An Intervention Of The Therapist Selfsearch

Therapist self-disclosure, if and only if it is in the interest of the client, may be the prescribed intervention. Over many years of running groups, I have found that there are very few interpersonal conflicts or experiences presented by clients with which I myself could not identify in varying degrees. In fact, I use the totality of my being in order to understand what a client is trying to relate in the hope of feeling what the client is feeling. This is similar to two tuning forks resonating on the same pitch (Fehr, 2003). In my mind, I run through my personal history and only disclose those factors that are salient to the issue at hand specifically if no one in the group identifies with the group member's disclosure. This self-disclosure is only presented if I have personally and successfully resolved the issue presented by the client as an intervention to help him or her not feel alone and to elicit hope that there can be a resolution although it might not be identical to mine.

The person of the therapist is the intervention as is the self-disclosure. Two very simple examples of the efficacy of this intervention are put forth: Example one is of a mixed-gendered group, which I run. One client strongly confronted another berating him on the fact that he bites his nails. The client went on and on about how she would never date a person who bites his nails, that it looked disgusting. No one in the group either came to this man's aid with any form of identification, as he was truly embarrassed, nor did they come to his defense concerning her diatribe. Throughout my adolescence and early twenties, I too was a nail biter. I was not about to leave this client "hanging out to dry" and feel public humiliation and shame without aiding him. In order, for me, to normalize his behavior so he would not feel alone, and to give him hope that his compulsive behavior, nail biting, could be resolved, I disclosed an aspect of my history specifically related to his problem.

Analyzing the root of the symptomotology of the nail biting, I felt, would be of little help or value, at that moment. Normalizing and eliciting hope would be the most effective intervention. I disclosed that I had been a nail biter years before and found that becoming consciously aware of each time I brought my fingers to my mouth eventually helped me overcome this compulsive behavior. The relief seen in this man's face was quite remarkable. He thanked me profusely as he related that he felt so alone and so embarrassed throughout his life. His family and practically everyone in his interpersonal sphere had focused, at some point, on this behavior, which he felt was completely out of his control. Interestingly, two other group members disclosed, after my disclosure, that they too had been nail biters but were not about to disclose it after hearing the diatribe from the other group member. After helping to normalize the situation, other related issues came forth from the group-as-a-whole, which probably would not have taken place or may have taken place much further down the road in this group's history.

The second example is the case of a man who is about ten years younger than I am in. He was in his fifties. He had related that basically everything was going rather well in his life. His relationships with family and friends were good. Economically he was doing well but he felt lost and directionless and was not sure from where these feelings were coming.

The group worked effectively with him and he worked effectively with the group but could not find what might be the underlying issue that was stimulating this sense of loss of direction. I remembered how he would talk about the many times throughout his life that there were people he looked up to as guides in helping him navigate the capaciousness of life. I, personally, had heroes throughout my life but now for a number of years I had none. I thought about the opening line in the book, David Copperfield, "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these pages must show" (Dickens, 1991, p. 1). I disclosed, to this client and to the group, that I no longer had heroes in my own life to look up to for direction or to emulate their achievements and goals. I explained that upon this realization, which was about ten years earlier, I felt sad and lacked direction but realized that it was now my time to forge ahead on my own.

The client, upon hearing this disclosure, immediately said, "I think that's it." He related that over the past few months he had been feeling somewhat lost and directionless because there was no one whose footsteps he had wished to follow. He further disclosed that somewhere inside of himself he knew that a new direction of being was coming but could not figure it out. He smiled and said, "I guess it is time for me to be my own person and find my own direction" and like David Copperfield he became the hero in his own life. I wondered, at that time, after this man's insight if he would remain in therapy or leave but he stayed for another two years pursuing the self-search.

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