The term ‘reflective practice’ is much used and little understood. It is not the ability to describe one’s feelings about one’s experience. Rather, it is the ability to reflect on one’s experiences, to analyse what happened, why it happened and the learning gained. But it can even mean more than this – according to Schön , reflective practice is the ability to conduct such reflection, not only at the end of an experience, but mid-process. He calls this ‘Reflection-in-action’ – the ability to think on one’s feet, to understand what is happening and why, and to deal with the uncertainties of practice in situ. In terms of interviewing, this takes us beyond mere technical competence into the realm of what Schön calls the ‘artistry’ of practice. It is this I want to explore – how to create guidance practitioners who are artists, practitioners who are able to respond creatively to the uniqueness of each guidance interview, who are able to move through and beyond what they have been taught whilst preserving the principles and ethics of the profession in which they operate, not only in their evaluations but whilst they are face-to face-with clients.

Clients are unique. Their needs are unique. The way they engage in the guidance process is also unique. Yet how often do we say ‘this particular solution works best with this type of client’? How dangerous is it to teach students a predisposed set of responses and constructs of what clients are like and how best to deal with them? No wonder so many clients smile politely and say ‘thank you’ but upon leaving say to their friends that ‘she/ he didn’t listen’.

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