At its most basic therapist self-disclosure may be defined as the revelation of personal rather than professional information about the therapist to the client. Keywords: therapist self-disclosure; therapeutic relationship; client accepted forms of practice with therapeutic benefits for the client (Audet & Everall,. Simonds & Spokes () conducted a research study to model relationships between different types of therapist self-disclosure, therapeutic alliance, patient.
However, certain patterns of responding emerged.
Thus these findings suggest that amount and type of self-disclosure are important factors to consider when deciding on whether or not to disclose in a given situation. Audet also discovered that her participants appeared to have predetermined notions of therapeutic boundaries and believed those boundaries to be important. Even so, most perceived therapist self-disclosure as generally helpful as long as it did not violate those boundaries. One participant expressed feeling disappointed by a piece of disclosure as it led her to feel critical of a personal decision that her therapist had made.
Findings suggest that newer therapists are less likely to disclose than more seasoned therapists. Generally speaking, therapists tend to disclose less to more symptomatic clients.
Further, timing appears to matter, as toward the end of the treatment episode, the therapist is likely to disclose more frequently. The context of the therapeutic relationship also matters, as clients who have strong alliances with their therapists are more likely to rate disclosing therapists as warmer.
Mixed empirical data notwithstanding, the issue of therapist self-disclosure is controversial in large part owing to differences in theoretical orientation. Thus a brief discussion of the theoretical implications of TSD is in order. Notably, however, Freud regularly engaged in self-disclosure with his clients and was known to share his own dreams and memories with them.
That the father of psychoanalytic theory was unable to completely refrain from disclosing may support the idea that total therapist anonymity is neither possible nor desirable. Accordingly, with the rise of more contemporary psychodynamic schools, the therapist-client relationship became increasingly important.Self-disclosure in psychotherapy ~ Robin Williams & Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, 1997)
That being said, modern psychodynamic therapists are still among the most judicious about the use of self-disclosure, as they believe that it can compromise the transferential field of therapy. Some examples of common boundaries in therapeutic relationships include starting and ending each session on-time and abstaining from engaging in romantic or social relationships with one another.
The Skill of Self-Disclosure: What You Need To Know
This role-reversal would be burdensome to the client who would feel pulled to subjugate his needs to that of the therapist. Alternately, therapist self-disclosure may put the client in a position where he or she censors important information in an effort to not offend the therapist.
- The Big Reveal
For example, a staunchly atheistic client may choose to not share intense feelings of anger toward her devoutly Christian family members if she knows that her therapist is deeply religious. This, of course, would rob the client of the opportunity to process these complex and perhaps problematic feelings in the context of therapy.
Humanistic theory holds the genuine connection between therapist and client as a singularly important agent of therapeutic change Gibson, To that end, humanistic therapists often use TSD to facilitate honest connection and so self-disclosure becomes an indispensable tool of the therapy. Similarly, feminist psychologists have historically regarded self-disclosure as a critical component of successful psychotherapy. Other theoretical orientations that generally view therapist self-disclosure in a favorable light include cognitive behavioral therapy CBT and rational emotive therapy RET.
The Big Reveal | Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy
Similarly, an RET practitioner may self-disclose a personal experience as a memorable demonstration of how the ABC activating events-beliefs-consequences model may lead to emotional difficulties Peterson, Hence, a basic understanding of the fundamentally different theoretical stances on self-disclosure illuminates why an instance of self-disclosure that is considered therapeutic by one clinician may be thought of as harmful by another.
Theoretical variations aside, certain factors require special consideration from therapists deliberating self-disclosure. Though a client from the United States is likely to regard lack of therapist self-disclosure as a sign of professionalism, a client from some other culture may view a non-disclosing therapist as aloof or impersonal Barnett, Culture may also become a salient factor for therapists considering disclosure of a marginalized identity.
In this instance, the potential benefit of non-immediate self-disclosure may outweigh the risk for harm. In treating children and adolescents, total non-disclosure could seriously compromise necessary rapport between the client and therapist Gibson, In more extreme cases, avoiding self-disclosure in response to personal questions from a child client can interfere with their ability to master reality Peterson, In the case of newly autonomous and potentially guarded adolescents, the use of thoughtful self-disclosure can serve to model openness and authenticity.
Age is also a concern worthy of consideration when disclosing with elderly clients Peterson, Therapist self-disclosure with elderly clients is ill-advised in situations in which they are socially isolated.
The rationale is that such clients are at a high risk for using the therapist to fill the role of an intimate friend, and by doing so, can blur professional boundaries. Barnett urges clinicians to be wary of disclosing to clients who are especially self-absorbed and likely to see their therapists as an extension of themselves.
This can become especially problematic if, as a result, the therapist becomes resentful of the client for not recognizing his separateness. Such disclosures clearly would be unethical and potentially exploitative and clinically harmful.
However, social workers may disagree about how much personal information clinicians should disclose to clients about their debilitating illness, substance abuse history, religious practices, sexual orientation, marital status, or plans to leave the agency. It is critically important for social workers to understand the nature of self-disclosure issues and manage them in ways that protect clients.
Types of Self-disclosure Self-disclosure issues in social work arise in various settings and circumstances. Many of these issues in clinical relationships involve some form of intimacy. Research evidence demonstrates that practitioner sexual misconduct with clients often begins when clinicians disclose personal information to clients about their own troubled marriages or intimate relationships.
Sometimes social workers disclose personal information for other purposes—for example, to strengthen their therapeutic alliance and nonphysical connection with clients.
However, self-disclosure for therapeutic benefit may not always be helpful to clients. Research on impaired mental health professionals suggests that troubled practitioners who become involved in inappropriate client relationships often disclose personal information to clients because doing so helps the practitioners cope with their own challenges.
Social workers occasionally disclose personal information to clients when such self-disclosure could produce tangible, material benefits or favors for the social worker beyond monetary payment for services rendered.
For example, social workers sometimes provide services to clients who have expertise from which the professionals themselves may benefit. A social worker who has a nagging plumbing problem may disclose this information to, and seek advice from, a client who is a plumber.
Self-Disclosure in Clinical Social Work
A social worker with chronic lower back pain may choose to disclose this fact to a client who is a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon, hoping to obtain some practical advice.
Most clinical social workers are caring, dedicated, and honorable people who would never knowingly take advantage of clients. Ironically, however, social workers who are remarkably compassionate and caring may create boundary problems unwittingly by disclosing too much personal information to clients.
Some forms of self-disclosure are difficult to anticipate or prevent. For example, social workers may encounter clients unexpectedly in their place of worship, thereby disclosing personal information about their religious affiliation and practices. Ethical Considerations To protect clients, social workers should be familiar with prevailing ethical standards in the profession that are relevant to self-disclosure and boundary issues.
The National Association of Social Workers NASW Code of Ethics includes several important standards pertaining to conflicts of interest that can emerge when social workers disclose personal information to clients, whether for purposes of intimacy and emotional connectedness, personal benefit, altruism, or as a result of unexpected or unanticipated circumstances standards 1.
The NASW Code of Ethics also obligates social workers to pay close attention to issues in their own lives that may lead to inappropriate self-disclosure or boundary problems standards 4. Social workers frequently find themselves in circumstances where self-disclosure is, or has the potential to become, an issue.