Because self-disclosure has always been easy for me, I’ve been an open book and share whatever people want to know about me.  However as a psychotherapist, I function quite differently and am very careful and deliberate with what I disclose to patients.  Learning to function differently as a therapist – finding my voice – has been a long and careful exploration of my role as an analyst, my social and political self, and my many years of theoretical learning.

At the beginning of my practice 16 years ago, I followed what I thought necessary at the time – the theoretical model of the blank screen.  I was silent most of the session and tried to let very little of my own personality into the room.  I thought that the best way for me to develop my technique was to pull all the way back from how I normally functioned in the world.

Initially, I shared nothing about myself or my background, believing that the most effective therapeutic stance was keeping who I am hidden so that the patient can project everything onto me, illuminating his/her psychic state.  Over many years and much careful exploration, I have moved away from the blank screen approach. This approach not only did not work for me as a therapist but I came to believe that the blank screen is not a possible stance for any analyst. Whoever I am comes into the room – either verbally or non-verbally – with the person I am working with.

The dyad of the patient and myself is unique and cannot possibly be repeated in same way with a different therapist.  I believe self-disclosure, carefully thought out, can at times be a very useful and vital  part of the treatment.

I will have much more to say on self-disclosure and the therapeutic stance in future posts.

5 comments on “Self-Disclosure

  1. Loren M. Gelberg-Goff, LCSW October 27, 2011 4:00 pm

    Interesting shift for you and awareness… We do bring ourselves into the room, and I, too have never been comfortable with being a blank screen. I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on this.

    • Susan Boudreaux, MFT October 27, 2011 6:23 pm

      Loren, I totally agree with you. I have found that even with potential clients who phone me inquiring about services, the fact that I have been where they are personally often makes the difference between obtaining them as a client or not. I am careful to disclose only when I sincerely believe that it will strengthen the client-therapist bond and when it directly relates to their problem. Clients seem relieved to know that they are speaking to someone who has not only been there “clinically” but also personally.

  2. Paula Young, LMFT October 28, 2011 4:14 am

    The best part of this post is the underlying statement, that is, that you are growing and developing as a person and so, of course also,as a therapist. I don’t think we have to be perfect. But, we better be be on a path of introspection, doing our ‘personal work’ and striving for more and more consciousness. As for our personality in the therapy room; my view is that therapy is a relationship and,hopefully, a healing relationship. So, each of is is a person, a unique person and naturally that is going to enter into the relationship. It is a predominantly one-sided relationship—the patient is not there to hear about the therapist’s life. But, answering an appropriate personal question honestly, sharing a story when it is pertinent, these things allow the patient to feel they are interacting with a human!

  3. Donita Lester October 28, 2011 4:52 am

    I think this a very interesting thread. I too agree that when we come into a therapy session, everything about us steps into that session. I think all the we have experienced enhance various environments that we are part of. I know the rule is to leave ourself out it, but, what we experience is for our development as well as an example for others. There are times when it’s needful to self-disclose.

  4. VC August October 29, 2011 7:07 pm

    Of course depending upon the particular reason that the patient is seeing the therapist, I think it is nice for my therapist to share a little about his or her life. My years going back and forth to therapy, I only stayed with a therapist that I felt could relate to my feelings and that felt comfortable with. A therapist that barely talks would never work for me. I also think a therapist cane tell a lot about themselves without actually saying details just by their response to what I am saying and their demeanor.

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