Self disclosure is when a counsellor shares their own personal views or experience with a client with the purpose of improving the client's emotional state.
The truth of the matter is that we are always disclosing things about ourselves all the time in the way we dress, talk as well as in how we decorate our offices, therapy rooms in our homes etc.... some of this is in our control yet, if we are counselling within an organisation, it isn't.
The timing of self disclosure is delicate. Self-disclosure can only work once you have built up a relationship of trust, which usually involves some time and several sessions.
If you are a trainee counsellor then check with your supervisor.
The main purpose of revealing something to the client is to help the client and certainly not to meet the needs of the counsellor.
For example, if a client is upset over their divorce, the counsellor may disclose that they, too, have experienced divorce, however again, the timing of this is crucial.
The intention would be that the therapist not only has a deeper understanding of the client’s situation, but might be able to offer some insight.
Would it help the relationship that is developing?
Counsellors often disagree on what amount of self-disclosure is appropriate. As with most aspects of counselling, there is no clear-cut “right” or “wrong.”
Most humanistic therapies consider counsellor self disclosure to be acceptable, within certain boundaries.
If you do decide to self-disclose, here are 7 things to consider:-
1. Is what you share of interest and of use to your client?
Can you answer how it may help them?
2. Share briefly and then monitor their feedback
How can you reveal in the most meaningful way and be mindful of the client's verbal and non-verbal cues?
3. If you have disclosed something, return the talk to the client's concern/issue Link back to what they have been talking about straight away.
4. Are you in emotional control of what you're sharing?
Are you still very close to the experience or have you reflected a great deal in your own personal therapy?
5. Do not expect a particular reaction if you share something with your client? Will you be upset if they say nothing, or don't react. If so, note how you're feeling about doing this, this needs investigating.
6. What level of disclosure is comfortable for you?
How does it make you feel?
7. What is your intent?
Always consider what the purpose of sharing this info at the time that you and your client are discussing similar issues.
Have you experienced self disclosure in a counselling session with a therapist, or have you self disclosed to a client and it helped the client and further sessions?