Therapist Self Disclosure As an Intervention Toward Normalizing and Eliciting Hope

Scott Simon Fehr

Intervention: n. from (inter) between and (venire) to come, to come between. Interventionist: n. one who advocates or practices intervention.

(McKechinie, 1963).


One of the profound benefits of group therapy is for clients to hear other clients speak about their particular problem and not feel so alone in their own intrapsychic world (Fehr, 1999, 2003). Yet at times, a client may present something that no one in the group can or is willing to identify as an issue salient to them. Thus the disclosure, of the client, is met with group silence strengthening the possibility of future inhibitions where there is less probability that personal information will be divulged.

The concept of "therapist self-disclosure" is one that often elicits some form of professional discomfort for most of us (Fehr, 2003). Throughout our academics and training, self-disclosure is reinforced as a factor that creates boundary and ethical issues and needs to be avoided (Gutheil & Gabbard, 1993).

Specifically, there is the polarization of the orthodox Freudian stance of never disclosing as it demystifies the therapist and inhibits projections and transferential opportunities, whereas in the more humanistic, especially relational therapies, therapist self-disclosure is not as structurally implemented, (Jourard, 1964, 1971). Often, the catch phrase my colleagues use is "for whose benefit is the disclosure?" Obviously, the client has not come to us in group or individual therapy to hear about us nor are they here to help us with our interpersonal difficulties and conflicts (Corey, Corey & Callahan, 1998; Fehr, 2003; Weiner, 1983). But it is here, in fact, that therapist self-disclosure might be the intervention of choice for normalizing and giving hope to a client or clients in group therapy. This is especially true when the disclosure of the client reinforces existential aloneness. If no one in group identifies with the disclosure, the client may perceive his or her difficulty, as unique or bizarre.

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