Self-disclosure, when a therapist reveals personal information about him or herself, is a controversial topic in psychotherapy. Some therapists argue that is important for the patient to know certain things about their therapist and see self-disclosure as a positive. Others argue that the therapist should be a reticent “blank slate” and see self-disclosure as negative and potentially even unethical. What little work has been done on this topic has yet to shed light on the type of information that therapists choose to disclose and which therapists are more likely to self-disclose. Linkoping University professor Rolf Holmqvist recently conducted a survey of practicing psychologists in Sweden and the type of information that they self-disclose to clients. Most of the times therapists self-disclosed information about themselves it was about professional matters like what theoretical orientation they adhered to and the kinds of training that they had. Therapists rarely reported disclosing information about their personal lives or matters related to sex. Interestingly, differences were found between therapists in how much they disclosed about themselves to their patients. Therapists who practiced cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) were more likely to talk about themselves in session than therapists who practiced psychodynamic therapy. Specifically, they were more likely to report talking about their professional training and also use examples about their personal relationships in therapy. The authors of the study hypothesized that psychodynamic therapists self-disclose less due to the idea that sharing personal information interferes with the therapy transference. By contrast, CBT therapists may try to share information so as to normalize the experience of their patients. The authors argue that we need to study the types of self-disclosures that are most beneficial to patients and when and these should be used. If therapists are already engaging in self-disclosure, it is important to understand which types of self-disclosure and when are most effective in therapy.
Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR)
Marna S. Barrett, Ph.D.
Mood & Anxiety Disorders Treatment Research Unit
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
3535 Market St., Suite 670
Philadelphia, PA 19104