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How Do You See Yourself? Reflections on Therapeutic Mirroring

This wall of mirrors in the photo is in a local café. Each mirror hangs at a slightly different angle, and so captures a slightly different view of things – a different detail or a vignette of life unfolding around it.

It got me thinking about the nature of reflection, and what kind of mirror we might each be holding up to our lives in order to understand ourselves.

Reflection is a mainstay of many therapeutic modalities. Championed by Carl Rogers and the humanistic therapies, a reflective technique is thought to be able to reveal things to us – and about us – that we may not have been able to recognize so clearly alone.

So a therapist might reflect back a summary of things you’ve spoken about so you can hear them more clearly; or mirror a particular turn of phrase that might reveal something important for you; or even capture something in your tone of voice or posture that might hold clues to what you value.

Without this kind of reflection, some of these things may pass you by, swept up in your general stream of consciousness. In this way, accurate reflection has the capacity to salvage the gems from this flow; to “rescue the said from the saying of it,” as narrative therapist Michael White once put it.

And “accurate” is a key part of this reflection business, for the truer a reflection can be, the more useful it is when it comes to understanding ourselves or our behaviour.

So what kind of mirror might you be holding up to yourself?

Is the surface you view yourself through neutral?

Or is there a bit of damage or warping or some stains?

(And if so, then is it possible to really get a good view of who you are today? Or might you remain partly obscured to yourself by the patina of an aging looking glass?).

What size is the mirror in which you see yourself?
Is it a hand-mirror or full-length?

And where do you aim it – are you repeatedly drawn to looking only at your ‘flaws’?

What else might there be to see?

If you find that you often automatically judge yourself harshly and internally criticise your behaviours, your thoughts, or your ways of being in the world, then maybe it’s time to think about getting another angle on your mirror, or giving the glass a polish.

Maybe it’s time to investigate the accuracy of your mirror – the accuracy of your reflections on yourself.

You might be surprised at who you see…


Photos: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

How Do You See Yourself? Reflections on Therapeutic Mirroring

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2010). How Do You See Yourself? Reflections on Therapeutic Mirroring. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 19 Sep 2010
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