Risks of Clinical Self-Disclosure in Therapy

Sharing with your clients what is going on in your personal life, may aid in the therapeutic process, however, there can also be a risk to sharing. Some clients may get triggered or feel you are taking the focus away from them, in turn, posing an issue in their healing process. Therapists should keep in mind the possibilities of risk when choosing to self-disclose. Below I outline the risks of clinical self-disclosure in the therapeutic process and relationship.

Risks:

 

  1. A shift in treatment focus, away from the client’s needs and treatment goals. Sharing too much information by a counselor about their own personal struggles may be perceived by the client as a sign of counselor impairment and inability to perform their professional duties responsibly.
  2. Excessive personal sharing by a therapist may be seen by the client as self-serving. It may convey disinterest in the client’s issues and, thus, may be damaging to the counseling relationship.
  3. Clinical self-disclosure can be detrimental if it is provided without consideration of the client’s presenting problem. For example, a client who has difficulty with worry or excessive caretaking might be triggered to engage (toward the therapist) in the very caretaking behavior that they are trying to correct.
  4. Therapist self-disclosure can be detrimental if it is provided without consideration of the client’s value system. Sharing personal experiences or views that violate a client’s value system may threaten the client’s trust in the counselor as an appropriate source of help.
  5. Too much therapist self-disclosure can blur the boundaries in the professional relationship. The client may come to view the counselor more as a friend than a professional helper.

As a clinician and Clinical Supervisor, I encourage you to use your intuition when deciding to practice clinical self-disclosure. Use your wisdom to know if this is something that will benefit your client along their treatment process and grow the therapeutic relationship. 

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