Reflective Practice in Social Care and Social Work 

Reflective practice is when you critically explore and evaluate your experiences, so that you may make positive changes to your approach. During reflection, you will record your behaviour and thought process as well as any related emotions; doing so will allow you to consider and alter your approach where necessary for future situations.


Exploring your experiences in an objective and comprehensive manner, and identifying both your strengths and areas for change is vital to improving your performance.

Reflective practice is applied successfully across many areas of care, including the following:

  • Social care
  • Social work
  • Counselling
  • Healthcare
  • Support Work
  • Child care
  • Child support services
  • Aged care

Why Reflective Practice is so Important in Social Care and Social Work

Ever since its development in the 1980s, reflective practice has increasingly been considered critical for the development of health workers. The rise of professional health and social care standards has required those working with the vulnerable to show advanced understanding and continued self-development to justify their credentials: this involves ongoing displays of reflective practice.

In this way, reflective practice becomes the backbone of your CPD (Continuing Professional Development). CPD is employed in many industries, including social work, as the determined commitment of an individual to self-improvement across their careers. In fields such as social care and social work, nothing less is expected.


How to Perform Reflective Practice in Social Care and Social Work

Gibbs reflective cycle provides a popular framework for effective reflective practice:


Detail the event you are reflecting on as much as possible: Where you were, who you were with, what you were doing and why, what others were doing; context of the event as a whole, and what transpired.



Recall your thoughts throughout the event; namely why the event sticks in your mind. How were you feeling at the offset, and how did your feelings progress? How did you feel about what you were thinking? How did other people and the outcome of the event make you feel? Now you’ve had time to reflect, how do you feel about it now?


Decide which things about the experience were good or bad; what was an improvement and what didn’t go so well.



Go into more detail by breaking the event down into component areas and focussing on these. This is more in-depth than the Evaluation stage; Include not just what went well, but consider what you did well and didn’t, along with how others did


Using your analysis, you will develop insight into the behaviour of yourself and the others involved, and how this contributed to the outcome of the event, remembering that this all for your growth and betterment. Ask yourself bluntly what you could have done differently.


Action Plan

Consider the circumstances of the event happening again: what would you do this time? What would do differently, and what would stay the same? What actions or preparations can be made to improve for when this situation comes again? This is the end of the cycle; and the basis of the next cycle also begins here.

Example of Reflective Practice in Social Care and Social Work

In a social care role, reflective practice could be applied to any of your interactions with your patients. For example, if you are offering encouragement or hopeful optimism to a client in a very difficult situation, but are then met unexpectedly with a negative or even aggressive response; there is much to learn from the situation, your actions and the actions of the client.


In this example, you may come to the conclusion that your positive remarks had been superficial and appeared patronising. You may have not completely understood the amount of pressure placed upon the client. Your instant reaction may have been to attribute your client’s behaviour to their personality. You should realise that distress in the client’s situation is normal, and to acknowledge that with the client. Showing that you are capable of coping with the clients distress will provide a better result for the clients and the case.

In a social work role, reflective practice could be applied to any interaction with another person you encounter in your role, such as dealing with a colleague. A difficult situation that required careful behaviour and responses from yourself may not have had the best outcome; due in part to the actions of a co-worker. 


It is important when finding yourself feeling frustrated, angry or anxious at work to recognise the emotion, and to understand by objectively analysing why it is that you feel like this. If a difficult situation or experience has caused you to become defensive or argumentative, consider an application of Reflective Practice to improve your responses in the future.



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