Facilitating reflective discussions

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The therapist may, implicitly or explicitly, offer people the opportunity to think with them in a reflective dialogue or conversation.

This offer might sometimes be extended just to carers, or it might be extended to both carer and child to provide some shared thinking space. The offer might also be extended to the wider network of people who support and scaffold the child.

Reflective conversations with the parent or carer

Thinking together with the carer might involve asking them to reflect with the therapist on events in the sessions or on events outside of the session.

The therapist may sometimes invite parents and carers to think with them about their own interpersonal experiences and to develop an understanding of their own relational patterns and how these impact on their relationship with their child.

The therapists may also invite parents and carers to think with them about their child’s experiences, building a picture of the child’s internal world.

Reflective conversations with other people in the wider system

Thinking together with the wider network may involve network meetings with schools, health services and social services.

The therapist aims to scaffold the child, providing sufficient support for them to engage in therapy and more generally in their lives outside of the therapy sessions.

Therapists may use such meetings to share their own picture or understanding of the child’s feelings and needs, with the people best placed to respond to these.

Reflective conversations with the dyad

An important aspect of this step is facilitating reflective dialogue between the adult and child.

The therapist may invite the parent or carer and child to think about

  • past events

  • recent events

  • things that had happened in the sessions

  • images that had been made in the sessions

Reflective joined-up conversations help each person to get an insight into the other person’s perspective (to mentalise the other person). The therapist encourages a recognition that there can be multiple perspectives, and each one can be valid.

Quote from a practicing dyadic art therapist:

‘I might draw a W and I will say to the child what do you see and they will say W and I’ve got mum this side and I’ll say what do you see and they’ll say an M and I’ll say ah, but you’re both right aren’t you and so I’ll get the child to understand that […] we can move around something to see it from a different angle, from a different perspective.’

These reflective conversations might be in the sessions or they may be conversations outside of sessions but which relate to the therapy in some way. The therapists may have helped to ‘get the ball rolling’ with the latter conversations.

In both scenarios the therapist helps the dyad to talk about issues which it has not been easy to do on their own.

Feedback from caregivers indicated that this was one of the helpful aspects of dyadic art therapy.

Quote from a foster carer:

‘The stuff that we talk about in therapy means […] I can talk to her at home because it’s already out there.’

Related goal

This step is related to achieving the goals joining up people, ideas and actions and dealing with events.

Further information

Vignettes to illustrate joined-up reflective conversations between adult and child: