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  • Chris Allan is a clinical psychologist and Director of the Psychology Clinic at the University of Wollongong. He has a strong interest in both cognitive and psychodynamic therapies and an ongoing fascination in the interaction of technology and psychology. His interests are varied and include martial arts, playing guitar, cooking, chess, clothes, poetry and computer gaming. He is married with two children two dogs and a budgie.

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Interesting article. Used with care, limited self-disclosure can bring many benefits but deciding on if and how much is like walking a tightrope.


I agree that disclosures do help the client to relate themselves to their therapist and I have seen this put in to practise very successfully. Having said that skillful non-disclosures are probably the best way out. Imagine the therapist saying that 'I am like you' and the client actually ends up loosing confidence. However, what we do need to make sure to avoid Cardinal scenario. If you are not skillful enough with your non-disclosures, be smart enough with your discolsures.

Chris Allan

Thanks for your comments Rahul and Health Psych. I agree it can be a bit like walking a tightrope and that skillful non-disclsoure may be better than disclosure. However I think even when we use disclosure the critcal thing is picking up its impact on the therapeutic relationship. Exploring with the client how it felt when you disclosed the information allows for any repairs to the alliance that may need to take place if the disclosure was interpreted negatively or was poorly timed.


Garth Mintun

I like the approach that Narrative Therapy (Micheal White) uses and that is to "situate the response" and how it transports the person or moves the person to another (psychological ) place. The disclosure is client centered and focused.


I find this interesting. I am actually a client, and although I find it comforting to have a good relationship with my psychologist, I definitely realise why the boundaries are there. However, I think one of the most important things is to be honest as much as possible with your client, (but obviously thinking about how to phrase your response from an empathetic viewpoint). If the client feels that they are being 'manipulated' somehow, (even if they are aware it's for their benifit), it can be enough to activate serious mistrust schemas and further damage the therapeutic relationship.

Naomi Pinson

Hello, I used your paper, "Coming Out: Self-Disclosure as a Specific Technique, with Specific Application to Sexual Minority Populations" for my grad theis in rehab psychology (Capstone). I am an "out" expatient who has been active in the survivor movement for multiple decades. After a stint as a practitioner I rejected it mostly because I found ethics around diagnoses and boundaries to so deficient as to amount to torture. Now I work in human rights for people receiving or who are trapped by the mental health authority. I really like what you have to say about the ethics of the dual role. The dialogue is not about "skill", it is very much about ethics, humanism and power. naomiruth

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With luck, this process is already under way.

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mmm, Lisa says the most important thing is to be honest with your client - I suggest you read Lying on the Couch by Yalom and watch Ernest Lash, the therapist who decided that honesty is his most important therapeutic tool, get entangled in his own web.
I am also a client, and I think self disclosure is a tool to be used only by the most experienced and the most self aware therapists.
In fact I believe that even when used in small doses, and even when seemingly innocuous or therapeutic, the risk is great: self-disclosure is all too easily a vehicle for the therapist to force her/his unconscious agenda onto the therapeutic space.

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Good stuff as per usual, thanks. I do hope this kind of thing gets more exposure.

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