Examples of reflective writing

Take a careful look at the following three paragraphs: one from a standard academic essay, one from a reflective journal, and one from a reflective essay. Can you spot the differences among these three pieces of writing in terms of language, style and tone?

Example 1 - Academic essay

Termination is an important aspect of the counseling process because it marks the end of a relationship between a counseler and client. According to Anthony and Pagano (1998), the termination process can be a painful and emotional experience as clients can often experience feelings of abandonment and hopelessness and counselers can experience feelings of guilt. A client and counseler relationship is at a deep level where the feelings and problems of the client are being experienced also by the counseler through empathic measures. As Davies (2005, p. 786) points out, counseling “involves both participants in the psychoanalytic process in a profoundly mutual, deeply felt, and deeply loving (at times, hating) relationship”. Thus, termination of such a relationship can be a life-altering experience. This is similar to the termination of a relationship between close partners. Termination, seen from this light, “stands as one of the very few moments in life when we actively choose to permanently end such a mutually loving relationship” (Davies, 2005, p. 786). Nevertheless, if the termination “is marked by emotional honesty, respect for the feelings of the other, and a gentleness that speaks to the vulnerability of the moment” (Davies, 2005, p. 783), then the end of the relationship can be seen positively, as a new beginning where both parties learn to become more independent and grow as individuals. Similarly, the termination of the counseler and client relationship can also be seen in a positive light.

Introduces topic: 'termination'

Discusses expert observations and explanations of why it can be painful.  Then discusses another expert explanation that adds depth to the previous one.

Identifies the similarities between termination and other life experiences - but not the students' own

Explains and concludes, using expert opinion, how termination can be positive.

 Example 2 - Reflective journal

The issue of termination is an important aspect of the counselling process because it marks the end of a relationship between a counseller and client. Although I have never been in a counselling relationship where the termination process was an important factor, I can relate this process to that of a breakup with my partner when he moved interstate. We both had feelings of dependency on each other and had a mutual care for each other, but knew that we could not continue on with the relationship, so we terminated the relationship so to speak because basic contact would be too emotionally difficult. Similarly, a client and counseller relationship is at a deep level where the feelings and problems of the client are being experienced also by the counseller through empathic measures. Thus, termination of such a relationship can be a life-altering experience. Nevertheless, if both parties respect each other and are honest in voicing their reasons for ending the relationship, as it was in my case, then the end of the relationship can be seen positively, as a new beginning where both parties learn to become more independent and grow as individuals. I feel that my experience was quite similar to a counselling relationship in that we were both on the same level without one party being subordinate to the other and the complete separation ultimately helped me to grow as a person.

Introduces topic: 'termination'.  Discusses own lack of experience with termination specifically, but tries to relate it to own experience of a break up. 

Explains in detail why the two might be similar.

Again relating termination to a romantic relationship, discusses how endings can be positive.

 

Concludes by stating, overall, why the relationships are similar.

 Example 3 - Weaving the two styles together in a Reflective essay

The issue of termination is an important aspect of the counselling process because it marks the end of a relationship between a counseller and client. The process of termination can be a quite painful and emotional experience as clients can often experience feelings of abandonment and hopelessness and counsellers can experience feelings of guilt (Anthony & Pagano 1998). Personally, I feel that this is perfectly understandable as a client and counseller relationship is at a deep level where the feelings and problems of the client are being experienced also by the counseller through empathic measures. As Davies (2005, p. 786) points out, counseling “involves both participants in the psychoanalytic process in a profoundly mutual, deeply felt, and deeply loving … relationship”. Thus, termination of such a relationship can be a life-altering experience. This is similar, I believe, to the termination of a relationship between close partners; an experience I have undergone myself. Nevertheless, if the termination “is marked by emotional honesty, respect for the feelings of the other, and a gentleness that speaks to the vulnerability of the moment” (Davies, 2005, p. 783), as it was in my case, then the end of the relationship can be seen positively, as a new beginning where both parties learn to become more independent and grow as individuals. Similarly, the termination of the counseller and client relationship can also be seen in a positive light

Introduces topic: 'termination'. 

Discusses expert observations and explanations of why it can be painful.  Explains, using reasoning, how the student can personally relate.  Then, uses expert explanations to back that up.

Raises own experience of a romantic breakup and suggests the two are similar.  

Draws particularly on the way in which the breakup was framed positively - supports this with theory.  Then concludes by suggesting that counselling termination can be equally positive.