Reflective Practice – What is it? Do you need it?

Reflective Practice

Having a mental health and safety policy, mental health first aiders in the workplace, and even an employee helpline can all help pick people up when they are falling down. What if you want support staff before they get into trouble? Here we profile just one of the ways Calm People helps its clients stay emotionally resilient and healthy.

I have written this article because we are beginning to get an increase in enquiries around this area. Businesses, firms and organisations are beginning to realise that certain teams, or groups of people that work with them may require additional support in managing their workloads in a healthy way.

Emotional Labour

A great place to start is why someone may require some form of reflective practice as part of their job role. This applies more commonly to those in roles where there is a higher level of emotional labour. 

Emotional Labour is the same as physical labour and has a similar impact, The continual exercise of emotional labour can be as mentally fatiguing as physical labour. Just like physical labour, if too much workload is experienced or regular downtime is not taken, then stresses and strains can be felt. Just like over exertion physically is an issue, so too is over exertion emotionally.

Traditionally roles that require high emotional labour would include Doctors, nurses and counsellors and psychotherapists.

Counsellors and psychotherapists have a requirement from their licensing authorities to undertake clinical supervision. This normally involves one to one work with another therapist who is qualified as a supervisor. They insist on this to maintain standards, help with continual learning and to protect the therapist from burning out and becoming too involved or taking on board the problems of their own set of clients.

Interestingly speech and language therapists, even physiotherapists and drama therapists now have an expectation of taking clinical supervision. Doctors and nurses however are not. If we were not aware already, last year’s events have made most of us realise just how emotionally connected to their roles our healthcare professionals are and yet they do not routinely get emotional health support in this way.

As we start to consider the concept of emotional labour it becomes obvious that there are many, many roles that can be intensive in an emotional way. Hairdressers spend a lot of time listening to their clients’ problems as do massage therapists, beauticians and carers.Then we arrive at lawyers. For us at Calm People this is where our enquiries started to come from. We work with a number of law firms and certain departments have a higher than average emotional labour attached to them. The family law department is a classic dealing with divorce, child custody hearings and often hearing accusations of abuse made by one partner against another. Probate lawyers are always dealing with death in which case their clients can be engulfed in sadness and criminal law lawyers will not know from one case to another what they may hear.

So what is reflective practice?

This differs from one to one supervision. It is a group practice for like minded professionals, normally from the same organisation. A group is formed by a facilitator, group boundaries are agreed and a safe space is created. Then those that wish to, get an opportunity to share. Those that just wish to listen get an opportunity to listen. Advice can be shared, experiences learnt from and expertise built from experience can be shared around the group.

Sometimes, depending on the time available they are simply sharing spaces. Other times some learning around particular psychological issues that may be relevant to experiences being shared can be done. 

Each reflective learning group can be different but what they have in common is people coming together to share, reflect on their own professional practice and allow themselves a safe place to talk about the challenges they face. 

Why would you use reflective practice?

If your company, team or organisation has groups within it that are working under high emotional labour situations then it makes sense to protect the assets you have i.e. those that deliver the vital service that involves such high emotional labor. If you want to spend less time plugging a recruitment gap and dealing with sickness and absence it pays to take care of the people you have. Helping them develop the reflective skills and practice they need to build and maintain their emotional resilience is key to this.

Why use Calm People rather than doing yourselves?

You can do it yourself but unless you are an organisation that helps people with their emotional health through carefully facilitated workshops you may not have the specific skill set in house. We do, and we can provide it at a reasonable cost that vastly undercuts the costs of having to recruit to replace burnt out professionals.

Some stats that back up the need for taking care of mental health in the workplace in general.

  • Just under half (42%) of employers have experienced an employee leaving their organisation because they felt their mental wellbeing was not being cared for, according to research by Benenden Health in December 2020.
  • Its survey of 1,008 UK non-furloughed employees, and 1,003 business owners and directors also found that a quarter (25%) of respondents have seen a key member of staff leave the organisation for this reason. In addition, 55% of staff would seek a new job if their mental wellbeing was not being supported by their employer, increasing to 78% among employees aged 18-24, compared to 42% among those aged 45-54 and 38% of over 55s.
  • Furthermore, over half (57%) of employees said that it would increase the likelihood of them joining a new organisation if it had a supportive mental wellbeing policy. Just under half (46%) of employees said their job had become more stressful in the last two years.
  • One-third (36%) of employees believe that mental wellbeing is a priority for their employer, although 58% of employer respondents said that they genuinely care about the mental wellbeing of staff. Despite this, just 53% of organisations have asked their staff what they would like to see in terms of mental wellbeing support.

Other research shows…

  • 1 in 6.8 people are experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%).(1)
  • Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%). (2)
  • Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. (3)

All of these stats are based on general research before you add in the factor that your team may be working in a role that requires high levels of emotional labour.

If you want to talk about the possibility of setting up a reflective practice group in your workplace email

If you would like to consider the other ways we support your teams in developing the awareness, knowledge and skills they need to remain emotionally resilient take a look at the workshops we run here and at our amazing mental health tech Inner Calm here.

Whatever your situation, we can help you find a way to support your staff and genuinely invest in the assets that are most important to you.

(1)Lelliott, P., Tulloch, S., Boardman, J., Harvey, S., & Henderson, H. (2008). Mental health and work. Retrieved from
(2)Stansfeld, S., Clark, C., Bebbington, P., King, M., Jenkins, R., & Hinchliffe, S. (2016). Chapter 2: Common mental disorders. In S. McManus, P. Bebbington, R. Jenkins, & T.Brugha (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
(3)ONS. (2014). Full Report: Sickness Absence on the Labour Market, February 2014. Retrieved from webarchive. [Accessed 28/07/16].

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