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|Case Studies Jan/Feb - Page 8|
By Janine Roberts
This case study includes many keen insights about how societal messages affect women clients living alone and makes crucial distinctions among aloneness, loneliness, and solitude that other therapists can work with in their own practices. The opening statistics highlight the fact that numerous female clients may be confronting shame and other challenges brought on by being alone and feeling disconnected from themselves.
I wish, however, that the statistics and the case study hadn't been presented through a heteronormative lens. Saying "fifty-one percent of women live without spouses" and "a quarter of adult American women have never married" masks the percentage of women in these statistics who are gay, or women who are partnered but not married. Language like "with or without a man, she [Lisa] was capable, not only of surviving, but of thriving" is heterosexist.
I applaud Falk's use of personal disclosure. Clearly that technique was helpful in the therapy. Research on the self-disclosure of therapists has shown that clients consider it useful in strengthening their connection with their therapist, gaining new perspectives, and seeing themselves as "normal." In workshops I've given in the U.S. and abroad, hundreds of clinicians have said that they self-disclose in therapy, and commented on how infrequently self-disclosure is addressed in training and supervision.
However, clients said in the research studies that the closeness that arose from therapist disclosure didn't always feel comfortable. Disclosures can cross boundaries inappropriately and be dangerous, putting clients in a position, for example, where they feel they need to take care of their therapist.