Taking time to reflect on our experiences – why and how…

open journal with person's hand writing

Introducing reflection cycles, therapeutic journalling and group workshops – ways to learn from past events and take wisdom into the future

What does it mean to reflect? 

According to Psychology Today, reflecting differs from merely reminding ourselves what happened in the past. Instead, when engaged in the reflective process, we are actively contending with our previous experiences actively and creatively, using our mind, emotions and active evaluation to guide us towards valuable lessons from the past events. There is no doubt that everyone has been through a lot in the past few years, and although it can be tempting to throw yourself into new challenges without a backward glance, reflecting on our what we’ve overcome can help us learn valuable lessons and process difficult experiences.

Many people use daily or weekly journals to write as an emotionally cathartic practice – if you’d like to do this but don’t know where to start, you could check out the Counselling Directory’s 10 ways to use journaling.

What tools can I use to structure my reflective practice?  

If you’re looking for a more structured reflection model, the most well-known is the six steps reflective cycle, developed by psychologist Graham Gibbs. To start following six-step process, choose any experience you wish to reflect more deeply on (a job interview, a social event, writing that essay, an awkward date – anything you want!)  

 Description: Firstly, Gibbs invites us to write or think merely a description of what took place in the event you are reflecting on.  

  1. Feelings: Next, Gibbs suggests openly reminding ourselves of both the good and bad feelings we felt before, during and after the experience.  
  2. Evaluation: The third step is to describe what we thought went well, what did not, and the positive and negative aspects of the situation. These can be our own or the actions of others! 
  3. Analysis:  In the fourth step, the goal is to make sense of the situations by further asking ourselves why things turned out the way they did and what was going on.  
  4. Conclusion In the fifth step, we can conclude what we can learn from these different points of view and what we could do similarly and differently in the future. 
  5. Plan for action Lastly, you can generate an action statement or consider how you would approach a similar situation in the future based on what you have learned.  

Reflecting together in a therapeutic setting

It can be really helpful to gather with others who have some shared experiences and discuss them as a group. Student Support and Wellbeing at Kent are running various ‘Reflect, Recover and Empower’ workshops to help students at all stages of study to have a safe space to think through their pandemic experiences in a therapeutic environment, with an expert trainer who will also offer some practical tools for recovery and enhancing your wellbeing in future. Listen or share with like minded students, to recognise your own strengths and resilience, and learn effective techniques to be ready to face what life throws our way next. Check out the Student Support and Wellbeing Calendar for further details of these and more wellbeing opportunities, and to book your free place:

If you have any questions about these workshops, please email WellbeingEvents@kent.ac.uk.

Further reading on reflective writing: 

The Reflective Model According To Gibbs 

Reflective Writing from Psychology Today 

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods.  


Written by Antti Lattula, student, on 2.2.22

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