What did you do?
2. Actively reflect: Go one layer deeper to reflect.
- Why did you think, feel, or do these things?
- Has there been a time in the past when you felt a similar set of feelings?
3. Extract your learning: Outline your insights.
- What did you learn?
- Was your learning helpful?
- What changed/didn’t change?
If you’re comfortable, bring your learnings back to your therapist to explore further. You may also want to discuss your learnings with your partner to further your self-reflection exercise!
When you share your self-reflections in therapy, your therapist can help you slow down the process to get at your underlying feelings. Your therapist knows your emotions are motivators and drivers of behaviors, longings, and needs. Self-reflection can open the door to many emotions that may be challenging to process alone. Your therapist can help create space for exploring blocks and barriers in a way that encourages understanding rather than perpetuating judgment, self-criticism, and shame.
Self-reflection in therapy
Self-reflection is a powerful tool for self-awareness and healing. Our therapists can help you and your partner make the most of your self-reflection in and out of session.
If you are ready to schedule a therapy appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started.