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.