On Reflecting Teams

When I accepted the offer to join The Salem Center for Therapy, Training & Research as an intern, I had no idea what to expect. I was just beginning my practicum and was ready and determined to learn. I also had a lot of fear and uncertainty. Entering this field was a career change for me and I was terrified, frankly!

Throughout my two semesters at The Salem Center I collaborated with two supervisors and a team of other therapists that included other interns, Master’s level therapists, and licensed therapists. We treated individuals, families, and couples with a wide variety of presenting issues in an outpatient setting. A key feature of my training and of our approach to therapy was utilizing a reflecting team. In my experience, this approach offers a multitude of benefits for all involved – clients, therapists and terrified interns, like me!

I began my training as a member of the reflecting team. This gave me the opportunity to observe my supervisor engage with clients, which would have been beneficial on its own. I was also able to offer reflections and engage in reflecting dialogue in session. As my training progressed, I had many opportunities to lead sessions while my supervisor was on the reflecting team. This dynamic – observing and engaging in dialogue in session – was an integral part of the model of therapy we were using to treat clients. Training and treatment happen simultaneously. The fact that this was happening in session, with clients, was the most beneficial aspect of the experience. This dynamic resulted in productive supervision meetings that were based on the content of sessions for which we were both present. This allowed for rich and, more importantly, accurate discussion of session content. I cannot overstate how far the benefits reach for all involved when using a reflecting team in therapy, based on my experience.

By the end of my second semester at The Salem Center, my fears had subsided and I felt more certain about my new career path. The constant observation and opportunity for feedback based on shared experiences in session with my supervisors was invaluable in terms of me feeling supported and more confident. Despite how beneficial this training experience was, I knew it was unique and not standard practice in the field. For this reason, I decided to add some variety to my training as I finished up my internship hours and moved on to a more traditional outpatient setting where I now see clients on my own. While I continue to learn and my confidence as a therapist continues to grow, I can’t help but miss the highly collaborative nature of utilizing a reflecting team for both training and practice!

Kristy Harrington is a graduate student at Cambridge College where she is working towards her M.Ed. in Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Marriage & Family Therapy. She is also a sexuality and relationships educator, teaching comprehensive sex education to middle and high school youth throughout the metro-Boston area.

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