Therapists often choose to disclose themselves and their lives to aid in the development of trust that is necessary for counseling to be effective. There are many benefits to this practice that can support the therapy process. Along with the benefits, there are also a few risks that therapists should keep in mind when choosing to self-disclose. Below I outline benefits and of clinical self-disclosure in the therapeutic process and relationship.
- Self-disclosure can be a means of building rapport with clients, which is essential to the therapeutic relationship.
- Clients may feel uneasy telling a stranger about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Getting to know their counselor better through the counselor’s sharing of information on a personal level can help reduce this uneasy feeling.
- Clients sometimes think that they are alone in their struggles. Thus, another reason for the use of counselor self-disclosure is to convey empathy to clients and to help them feel that they are not alone in their struggles and that their emotions and experiences are being heard and validated.
- The therapeutic process can often feel one-sided for some clients in that the focus is primarily on their presenting issues. This imbalance has been shown to make some clients uncomfortable, and in such cases, thoughtful, personal sharing from the clinician can lessen their discomfort.
- Clients may be intimidated by a therapist’s professional status and credentials. Personal disclosure by the therapist may serve to “humanize” the clinician in the client’s eyes and diminish the impact of this perceived power differential on the formation of an effective therapeutic relationship.