ACLP Bulletin | Winter 2023 | VOL. 41 No. 1

Shannon Dier, MS, CCLS
Self-reflective practice is one of the core competencies of the child life profession (ACLP, 2019), yet I doubt this is something most of us mention in our “elevator speech” explaining what a child life specialist does. Nonetheless, it is foundational to our ability to continue to grow and develop as professionals. Reflection invites us to move beyond what happened and to consider how our experiences impact the way we think, feel, and act as child life specialists. Research with other healthcare professionals suggests that reflective practice decreases stress and anxiety, improves professional competence, develops knowledge and application to practice, and increases self-awareness and critical thinking (Choperena et al.,2019; Contreras et al., 2020)

Reflection requires “stepping back from the direct, intense experience of clinical work and exploring the thoughts, feelings, and issues” being managed (ACLP, n.d.). This process is especially clear among child life students, who we require to reflect on all they have seen and done in weekly or daily journals.

In the professional world, reflective practices typically involve clinical supervision groups and debriefing with a peer or supervisor. While these externalized processing opportunities are valuable, there seems to be a shift away from individual written reflection as we move from student to professional. Given how valuable writing about clinical experiences is while we are learning, are we missing out when we aren’t engaging in writing as reflective practice?

As a doctoral student and child life instructor, I recently rediscovered the benefitS of writing about what I was doing and observing. Last fall, I was enrolled in an action research course that required completing weekly journals about my teaching and the actions I had taken to improve student learning. My goal had been to embed content related to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the semester to better prepare child life students for the updated ACLP Internship Readiness Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs). Not only was I able to evaluate the impact of my changes through reflection, but I was also able to recognize how my actions as an instructor impacted the outcome. For example, I hoped to increase student self-awareness and facilitate collaborative discussions, yet I discovered that my eagerness to share information often turned into more of a passive lecture. Through reflective practice on my teaching, I was able to see beyond what initially felt like lack of engagement from the students to realize I needed to create space for them to more actively engage.

Much like the practicum students with whom I was working, I found that refl ective writing increased my self-awareness, deepened my understanding of the practice, and empowered me to make adjustments to what I doing in realtime. It was also motivating in a way I hadn’t considered before: I was writing my own story, and I couldn’t wait to update myself next week about the progress I was making toward my goals. In this way, reflective practice through writing facilitates ongoing growth and encourages us to not be complacent or stagnant in our work.

This Winter issue of ACLP Bulletin includes several examples of professionals engaging in this important process of reflection. Shelby Strauser discusses how visitor restrictions imposed by the pandemic prompted her to rethink her role in supporting caregivers in the emergency department. In an article about preadmission phone calls, Elise Huntley reflects on the benefits and challenges of this practice and shares what she has learned. Other articles engage us as readers in reflection about what it means to practice child life and challenge our field to continue to grow and change. Describing the development of an academic mentorship program, Belinda Hammond and Katie Walker discuss the implications of helping to build child life programs at historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. Finally, Kristen Brown and her colleagues examine what it might look like for child life specialists to use our skills to address social determinants of health.

As I wrap up this reflection on reflecting, I have a few updates to share. First, I want to welcome everyone to our first open-access issue: ACLP Bulletin is now available to be read and shared by anyone! Issues will still be emailed to members, but all articles will also be freely available on the ACLP website. Second, ACLP members will be able to earn 1 PDU for reading the issue, similar to earning PDUs for reading articles in The Journal of Child Life.

Finally, with help from our committee members, we are offering more support to interested authors. If you are a first-time writer, unsure where to start, or need a little extra assistance organizing your ideas, we are here to help you get from inspiration to article. So, with reflective practice in mind, I invite you all to reach out to us at with the lessons you’ve learned, the cases that have challenged you, and the stories you have to share.

Shannon Dier, MS, CCLS


Association of Child Life Professionals. (2019). Child life competencies.

Association of Child Life Professionals. (n.d.) Position statement on clinical supervision and reflective practice.

Choperena, A., Oroviogoicoechea, C., Zaragoza Salcedo, A., Olza Moreno, I., & Jones, D. (2019). Nursing narratives and reflective practice: A theoretical review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 75(8), 1637–1647.

Contreras, J. A., Edwards-Maddox, S., Hall, A., & Lee, M. A. (2020). Effects of reflective practice on baccalaureate nursing students’ stress, anxiety and competency: An integrative review. Worldviews on Evidence-based Nursing, 17(3), 239–245.