Discursive Digital Reflection: A Method for Enhancing Supervision and Training

Christopher Janson, Sophie Filibert

 

The purpose of counselor supervision has evolved to include the development of counseling students’ reflective thinking. This article conceptualizes a method, discursive digital reflection (DDR), which was established to facilitate the development of counselors who are reflective practitioners and involves clients in reflective discourse of the counseling process. DDR has its conceptual roots in reflective journaling, dialogic reflection, interpersonal process recall, and reflecting teams. The article outlines and describes the process of DDR as well as suggestions for its use as a supervision tool. The DDR method holds significant promise for counselor supervision approaches that aim to develop students’ reflective practices and cultural competence through supervision.

 

Keywords: reflective thinking, discursive digital reflection, reflective discourse, counselor supervision,  cultural competence

 

As a central component to the professional growth of counselors, the purpose of supervision is now recognized to include the development of reflective thinking and practices (Allen, Folger, & Pehrsson, 2007; Griffith & Frieden, 2000; Ivers, Rogers, Borders, & Turner, 2017; Parikh, Janson, & Singleton, 2012; Strong, 2003; Studer, 2005; Ward & House, 1998). This inclusion of reflective practices within supervision is partially predicated on the notion that, given the idiosyncratic and complex interactions involved in counseling, the theories and techniques that guide practice are rendered ineffective at times (Schön, 1983). The need to integrate reflective practices within supervision has been further emphasized by others who have noted that doing so can lead to more effective case conceptualization (Fong, Borders, Ethington, & Pitts, 1997; Griffith & Frieden, 2000; Strong, 2003); the development of counselor self-awareness and the integration of counselor identity (Holloway, 1995; Ward & House, 1998); the mediation between theoretical knowledge and practice (Kolb, 1984); increased sense of trainee confidence (Parikh et al., 2012); and the recognition and interrogation of social inequities and injustices that many clients experience (Freire, 1973).

A growing body of counselor preparation literature describes strategies and approaches that assist in the development of reflective thinking and practices. With the intent of adding to the already impressive menu of strategies to support the development of reflective counselors, we present another approach that was developed and used within our counselor preparation program—discursive digital reflection (DDR). DDR is the use of digital video to record a collaborative reflection that occurs through dialogue between a counselor supervisee and the client. Upon recording, the discursive discourse becomes an artifact for reflection, which can then be used as a supervision tool for use during individual, triadic, or group supervision. The purpose of this article is to present the DDR method, specifically as an effective means of facilitating the development of counselors who are reflective practitioners and culturally competent.

 

Reflections on Reflection

Reflection has been described in various ways. The most prominent theme is the idea that reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of an experience and engaging with it in order to create meaning (Boud, 2001). In this way, reflection is necessary for practitioners to increase their effectiveness by engaging in opportunities to reframe their experiences (Ivers et al., 2017; Schön, 1983). Neufeldt, Karno, and Nelson (1996) contextualized this element of reflection for the development of counselors by describing how reflection often begins with a persisting issue or problem of counseling practice and proceeds with a search for better understanding of that issue or problem, as well as potential solutions to it.

Reflection also is the process in which we examine our own assumptions and attitudes that inform our experiences; especially at settings where counselors serve clients whose cultural backgrounds differ significantly from their clientele. This description has its origins in the work of Dewey (1938), who suggested beliefs regarding practice must be a focus of reflection. Dewey’s introduction of personal meaning as a dimension of the reflective process has resonated with counselor educator perspectives. Here again, Neufeldt et al. (1996) also emphasized the subjectivity of the counselor during reflection when they wrote that reflection is “a search for understanding the phenomena of the counseling session with attention to therapist actions, emotions, and thoughts” (p. 8).

Those preparing, training, and supervising counselors are faced with the constant challenge of facilitating students’ abilities to integrate theories of counseling into actual practice. The term praxis is often used to describe the mediation between theory and practice that occurs through reflection (Kolb, 1984). Kolb (1984) emphasized that intentional reflective practices serve to not only close the gap between theory and practice, but also can and should transform by enriching understanding of theory while simultaneously developing the ability to practice more effectively through foundational theoretical approaches. In contrast to Kolb’s definition, Freire (1973) described praxis as “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (p. 47). In doing so, Freire positioned reflection as not simply a mechanism to integrate theory and practice, but to include agency in the process. That is, reflection should serve as a foundation of transformative action.

Finally, reflection has been described as a mechanism through which practitioners can further investigate the challenging and complex sociopolitical landscape of counseling. This philosophical aim of reflection has its origins in the transformative pedagogical approach of Paulo Freire (1970, 1973). Freire posited that education is essentially a political act and that approaches to teaching and learning influence how students position themselves in society. Reflection, then, presents opportunities for educators to examine the impact their practices and approaches have on the self-agency of their students. The potential for reflection to serve as a method to the broader, often hidden impacts of practice has continued to be developed by other scholars and researchers. The foundation of this use for reflection is to nurture practitioners’ “moral code” in order to encourage them “to ferret out structures and practices that interfere with the goal of equity” (Risko, Roskos, & Vukelich, 2001, p. 136). Given the recognition of the need to infuse social justice and equity issues within counselor education training approaches (Stone & Dahir, 2006; Thrupp & Lupton, 2006; Zalaquett, Foley, Tillotson, Dinsmore, & Hof, 2008), the purposeful inclusion of reflective practices aiming to explore pernicious and persisting social dilemmas could serve as an important tool for developing culturally responsive counselors.

 

Strategies for Encouraging Reflection

Although there are distinct paradigmatic rationales for the inclusion of reflection in the training and development of counselors, there seems to be broad consensus regarding its importance and use. The importance of utilizing reflective practices to facilitate counselor development has translated to professional literature identifying and describing approaches and strategies to facilitate the development of counselors who are reflective practitioners. Griffith and Frieden (2000) suggested four strategies that might be used to help nurture reflection. These strategies include Socratic questioning, journal writing, interpersonal process recall (IPR), and reflecting teams. Additionally, others have suggested that centering supervision on dilemmas encountered in fieldwork can serve as a useful strategy for encouraging reflective practices (Koch, Arhar, & Wells, 2000; Neufeldt, 1999). Finally, Ward and House (1998) described the use of reflective supervisory dialogue that focuses on themes that occur within or across counseling sessions in order to move students away from focusing exclusively on session content, and toward reflecting on the counseling process.

 

Conceptual Roots of DDR

Prior to a more detailed description of the process and uses of DDR, it is important to delineate its conceptual roots and describe how DDR emerged. The concepts and approaches that provided some of the theoretical and pragmatic foundation for DDR are: reflective journaling, dialogic reflection, IPR, and reflecting teams (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 1. Conceptual Roots of DDR

 

Reflective journaling. Reflective journaling seems to have had its origin in the teaching of English (Mills, 2008), but its use rapidly spread to other disciplines both within and beyond education. The designed purpose of reflective journals was to facilitate student self-awareness and professional and personal growth (Oxendine, 1988). Reflective journals have taken various forms. Among these are dialogue journals, in which teachers and students exchange entries in response to the other; response journals, in which students write their reactions, questions, and reflections regarding experiences or content; practice-based journals, in which students reflect on their field experiences; and collaborative and interactive journals, in which students exchange their journals with peers and create ongoing exchanges that build upon one another’s reflections (Lee, 2008).

Like many other counselor preparation programs and scholars (e.g., Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Griffith & Frieden, 2000), we emphasized student use of reflective journaling, particularly as part of field experiences. We employed these journals for four primary purposes: (a) to deepen students’ reflections on their developing practices and professional identity; (b) to nurture students’ self-awareness; (c) to encourage a shift toward self-directed learning; and (d) to address the temporal limitations of supervision—that is, to create a process by which students might reflect on their experiences outside the limited time that students spend with their instructors during supervision.

Recently, we shifted toward the use of video reflective journaling. Our initial rationale for using digital video, rather than writing, as the means for reflection was based upon the notion that digital video might allow for more authentic responses on the part of our students. In addition, our transition to video journals grew from our recognition of our society’s familiarized use of digital video as exemplified by popular user-generated social media, such as YouTube, and the use of video “confessionals” within the context of reality television. In a previous qualitative inquiry (co-authored by Janson and colleagues) of student perceptions of the use of video journals, it was found that students perceived that video reflective journaling was a better support for their development as counselors, allowed them to reflect with greater authenticity, and presented compelling parallels to developmental issues related to counseling clients (Parikh et al., 2012). As a result of these promising findings, our continued use of digital video media to enhance the supervision experience and student counselor development led us to further explore how the use of digital video might facilitate even more significant reflective practices among our students.

Video reflective journals maintain the same process and content goals of traditional written journals, but they instead use digital video technology as the mode of reflection, rather than the written word. As with traditional approaches to handling counseling recording, DDR sessions are conducted upon obtaining signed consent, fully disclosing the limits of confidentiality and safety precautions, and providing guidelines for the disposal of recordings to supervisees and clients.

Dialogic reflection. Dialogic reflection involves the exploration of an event or experience through the construction of a dialogue with self that weighs different perspectives, approaches, and solutions (Moon, 2001). These dialogues encourage students to reflect from various vantages, thereby emphasizing the complex, interpersonal process of counseling. Dialogic reflection also can support students’ recognition of their own preconceptions and biases that enter into the counseling relationship and process. This approach to reflection honors the social constructionist perspective that knowledge is generated through discourse with others—even if those others are representations created by the students themselves. Within our program, we incorporated elements of dialogic reflection into student reflective journaling, specifically by encouraging self-dialogue in which conjectures and perceptions of client beliefs and attitudes were represented. However, as with IPR, we were searching for ways in which client perceptions and beliefs regarding the counseling process were not merely represented by our students, but were authentically provided through actual discourse with real clients.

Interpersonal Process Recall. IPR (Kagan & Kagan, 1990) remains one of the most utilized methods of supervision. In its original use as a counseling training tool, the IPR process involved the examination of videotaped counseling sessions that were reviewed and processed by the supervisor and supervisee, and the client (Bradley, Gould, & Parr, 2001). There can be many areas of focus within the IPR process; however, one that was particularly influential in our development of DDR is the growth that occurs when counseling students learn how to better attend to and understand the communicated perspective of the client. This takes place most clearly through what is called a mutual recall session, during which the supervisee and the client watch a taped counseling session with the supervisor. Both the supervisee and the client are invited to share perceptions, thoughts, and feelings specifically around the interactional patterns of the other. The desired outcome of a mutual recall session is “to make covert communication overt” (Bradley et al., 2001, p. 103). The process and goal of IPR mutual recall sessions significantly influenced the development of DDR. However, the two are distinct in that IPR mutual recall sessions involve the examination of counseling sessions, whereas DDR involves a recorded discursive reflection on the counseling process between the supervisee and the client that can then be reviewed during supervision.

Reflecting teams. The reflecting teams grew out of Anderson’s (1990) work as a family therapist. Essentially, the reflecting team lifted the veil on the reflections and dialogue among a team of therapists regarding the clients’ family therapy so that the clients could hear, interact with, and benefit from those reflections. This radical restructuring of the roles and barriers among and between all involved in the therapeutic process—the therapist, the clients, and the reflecting team—represents a deep egalitarianism that honors all voices and acknowledges each with great inclusivity. Importantly, the family and the therapist benefit from the multitude of reflections, perspectives, conjectures, and solutions generated from various participants (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). The development of DDR was strongly influenced by the reflecting team attributes of egalitarianism and attention to a multiplicity of perspectives.

Our efforts to develop DDR using reflecting teams were largely based on our intent to create an approach that demystifies the counseling process for our students and their clients. The use of DDR involves students and clients as partners who collaboratively contemplate counseling and reflective processes. Furthermore, DDR provides them with the perceptions and reactions of others beyond the supervisee in order for them to be better able to become more active participants in their own therapeutic process rather than relying on one sole “expert.”

 

Moving Toward DDR in Practice

DDR evolved from the programmatic use of other modes of developing reflective practitioners. It is the belief of the current authors that the narrative behind the evolution of DDR is important because it highlights and parallels the same collaborative-discursive reflection that we believe this approach embodies. Through collaborative-reflective inquiry into our own supervision processes, faculty and students in our field experience courses gradually developed reflective practices and modes that eventually became what we now refer to as DDR.

As described above, like many other programs, we utilized written reflective journals as a supervision tool for a few years. Our use of written reflective journals was initially motivated by our desire to encourage student development toward becoming more reflective practitioners as well as to address the temporal limitations of supervision. This was based on our assumption that reflective insights do not occur exclusively during supervision sessions with faculty, whether those supervision sessions are individual, triadic, or group sessions. By integrating written reflective journals within our field experience courses, we believe we create opportunities for students to reflect on their experiences and document those reflections virtually any time they occur. These written reflective journals can then serve as focal points during subsequent supervision sessions, or they can remain a method of written discourse between the faculty supervisor and the supervised student beyond the important time spent during more traditional face-to-face supervision.

The positive response that our faculty received regarding the use of written reflective journals, coupled with the enthusiasm students demonstrated for other tasks utilizing digital video, encouraged our faculty to explore the use of digital video as a mode for reflective journaling rather than writing. We also were motivated to explore the use of alternative media for reflective journals by challenges we perceived regarding the use of written reflective journals. Specifically, as a faculty, we were concerned that some students perceived written reflective journals as “just another written assignment” that they sometimes seemed to complete with too little reflective depth. Additionally, due to previous experiences having their writing evaluated in more traditional written assignments, some students related that although faculty emphasized the content and quality of reflection represented in the written journals and supported that emphasis through the use of rubrics also solely focused on content, rather than language craft, they still felt they spent more time focusing on language use rather than on deep reflection.

Our faculty’s concerns that some students were experiencing a disconnect between the intended purpose of written reflective journals and the act of writing them, as well as some of our students’ misplaced emphases on craft over content, are described and examined elsewhere. In regard to faculty concerns that some students were viewing the task of written reflective journaling to be largely procedural, previous scholars have noted that having adequate time is a crucial factor for facilitating reflective thinking through journal writing (Cowan & Westwood, 2006; Moon, 1999). Students engaged in field experiences may find it difficult to spend sufficient time writing reflective journals due to more pressing challenges facing them in their practicum or internship experiences (Greiman & Covington, 2007). The lack of adequate time to write reflective journals also may have been a barrier preventing some of our students from fully utilizing these opportunities to reflect. Additionally, other literature has identified the writing process itself as a barrier to journal writing. For instance, Moon (1999) wrote that the process of writing reflective journals is difficult for some students who viewed the activity as “alien” (p. 89). Likewise, the suggestion that some students are much more comfortable reflecting verbally (Cowan & Westwood, 2006) is supported by an empirical study in which participants expressed a clear preference for verbal reflections (Greiman & Covington, 2007). Notably, Greiman and Covington’s (2007) study found that students identified the process of writing as being a barrier to their reflection because it was not their preferred modality—verbal reflection was preferred. These findings paralleled results from a previous qualitative examination of students’ perceptions of their experiences with both written and video reflective journals, in which students had a clear preference for the use of video reflective journals (Parikh et al., 2012).

Based upon the previously described disconnect observed with our students in completing reflection assignments, we began to integrate the use of video reflective journals into our students’ practicum and internship experiences. Regarding the mismatch between many of our students’ preferred modalities for reflection and our exclusive use of written reflective journals, we found that DDR adequately allowed us to address the concerns of both our students and our faculty. Other professional literature has addressed the experiential results of written reflective journals compared to the use of alternative modalities. Although the use of video as a mode of reflection has been proposed within other educational disciplines (Greiman & Covington, 2007; Miller, Miller, & Kessell, 2002), there was no literature documenting its actual use at the time we began integrating it into our field experience curriculum.

Our use of video reflective journaling was met with enthusiasm from our students, and the preference for the use of video as a mode of reflection was demonstrated in a qualitative study that showed students perceived greater benefits to verbal reflections captured by video and then reviewed, discussed, and reflected upon within supervision sessions (Parikh et al., 2012). It was while using video reflections in group and individual supervision, however, that both faculty and students began to express interest in adding a significant element to our video reflective journaling process. While using the video reflections during supervision, much of the discourse perhaps predictably focused on what we imagined to be the perceptions and experiences of the clients whose cases we were discussing. These imaginings quickly coalesced around a natural possibility—recasting video reflective journals to include a crucial missing piece (i.e., participation of the clients themselves in reflective discourse on the counseling process).

 

DDR as a Tool for Developing Cultural Competence

The practice of DDR is particularly useful for the development of culturally competent counselors who serve racially diverse youth, where there is a greater likelihood of divergent cultural backgrounds between counselor and clients. Programs situated in urban settings will more often experience enrollment of counseling candidates with cultural backgrounds that are significantly dissimilar from the lived experiences of clients they will eventually serve. A portion of students enter such preparation programs with minimal, if any, practical cross-cultural and relationship-building skills that are needed to engage meaningfully with racially diverse groups and youth clientele. Even if students enter graduate programs with aptitude to intervene effectively with youth, they may lack the experiences in communicating with culturally diverse youth in a reflective and culturally responsive manner.

Preparing for DDR as a tool for developing cultural competence can include guided experiences such as (a) relevant critical readings; (b) group reflective exercises related to equity and social justice issues; (c) the faculty supervisor’s appropriate modeling of critical self-analysis related to cultural competence; (d) role playing of DDR among students; and (e) rapport building with clients prior to digital recording. The pre-recording phase of DDR is an ideal opportunity for faculty supervisors to reinforce, through discussions and modeling, the developmental and cultural considerations of communication and engagement between young people and school-based helping professionals. Thus, the DDR process supports the development of cultural competence and intergenerational communication skills of counselors-in-training.

 

Preparing for Reflective Discourse

The DDR process (see Figure 2) begins with collaborative-reflective discourse between a counseling student and a client. Student and client collaborative dialogue reflecting on the counseling process is likely enough of a departure from therapeutic conversation that it requires some initial preparation for both students and clients. As faculty supervisors, we need to first prepare students to shift their interactions with their clients so that the reflective dialogue, or discourse, between them is a collaborative exchange of reflections on previous counseling sessions and processes. In doing so, faculty supervisors need to emphasize that this is intended to be a collaborative-reflective conversation and not an interview, therapeutic or otherwise.

In preparing for DDR within a field course, the faculty supervisor and students generate a list of questions to be used during the reflective conversations. These questions are by no means comprehensive, nor should they be rigidly adhered to, but rather provide a starting point for the reflective conversation between students and their clients. Additionally, faculty supervisors need to work with counseling students in order to prepare and train them to explain to their clients not only each of their new roles, but also the nature and purpose of the reflective conversation or discourse. One approach that can be applied to this preparation and training of counseling students is role-play, which can first be modeled by the faculty supervisors and then rehearsed among the student counselors themselves. Examples of questions might include: What did you expect when you entered into this counseling relationship? When was a time that you wish you had responded differently to something during the counseling process? And, how has this experience changed how you feel about counseling?

Following adequate preparation, counseling students can engage in reflective discourse with their clients. If they have not already done so, counseling students should first describe and discuss with their clients the shift in roles required for collaborative-reflective conversation, as well as its purpose. In order to further emphasize the democratic and participatory nature of the reflective partnership they are about to form and enact, we suggest that in doing so students provide clients with a list of possible reflection questions. Through this reflective partnership, the counseling student and client engage in conversation with an underlying purpose in some ways similar to that which Kagan and Kagan (1990) described for IPR: “The core processes rely on each participant’s teaching the other about the meaning of their interaction” (p. 439). This collaborative-reflective conversation between the counseling student and client is digitally recorded so that it can then be used as an artifact for further reflection, or double-loop learning in the parlance of Argyris and Schön (1978).

The digital video record, or DDR artifact, can now be used as a supervision tool during individual, triadic, or group supervision. The focus of this supervision should generally be on the collaborative-reflective practices represented in the digital reflection; however, this focus should also be flexible enough to highlight and explore any compelling content that emerges from each unique artifact. We suggest that faculty supervisors consider further enriching student counselors’ knowledge and perspectives on reflection before or during the review of these DDRs by introducing pertinent models, concepts, or theories of reflection. Some examples could be Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956), Boud’s (1995) framework for reflection, or Gibbs’ (1998) reflective cycle.

Prior to embarking upon this mode of training, we recommend that counselor educators invest time in setting the context and philosophical underpinnings of using DDR among their collaborating colleagues and with supervisees. Within our preparation program, supervisees are assigned clients with whom they will engage for two consecutive field experiences: practicum and first internship. The first DDR exchange is preceded by an individual digital reflection by each supervisee during the initial stages of practicum. Having this first individual digital reflection experience can be effective in preparing supervisees for dialogue with clients in subsequent digital reflections. This step is observed to be of particular utility for supervisees that express discomfort in using digital technology in the learning experience.

 

DDR in Practice

Upon adequate preparation for DDR, the process continues by generating an artifact documenting collaborative, discursive reflection on the counseling process between an emerging counselor and a client. This artifact, the digital video of reflective discourse, is then used as a focal point of further reflection within the context of supervision. In doing so, the use of DDR moves the discursive reflection between a counseling student and a client from being an experience shared only by them in the moment, to a learning method that can further enrich and deepen not only their understandings of the counseling process and relationship, but also the reflective process through which they developed those understandings. The initial process of collaborative-discursive reflection then can become the focus of further reflection for not only the initial student and client, but for other counseling students and faculty supervisors as well.

This layered reflective process bears similarities to what Argyris and Schön (1978) referred to as double-loop learning. When engaged in single-loop learning, individuals modify their actions based upon differences between their expected and obtained outcomes. When engaged in double-loop learning, individuals question the underlying perceptions, assumptions, and values that initially led to those outcomes. Once individuals are able to perceive and examine those perceptions, assumptions, values, and processes, double-loop learning has occurred. So, just as double-loop learning is learning about single-loop learning, the method of DDR provides opportunities to reflect on the collaborative-discursive, reflective process itself.

 

Figure 2. DDR Process and Learning Types 

 

 

We employ DDR once during supervisees’ practicum and at least twice during a second internship experience. Thus, both the supervisee and the client experience DDR three times, while the supervisees have the added video reflection during the first year of training. The DDR process is integrated as part of the periodic self-assessments that graduate students complete that may occur during such benchmarks as midpoint evaluations or upon termination of counseling sessions. Our preparation model, situated in PK–12 settings, uses DDR during the termination of trainees’ first field experience (practicum), at the midpoint, and upon termination of subsequent field experiences within the training program. The trainees’ first DDR session allows students to become familiar with the technology and reflective method. By the time trainees participate in the last DDR, they are able to engage more meaningfully with their clients during sessions and among their learning peers during group supervision about dialogic reflection counselor identity development.

Clearly, the DDR method for enhancing counseling student reflective thinking and practices represents a challenging degree of cognitive complexity. By using this method, we are nudging students beyond cognition to metacognition. In other words, we are encouraging them to reflect upon their reflective processes and to think critically about their thinking. Given the level of abstraction, faculty supervisors should consider techniques or approaches that could facilitate understanding of these metacognitive processes to make them more concrete. Faculty can draw upon therapeutic interventions in order to do so. For instance, faculty might facilitate student counselors’ creations of metaphors in order to make personal meaning and increase understanding of these reflective practices. The use of DDR within our program has yielded a list of prompts and questions that could be used to encourage student counselors’ reflexivity around their discursive reflection artifacts. Examples might include: What did you notice about the interactions between you and your client during your discursive reflection? How has reflecting influenced your development as a practitioner? And, what would you choose as a metaphor for your reflective process as demonstrated by your discursive reflection between you and your client?

 

Conclusion

The purpose of counselor supervision has evolved to include the development of students’ reflective thinking and practices. Not only does reflection time in supervision enhance supervisees’ professional decision-making and skill development (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014), but the development of reflective practices is thought to facilitate or mediate the cognitive (Kolb, 1984; Strong, 2003), intra- and interpersonal (Holloway, 1995), and sociopolitical foundations (Freire, 1970) that support the complex roles and practices of counselors. Numerous methods to facilitate the development of reflective practices and thinking have been identified by scholars and researchers within counselor education (Griffith & Frieden, 2000; Neufeldt, 1999; Ward & House, 1998) and still more exist within a variety of disciplines in our broader educational family. Given both the importance and complexity of reflection, a broad and deep repertoire of methods available to counselor education faculty is extremely important.

In this spirit, our recommendation of DDR as a method for developing counselor reflection and reflective practices is intended to contribute to the many fine approaches represented within counselor education. We believe it is important to recognize that DDR evolved from a process of reflective discourse among faculty and students with the purpose of improving and deepening our own reflective practices, particularly within supervision. In doing so, we recognize that DDR shares a conceptual pedigree with a rich family of reflection strategies and models as well as approaches to supervision. Nonetheless, the integration of two key features of DDR distinguishes it from other current methods within and beyond counselor education. First, DDR appears to be the only method for reflection that moves beyond examining only counseling experiences to reflection on the very process of reflection itself. We believe that although this extension of the reflective gaze appears complex and arduous, when implemented with adequate purpose and creativity, it can yield tremendous gains for our students, our profession, and most importantly our clients. Whether this iterative application of reflection is referred to as second order change or double-loop learning (Argyris, 1997), we believe it has the potential for profound systemic impact. In essence, reflection can ultimately differentiate learning that solves immediate problems from learning that explores the root causes of problems.

Second, DDR broadens the participation of reflection on the counseling process to include clients. This represents a significant departure from most other approaches, and if reviews of discursive digital reflections include the clients themselves, then it truly distinguishes DDR. In our own application of this approach, the inclusion of clients in the reflective process seems not only to have greatly enhanced the reflective capacity of our students, but also to have nurtured those of our clients as well. Additionally, our students who have participated in DDR have noted that they believe their engagement in collaborative reflection with their clients has provided considerable context and insight into some of the interpersonal variables of the counseling relationship—particularly multicultural ones. Thus, the use of DDR as described and demonstrated within our preparation model may be of particular interest for the cross-cultural and relationship skills development of counselors in urban settings where there is a greater likelihood of divergent cultural and racial backgrounds between counselor and client.

The DDR process has further implications for counselors who will work in youth-serving settings, where trainees are positioned in an intergenerational context. This is significant for the portion of trainees that may enter graduate programs with the aptitude to intervene effectively with young people, but may lack experiences in engaging with youth effectively. The DDR process is developmentally appropriate for the intergenerational context of school-based settings, predicated on relationship capital that most graduate trainees are able to acquire by the end of their field experiences in the PK–12 levels. During the preparation phase of DDR, faculty are encouraged to reinforce, through discussions, the ways in which adolescents communicate and engage with school-based adults.

The DDR process serves not only as a mechanism of dialogic reflection, but also as a tool of informal assessment of the counseling experience, which is directly informed by the relationship that has developed between the trainee and student. In addition to the required formal observations and assessments, we find that DDR enhances the training and supervision experiences for all parties involved as they make meaning during each phase of DDR.

This article is our initial effort to describe the origin, development, and use of DDR as a method of enhancing counselor supervision and training with the purpose of cultivating reflective and culturally competent practitioners. The conceptual nature of this method, while applied within our own counselor preparation program, would be enriched by scholarly investigations and research as to its impact on the development of counseling students and, ultimately, their clients. Additionally, research within counselor education programs might focus on whether experiential courses are the best place for methods and approaches intending to develop student critical thinking and practices. Nonetheless, we believe that through the development and application of DDR, this method holds significant promise for counselor preparation.

 

Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure

The authors reported no conflict of interest or funding contributions for the development of this manuscript.

 

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Christopher Janson is an associate professor at the University of North Florida. Sophie Filibert is an associate professor at the University of North Florida. Correspondence can be addressed to Christopher Janson, 1 UNF Dr., Leadership School Counseling and Sport Management, Bldg. 57/3436, Jacksonville, FL 32224, cajanson@gmail.com.

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