What is Reflective Practice?

Reflective Practice is at the heart of working with and caring for infants, young children and their families. This practice invites caregivers and professionals to look back, look out and look within to increase our understanding of our self and of others. It helps us improve our practices, and shift and deepen our perspectives, with moments of interaction and relationships inspiring and fostering our learning. Reflection involves the process of considering multiple perspectives including cognitive, relational, emotional, development, and cultural. It requires stepping away from the work to consider one’s own thoughts and feelings, as well as the experiences of the caregiver and infant.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey

Reflection is a skill that develops over time and in the context of secure and nurturing relationships​.

It invites us to be curious and aware of our own personal beliefs, thoughts, and feelings as well as knowledge of how these beliefs and practices affect others​.

Being Reflective in a relationship also means being curious about the feelings and intentions that motivate others. What past or present experiences are affecting what both of you are doing or saying? Pausing and taking the time to investigate these motivations gives each person a chance to better understand each other rather than simply reacting emotionally

“The precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face…the mother’s role is of giving the baby back to the baby’s own self.”

Winnicott, 1967

In the field of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, reflection is a core area of competency, including contemplation, self-awareness, curiosity, professional/personal development, parallel process, and emotional response (Competency Guidelines®, rev.2017).

Research, empirical evidence, and clinical experience confirm that reflection foundational to our field, in large part because it is foundational to the healthy development and well-being of infants and young children. Reflective functioning or mentalizing, is an unconscious, automatic procedure solicited due to human interaction that is cognitive and affective, and is the capacity to ‘hold others’ minds in mind as well as one’s own. ​Evidence strongly suggests that reflective functioning develops in early childhood, in the context of caregiving relationships and has been linked to both maternal sensitivity, infant attachment security, and infant insecure and disorganized attachment.

​In short, having a caregiver with healthy reflective functioning leads to healthy development for children.

How Reflective Supervision Supports Endorsement


To emphasize the importance of reflective supervision/consultation for best practice

To describe the knowledge, skills, and practices that are critical to reflective supervision/consultation

To better ensure that those providing reflective supervision/consultation are appropriately trained and qualified

To define the type of reflective supervision/consultation that is required for Endorsement®

Please refer to the Best Practice Guidelines for Reflective Supervision/Consultation document

Reflective Supervision/Consultation Requirements for Endorsement®

Please note: Peer supervision (defined as colleagues meeting together without an identified supervisor/consultant to guide the reflective process), while valuable for many experienced practitioners, does not meet the RS/C criteria for Endorsement® even if one of the peers has earned Endorsement® as an IMH Specialist or IMH Mentor-Clinical. The provider of RS/C is charged with holding the emotional content of the cases presented. The ability to do so is compromised when the provider is a peer of the presenter. Unnecessary complications can arise when the provider of RS/C has concerns about a peer’s ability to serve a particular family due to the peer’s emotional response AND the provider and peer share office space, for example.

Organizational NYS-AIMH Members

We welcome all organizations that share our mission of supporting the mental health of young children.

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