Keeping a Professional Development Log

J0396053Most counsellor training courses require counselling students to keep a professional development log. Such a log could include details on training, aspects arising from supervision or of practice which the counsellor felt of importance.  A professional development log helps the counsellor focus on individual practitioner experiences (Wilkins, 1997).   In addition, some counsellors use audio or video-tape recordings of sessions adapting the principles of Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) (Dryden, W, Thorne, B, 1991).  IPR allows for the tape to be stopped so that moments of particular significance can be processed in terms of thoughts, feelings and the actions that followed.

Additionally, a counsellor may wish to engage in regular reviews with clients as a way of monitoring therapeutic progress and counsellor effectiveness.  Reviews enable  client and counsellor to consider progress allowing clients greater say in designing and amending their own counselling programme (Sutton, 1997).  For the counsellor’s part reviews provide an opportunity to consider positive and negative feedback about the therapeutic relationship, the counsellor’s approach, whether the client feels their needs are being met and provides information and ideas on how best to use available resources (Elton Wilson, 1997).  Counsellors from a cognitive-behavioural background often undertake mini reviews at the end of each session as they believe this provides the client with greater control over therapeutic process and outcome (Lazarus, A.A. 1989, Scott, Stradling, Dryden 1995, Padesky, Greenberger 1995).

Counsellors from other therapeutic persuasions may see such a structured approach as damaging to the essence of the  therapeutic relationship and therefore wish to engage in such feedback on a less frequent, if at all, basis.  Indeed, some counsellors see this approach as being more about “performance than quality of being” (House, 1998).  A review may be of a verbal nature with the counsellor asking the client to evaluate where they started (in terms of how they felt at the beginning of counselling in relation to their initial presenting problems(s)), where they feel they are now (progress to-date) and where they would like to be (future focus).  In addition, questions such as “is there anything I do in our work together that you find helps or hinders” could also be asked (McMahon, 1998).

Some counsellors prefer to deal with reviews in a more formal way by asking the client to evaluate progress in writing.  This approach is based on an adaptation of the termination or goodbye letter used in Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT).  Here client and counsellor write a goodbye letter to each other. The counsellor focuses on, for example, the changes achieved and the client’s letter is an  experience of self-evaluation (Ryle, 1995). Comparing the scores of  questionnaires and exploring their meaning may also provide material for counsellor reflection.  For example completing the Beck Depression Inventory at frequent intervals may help  client and counsellor monitor progress with regard to a specific problem such as depression (Hanmen, C, 1997).

Next in the series:

Reflecting Through Counselling Supervision
Monitoring Effectiveness

Previous post in this series:

Reflective Practice and Self-Evaluation


Dryden W, Thorne, B (1991), Training and Supervision for Counselling in Action, Dryden, W, Throne, B (eds) Counselling in Action Series, London : Sage
Sutton, C (1997) ‘Reviewing and Evaluating Therapeutic Progress’ in Palmer, S, McMahon, G (eds) Client Assessment, London: Sage
Elton Wilson, J (1997) ‘Choosing a Time-Limited Counselling Contract’, in Feltham, C, Sills, C (eds) Contracts in Counselling, Professional Skills for Counsellors, London: Sage
Lazarus, A.A (1989) The Practice of Multimodal Therapy, Baltimore, USA : John Hopkins University Press
Scott, M.J, Stradling, S.G, Dryden, W (1995) Developing Cognitive-Behavioural Counselling, London: Sage
Padesky, C.A., Greenberger, D (1995) Clinician’s Guide to Mind Over Mood, New York, USA: Guildford Press
House, R (1998) ‘Counselling : performance or quality of being’, Counselling, P175, Volume 9, No 3,  Rugby: British Association for Counselling
Ryle, A (1995), Cognitive Analytic Therapy, London : John Wiley & Sons
Hanmen, C (1997) Depression, in Brewin, C.R. (ed) Clinical Psychology: A Modular Course, Hove: Psychology Press Ltd

2 Responses to Keeping a Professional Development Log

  1. Very informative article. I agree that making development log with personal progress helps in therapy. I think it motivates people to make changes in their life and allows doctor to monitor progress of the therapy.

  2. Very important points here! As a counsellor, it is very important to keep a professional development log to have a record for your clients. This may serve as a source of reviews for your client’s progress. I struggled with this when I was just starting out, but my professors at were able to help me understand the right approach when I become a counsellor.

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