Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 87 Issue 4 (December 2014), Pages 373-464

Experiences of self‐practice/self‐reflection in cognitive behavioural therapy: A meta‐synthesis of qualitative studies (pages 373-392)


Self‐practice/self‐reflection is a valuable training strategy which involves therapists applying therapeutic techniques to themselves, and reflecting on the process.


To undertake a meta‐synthesis of qualitative studies exploring therapists' experiences of self‐practice/self‐reflection in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This would integrate, and interpret, the current literature in order to develop a new understanding, and contribute to the development of CBT training programmes.


The meta‐synthesis encompassed three distinct phases: undertaking a comprehensive and systematic literature search; critically appraising the papers; and synthesising the data using the meta‐ethnographic method.


The literature search identified 378 papers, ten met the criteria for inclusion. After critical appraisal, all were included in the synthesis. The synthesis identified 14 constructs, which fell into three broad categories: ‘experience of self‐practice/self‐reflection’; ‘outcomes of self‐practice/self‐reflection’; and ‘implications for training’. This synthesis found that self‐practice allows therapists to put themselves into their clients' shoes, experiencing the benefits that therapy can bring but also the problems that clients can run in to. This experience increases therapists' empathy for their clients, allowing them to draw on their own experiences in therapy. As a result, therapists tend to feel both more confident in themselves and more competent as a therapist. The self‐practice/self‐reflection process was facilitated by reflective writing and working with others, particularly peers.


Self‐practice/self‐reflection is a valuable training strategy in CBT, which has a range of beneficial outcomes. It can also be used as a means of continuing personal and professional development.

Practitioner points

  • Self‐practice of CBT techniques, and reflecting on the process, can be a useful training strategy and helpful for ongoing development
  • Therapists could consider developing a ‘self‐case’ study, rather than using the exercises as one‐off techniques, recording reflections in writing, and sharing reflections with peers.
  • Self‐practice/self‐reflection can be particularly helpful for increasing empathy for clients, highlighting the difficulties they may encounter.

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