19th February 2018

Should A Therapist Self Disclose Or Not

Should therapists self disclose or not?
Should therapists self disclose or not?

Fear and doubt – should I, a therapist, write about myself?

For most of my life have I carried a desire to communicate, to be heard, to make a difference, to be part of a debate.

Along the way I have also developed quite a decent competency in self-doubt and self-censorship.

This results in regular introspection on my part about writing about myself and actual or potential ethical dilemmas for my therapeutic and counselling work.

So, here I am trying to find the space between, and calmly review both sides. I do this best when I am out for a walk. Nature for me is the best place to provide the setting for this intense dialogue. It is not judging, it is beautiful and harsh, full of surprises and disappointments, it carries on with its own flow and does not fight itself.

And so I wonder, what does it say about me wanting to share in this way? What does it say about me, that I care so much about ethics? What does it say about me, that I am concerned about online abuse, misrepresentation or being misunderstood?

It took me a long time to start writing articles, to put them on my work website, to make reference to my cancer experience on my work website.

Why? Because (at least according to my training and opinion) therapists should be mindful about what, if anything, they might disclose about themselves in client sessions or publicly.

Why? Because too much familiarity can limit the sense of safety and not being judged in the therapeutic work.  Otherwise it might start feeling like talking to a friend or relative, who we may need to protect from what we feel, because of their own struggles and stuff.  It just gets in the way. And if you have been in therapy yourself, you may know how liberating a feeling it can be, not to know about the other, not needing to know, not needing to care – because it is all about you (for a change).

But we still wonder about the other, opposite us in the therapy room, who knows so much about us and we know near to nothing about them.  You could argue this introduces a power imbalance, but in my experience it is an essential ingredient for therapy to work.

Over the years and with growing confidence I have started to disclose some minor or major issues, when I felt it was of therapeutic value and the other could benefit from this information. It all depends on the circumstances. I hope it helps, and where it might not, then talking about it is always eluminating.

My work as a therapist is a lot about building self confidence, self worth, finding and articulating our inner voice.  I am no exception, I struggle with it and need the same freedom.

I am aware of my responsibility as a therapist to my clients, the wider community. But I must not ignore the responsibility to myself and to be authentic and in harmony with who I am (more so since my cancer treatment).  Perhaps I do not need to protect others from my truth, as much as I do not need to be protected from their truth?

I aim to honour my truth to myself  and others.

My Ethics page says more about ethics and social media and protecting client confidentiality.

What do you think?

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