Self-disclosure can be a very useful skill, but only if employed properly.
Self-disclosure in therapy is when a therapist shares their own personal views or experience with a client with the purpose of improving the client’s emotional or mental state. It should be done solely for the purpose of helping the client, and not to meet the needs of the therapist. For example, if a client is upset over their divorce, the therapist may disclose that they, too, have survived a divorce. The intention would be that the therapist not only has a deeper understanding of the client’s situation, but might be able to offer some insight. Counselors must be very careful when using self-disclosure. Otherwise the session can become more about the counselor than the client, and that does not serve the clients’ needs.
Therapists often disagree on what amount of self-disclosure is appropriate. As with most aspects of counseling, there is no clear-cut “right” or “wrong.” As a therapist, you will need to evaluate for yourself the pros and cons to decide how much of it to integrate into your practice. To aid in that decision, I have created a pro/con list for you:
If you do decide to self-disclose, here are some suggestions:
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,
Dr. Barb LoFrisco