THE BENEFITS OF THERAPIST SELF-DISCLOSURE

SharingFor several weeks I’ve been reviewing articles, looking for a good place to resume writing pieces that will reflect all aspects of my practice, including my assessment and referral service, my work with clients undergoing life transitions, and my work using Brene´Brown’s, The Daring Way™. I chose this article (see link below), The ‘Rules’ of Psychotherapy, because it reminds me of a couple of things; 1) that there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of doing therapy, and 2) that as humans we’re hard-wired for connection, and develop trust and authenticity through moments of mutual connection.

The article makes a case for how therapist self-disclosure can open up trust in clients who are disinclined to engage with therapists that only provide reflection in the service of developing insight. I admittedly work with several therapists who adhere to this principle. Although this is not my style, I work them because know that many clients want, expect, and benefit from a clean and clear therapeutic environment. The therapists I work with who hold to this position work from theory, know what they’re doing and why, and they are very good at it.

My problem with the general neutrality stance, however, is that it’s often assumed to be the only acceptable stance in psychotherapy. Traditionally it’s considered ‘wrong’ for a therapist to self-disclose in sessions. I have written several other pieces on this subject in the past, because I so completely disagree with this line of thinking. I believe that what’s most important is for the therapist know when and how to self-disclose and to do so in the service of helping clients, rather than to get their own needs met.

I love the attached article because it uses a case example to explore this issue. The client in the article had always been the one who provided reflection in her relationships. What she lacked was a feeling of genuine connection with another person. At first the therapist refused to allow herself to be seen by the client, and in doing so negated the opportunity for an experience of connection that this client badly needed. Once the therapist lowered the veil of neutrality the client began to make progress.

The decisions about when and how to self-disclose are not always easy to make. I know therapists that are inappropriate in their self-disclosures, and that do harm by unknowingly using clients to get their own needs met. When I think of Brene´Brown’s work, however, and consider why she has become so popular I realize it’s because she lives her work. She insists that to be wholehearted we have to live inside of our stories, and with this posture she never hesitates to tell stories of her own vulnerabilities and experiences with shame. This resonates with her readers and promotes trust in her authenticity. It is one reason why I continue to do this work, and to share my stories with clients when helpful.http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/the-rules-of-psychotherapy/?_r=0

 


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