Reflective Questions at interview: how much to reveal

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Reflective Questions at interview: how much to reveal

Post by miriam »

People often find the reflective questions at interview difficult, especially if they tap into experiences that are painful or uncomfortable to talk about. If asked 'How has your family/childhood influenced your choice of career?' some people just go blank. However, reflective skills can be learnt and developed in the same way as any other skill, and they really are just one part of the overall package which courses are looking for.

I think I'm quite an open person and would be happy to discuss those kinds of things with strangers (even on here!) but maybe that is because they feel quite "safe" in the sense that I haven't had that many negative experiences, and those I have had I have been able to resolve and feel comfortable with. I think it would be much harder if you either have more difficult or unresolved experiences, or you are a more guarded or less reflective person and find those kinds of things harder to talk about.

It might be useful to think about whether you can learn to be open and reflective about some of the "safe" and contained topics in your life, before you try to delve into the less resolved stuff. Do you ever confide in a friend or partner about the effects of your life experiences? If so, perhaps they can help you to identify topics to discuss next time, and get you in a reflective frame of mind. If not, perhaps personal therapy would be beneficial, I don't know. You might want to think in advance about how much you want to reveal, and what you are willing to reflect on to a group of strangers. You don't want anything so safe that it is seen as overly defensive, nor anything so raw that your emotions take over and become overwhelming. So I'd aim for something in between, so they can see that you are real and reflective, but don't dysregulate when asked about yourself.

Having seen this topic raised I am intrigued by the questions and whether I'd be able to answer them to strangers, so here you go:

So for me, to talk about how my early experiences shaped my desire to be a clinical psychologist has an easy glib answer ("my mum did it and seemed to enjoy it") and also a more sophisticated answer about how I value being able to care for and help others (partly as a female, partly as an oldest child, partly due to my cultural heritage, and partly due to my temperament and curiosity) and see myself as having something to give to those who are more vulnerable in society, as I am quite empathic, emotionally regulated, intelligent and socially skilled (ideas reinforced by my upbringing, and being involved with large groups of children when I was young, as well as the narrative in our family).

Similarly, if asked about something difficult I have experienced I have a nice "safe" example I can talk about in terms of a car accident that left me with whiplash and dental injuries. It is useful to explore as it punctured my ideas of myself as invulnerable, and helped me to learn that I need to leave capacity to cope with contingency and not always run at 110% (although I don't always succeed in this yet). It also gave me the experience of people who I felt were supposed to help me (solicitors, medical experts, insurance) who actually seemed more keen to help themselves - something that helped me see how vulnerable it feels to be a client, and how what the therapist brings is communicated to clients and how essential the ideas of transference and counter-transference are. I also think that it showed me how even fairly minor life-events can have a remarkably big and enduring effect your life, that is very hard to judge from the outside.

To talk about a good time in my life gives me plenty of scope, in fact almost too much to know which period to describe. However one example would be that I enjoyed sixth form at school. I liked having a more diverse and able peer group for the first time, and the academic rigour which A-levels give you, as I don't think you get that anywhere else in education any more. It was also a nice time in terms of having lots of support around from friends and family. I also enjoyed the period of time around getting married and starting clinical training, and I've had a lot of pleasure from being a mother, but much of that wouldn't have happened yet, if we are thinking about questions asked in clinical interviews!

Some references on reflective practise
Suchman, L. (1987) Plans and situated Actions, Camb Uni Press

Schon, D.A. (1987) Educating the reflective practitioner, Josey-Bass

Chaiklin, S. and Lave, J (eds) (1993) Understanding Practice:Perspectives on Activity and Context, Camb Uni Press

Hendriks-Jansen, H (1996) Catching ourselves in the act: Situated Activity, interactive emergence, evolution and human thought, MIT Press

Dreyfus, H & Dreyfus, S (1986) Mind over machine: the power of human intuition and expertise, The free press

Sternberg, R (1990) Wisdom:It's nature, origins and development, Camb Uni Press

Varela, FJ, Thompson, E and Rosch, E (1991) The embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, MIT Press

Bruner, J (1990) Acts of meaning (see ch 2) Harvard Uni Press

Witkin, R.W. (1974) The intelligence of feeling (see Intro) Heinemann

Crossley, N. (1996) Intersubjectivity, Sage

Sampson, E (1993) Celebrating the other:A dialogical account of human nature, Harvester-Wheatsheaf

Yallom, I (1980) Existential Psychotherapy (see ch 1) Basic Books

Spinelli, E (1995) Demystifying therapy, Constable

Keeney, B.P. (1991) Improvisational Therapy, The Guilford Press

Mair, K (1992) The myth of therapist expertise in Dryden, W and Feltham, C (eds) Psychotherapy and it's discontents, OU Press

Heron, J (1992) Feeling and Personhood (see chs 10-14) sage

Vaughan, F (1979) Awakening Intuition, Anchor books

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Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on 3/11/18
Last modified on 3/11/2018

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