Therapist Self-Disclosure

Therapist Self-Disclosure

Think Before You Get Personal

By Janine Roberts

July/August 2012

Robbie, a slight man in his fifties with receding hair and a warm, round face, makes a beeline for me before the workshop starts. He says, "I came to this because I got into real trouble disclosing something about myself to a couple. Even my wife is angry with me."

"Great," I reply, as Robbie lurches back a step, startled. "We'll discuss times when disclosures don't work, and if you're comfortable telling us what happened, we'll all learn from it."

Some 20 minutes into the workshop, Robbie recounts, "I was working with a couple last week. The husband, Bill, made an allusion early in the session to thoughts about other women. Things were tense between him and his wife, Anita. Finally, I said that I'd had a few fantasies over the 30-some years of my marriage, but I'd never acted on them. I wanted to indicate it was normal to sometimes have thoughts about other women. As I talked, Bill nodded. But suddenly, Anita screeched, 'What do you mean normal?! That's cheating!' The next day, I got a phone call from Anita's mother, accusing me of being a sex addict. And I practice and live in the same small town."

I sigh sympathetically, along with many other audience members, and say, "It's the old story: the message sent is often not the message received. What you disclosed was heard in one way by Bill and in another way by Anita."

Self-revelations are complicated when there's more than one client in the room because they're filtered through multiple…

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Saturday, October 26, 2019 4:24:43 PM | posted by John
Very nice article. I have occasionally struggled with the issue of self-disclosure. I have attempted to use it as respectfully as possible and as an empathetic gesture. I am getting better at it and the article is helpful.

Saturday, November 4, 2017 3:12:35 PM | posted by Michele
Great, thoughtful article. Thanks, Janine!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 4:39:25 PM | posted by thandiwe
I am in a gap of access to a library and need the pages of Roberts 2012 article, Think Before You Get Personal, as citation in a chapter I wrote. Could you kindly rescue me? thandiwe Dee

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:10:00 AM | posted by Brian E. Wilson
This series of articles on self disclosure has been very helpful to me. I lean toward self-disclosure as I strive for a strong connection between myself and my client. However, I often wonder if I am going too far or sharing too often.

This has given me something to measure my own self-disclosure interventions with.