Pre-Training Self-Reflection

Module Purpose

The purpose of this module is to:

  • Recognize and reflect on how we see ourselves in the world compared to how others may view us.

  • Understand how our self-identity and external identity enhances, limits, and affects our work.
  • Understand and reflect on how our own thinking and beliefs can guide the choices we make.
  • Acknowledge and reflect upon the similarities between ourselves and the families we work with.

Note: This module is different from the others. It provides us an opportunity to ground our thinking in a self-reflective and self-aware framework. It may be helpful to have a blank piece of paper and a pen when completing this module. 



This module is designed as an opportunity for us to take time to think openly, critically, and honestly about ourselves and what we bring to our work with individuals and families experiencing intimate partner violence and other forms of trauma/toxic stress. We also see self-reflection work as a form of self-care. Our own self-awareness and understanding is an important aspect to sustaining ourselves as helpers and advocates. It is important that we take care of ourselves in our work and our self-reflection activities.

In order to effectively engage with people in a meaningful and respectful way, it is often helpful to look inward to better understand ourselves, our outlook on the world, and how this guides and directs our responses and decisions.

We all have deeply held beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions and biases that impact why and how we do our work. When we begin to discover and unpack what this means for each of us, we are better able to determine when our personal beliefs, assumptions, and biases are getting in the way of our work or support our work in a positive way. Change is best facilitated when we are aware of how we operate.


Who Am I?

Write down 10–15 words that describe you well: your gender, ethnicity, family relationships, personality, political leanings, values, hobbies, employment, etc. Choose words that you feel closely describe yourself. (Examples: woman, man, mother, father, program director, singer, creative, smart, daughter or son, fitness nut, easy going, stubborn, bookworm, friendly, peace activist)

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Look carefully at the words you just jotted down. Write the words that describe you the best or are the most important in your own understanding of yourself, nearest to the middle circle. Put the words that are less important or less key to how you describe yourself farther from the middle circle.

Choose 5 words (could pull from the list you just created) that someone meeting you for the first time would probably use to describe you.

Write down the 5 words nearest to the middle circle.

Optional: Find a colleague to share this process with and discuss how the 5 words from question one are similar or different from the 5 most important words you selected for question two.


Similarities and Differences

Developing empathy and compassion for the individuals and families we work with is a critical element to building trusting partnerships. Identifying some of the similarities we share with the individuals and families we work with and honoring our differences can support our capacity to suspend judgment and develop empathy.

Take a minute to think about a family and answer the following questions with that family in mind.

  • Write down three ways you are different from the parent or partner who is causing harm to the family.

  • Write down three ways you are similar to the parent or partner who is causing harm to the family.

  • Write down three ways you are different from the parent or partner who is being harmed in this family.

  • Write down three ways you are similar to the parent or partner who is being harmed in this family.

Reflect on the following questions:

  • What thoughts come to your mind as you re-read each list?

  • What about this list surprises you?

  • What will you take away from this process?


Beliefs and Assumptions

As advocates, social workers, nurses, teachers, and others who serve families, it is important that we take time to reflect on the beliefs and assumptions we carry about individuals and families whose lives are affected by abuse.

What are some of the ways assumptions impact your work with families?

List three responses to the statements below:

Women (or men) who are abused:

Women (or men) who are abused:

Men (or women) who abuse:

Children who are impacted by domestic violence:


Reflecting upon your responses, how do you think these beliefs impact your work with:

  • Women (or men) who are abused?
  • Children who are impacted by intimate partner violence?
  • Men (or women) who abuse?

What did you learn from your response about what your program could do?

My program could:


Needs and Acceptance

Understanding ourselves - our needs, our strengths, our limitations - can generate helpful insight. An ongoing process of self-awareness is important. When we are more self-aware of ourselves, we are better able to be aware and connected to the needs of others.

Please take a moment to fill in the blank. 

  • I am most insecure about: _________________

  • I feel accepted when: ___________________

  • I am most afraid of: ___________________

  • I get my needs met by: _______________________

Reflect on your responses in step 1 – What impact do these responses have on:

  • Your family

  • Your friends

  • Your work


Think of a person from a family you are working with and consider:

        (name of the person)         may be most insecure about…

        (name of the person)         may feel most accepted when…

        (name of the person)         may be most afraid of…

        (name of the person)         may get their needs met by…

Take a moment to reflect on the similarities and differences between your responses in step one and your response in step three.


Wrap Up

How was this process? What were the benefits? What was challenging?

List 2–3 important things you learned about yourself.




  • Understanding our own bias and beliefs helps us to develop deeper connections and relationships with others.
  • Engaging in a regular process of self-reflection supports ongoing growth.
  • The deeper our understanding of our needs and limitations, the better equipped we are to take care of ourselves and others.
  • It is important to be kind and gentle with ourselves throughout this process.