5 Considerations for Choosing a Feedback Partner

3 Part Series on Reflective Practice and Psychological Safety Series

When you think about receiving feedback, do you meet that with feelings of excitement or dread?  As pediatric therapists, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for our clients, we must also prioritize our own growth and self-improvement.  But if you are like most therapists, you probably imagine that a feedback session would primarily focus on “the negatives.”  The things you aren’t doing well.  The things you need to improve on.  Who wants to voluntarily open themselves up to criticism?  

If that describes your feeling then it makes sense that establishing a partnered reflective practice is going to seem like an intimidating and uncomfortable task.

Check out and enroll in the full Reflective Practice eCourse (.35 CEUs for AOTA)

What we are here to tell you though, is that partnered reflective practice doesn’t have to be that way!  Seeking feedback can be a vulnerable process, requiring a safe and supportive environment for constructive dialogue to flourish.  While our recently released course (linked here) covers all things reflective practice, this blog focuses on selecting a reflective partner and establishing psychological safety.  After all, a safe and supportive environment is needed for constructive dialogue to flourish.

Rewind!  What’s Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety refers to the belief that one can express themselves without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career. Thinking about pediatric professionals such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physical therapists, psychological safety is essential for fostering open communication, trust, and collaboration. When practitioners feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to engage in reflective practice, share insights, and embrace growth opportunities.  Engaging in reflective practice then not only boosts the practitioner’s self-confidence but also improves client outcomes and better supports neurodiversity-affirming care. 

Choosing the Ideal Feedback Partner

Selecting the right feedback partner is crucial for creating a psychologically safe environment conducive to professional development. Here are 5 key considerations when choosing a feedback partner:

  • 1. Trustworthiness: Look for someone you trust implicitly, who has your best interests at .  This could be a mentor, colleague, or supervisor. When considering trustworthiness in others, ask yourself:
    • Does this person act with integrity?
    • Do you have respect for the way this person engages with others?
    • Does this person regularly find themselves in the middle of gossip?
    • Do they regularly share details about others that you think might embarass them if the other person was aware?
  • 2. Empathy and Compassion: Seek out individuals who possess strong empathy and compassion. A feedback partner who approaches discussions with sensitivity and understanding can help mitigate feelings of vulnerability and promote a supportive atmosphere.  Ask yourself:
    • Does this person demonstrate active listening?
    • Does this person come off as a “know-it-all?”  Are they quick to provide “answers” or “solutions” without taking time to consider information in depth?
    • Does this person demonstrate the ability to consider multiple perspectives?
  • 3. Constructive Communication Skills: Consider an individual’s ability to provide constructive feedback. Ask yourself:
    • Can this person offer specific, actionable insights while maintaining a positive and respectful tone?
    • Do they focus on behaviors and outcomes over personal characteristics?
    • Do they demonstrate genuine wonder or curiosity about others?
  • 4. Shared Goals and Values: Align yourself with a feedback partner who shares your professional goals and values. A feedback partner does not always have to be in the exact same field as you, but it helps if you have similar roles.  Shared objectives create a sense of camaraderie and mutual understanding, fostering a collaborative spirit in feedback exchanges.  As a therapist, you might ask yourself:
    • What is my desired outcome?  Does this match the potential reflective partner?  For example; If your goal is to improve your skills to foster growth for you and your clients, selecting a reflective partner whose primary goal is to move through more clients to hit billing and bonusing targets may not lead you to the desired end result. Their feedback may overlook the quality of the therapeutic relationship for quantity.  
  • 5. Diverse Perspectives: Embrace diversity in feedback partners to gain a broader range of insights and perspectives. Engaging with individuals from different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise can enrich your reflective practice and challenge your assumptions. Consider:
    • Diversity can come from a variety of places.  You can find diverse perspectives when considering cultural background, race, gender, age, educational background, years in the profession, etc. 
    • Warning!  While diversity of thought is important to the workplace, there are also times when someone’s specialty training, preferred interventions, or subscribed frameworks may be at odds with a conducive feedback session.  One example might be someone who works from a neurodiversity-affirming, child-led framework and someone whose framework for practice is routed in a more traditional behavioral approach.  Here you may have diverse perspectives but core values or approaches do not align.  

So!  Have you got someone in mind as a possible reflective partner?  How will you broach them and when?  Stay tuned for our next blog post in this 3 part mini-series: “5 Considerations for Developing and Maintaining Psychological Safety with a Feedback Partner.

Check out and enroll in the full Reflective Practice eCourse (.35 CEUs for AOTA)

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