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Theripist Self-Disclosure in Group Therapy

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Essay title: Theripist Self-Disclosure in Group Therapy

Therapist Self-Disclosure 1


Therapist Self-Disclosure 2


The effects that counselor self-disclosure can have on group members and the appropriateness of when to use self disclosure will be explained in this paper. The author will discuss the ethical dilemmas that may arise when counselors divulge too much information, as well as a discussion of what the client’s perceptions may be of such disclosure and the positive and negative effects that this may have on therapy.

Therapist Self-Disclosure 3

The Pro’s and Cons of

Self-Disclosure and Other Boundary Issues

In mental health practice, a commonly held view is that therapist self-disclosure should be discouraged and its dangers closely monitored (Rose 1980). Group psychotherapists may, just like other members in the group, openly share their thoughts and feelings in a judicious and responsible manner, respond to others authentically, and acknowledge or refute motives and feelings attributed to them. In other words, therapists, too, can reveal their feelings, the reasons for some of their behaviors, acknowledge the blind spots, and demonstrate respect for the feedback group members offer them. Counselor self-disclosure is a way of sharing ones experiences with the clients and can have both positive and negative results (Cross & Papadopoulos 2001). There is something about the personal experience that assists counselors to being especially attentive to the needs of the recovering client. On the other hand, counselors bringing personal experience with them are likely to raise personal boundary issues. In order to remain ethical, the first question the therapist must ask is why am I self-disclosing? If it is to serve the needs of the counselor in any way, or to create an instant client-counselor bond without trying anything else, then it is probably unethical. One of the ethical principals is to do everything for the good of the client. If a therapist is disclosing for the good of the client, it then may be ethical, but some questions still remain. If done correctly, self-

Therapist Self-disclosure 4

disclosure can be very useful and helpful for the client (Donigian1987). If a counselor at a substance abuse treatment facility does chooses to disclose to clients in group, about their past problems with substance abuse, the counselor must keep in mind that chemical dependency is looked at as a life long disease and the client might view the counselor as a risky source of help (Wosket 1999). If a counselor is viewed as an unreliable source of help, the treatment may not be very helpful. Another disadvantage to revealing personal experience is it may cause the client to focus on the therapist’s issues and not their own issues. Having the client become interested in the therapist’s issues can lead to dual relationship problems (Hopps & Pinderhughes 1999). There are many ethical ways for a counselor to self-disclose. When done appropriately and for the good of the client, self-disclosure can build trust and give helpful information toward recovery. It can be comforting for the client and make the recovery process less stressful. Highly disclosing therapists believed that an attitude of honesty and equality between the therapist and the client was conveyed by therapist self-disclosure. Less disclosing therapists believed that the realness of the therapy was related to empathy, warmth, and attentiveness but not to self-disclosure (Jourard 1971). Several types of treatment provide opportunities for therapeutic self-disclosure. Self-disclosure and mutual support contribute to the effectiveness of peer models, such as 12-step programs and self-help groups.

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Many of these models have entered the therapeutic mainstream and include clinician-facilitated self-help groups. Such treatments often focus on specific behaviors or life experiences, such as addiction, bereavement, parenting, divorce, trauma, or physical illness. The therapist may disclose past experiences as part of the ethic of sharing. Such disclosure alleviates the patient's shame and embarrassment, provides positive modeling, normalizes the patient's experience, and provides hope (Wosket 1999). However, when a therapist discloses

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