Self-Disclosure in Therapy

One area that is sometimes contentious in therapy is that of self-disclosure. In traditional psychoanalysis, analysts deliberately refrain from revealing anything about themselves.  However, my therapeutic approach is that of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  There is no such prohibition in CBT and I find that I tend to do a lot of self-disclosure with patients whom I think will benefit from it.  I do, however, think it is important to differentiate between self-disclosure for the therapeutic benefit of the patient verses the burdening of the patient by unloading the therapist’s own baggage.  As one of my mentors, Dr. Murali Krisha once shared, “Never share things with patients that would add to their sorrow or cause them to worry about us.”


Examples of therapeutic self-disclosure may range from addressing issues that patients may have with unrealistic, perfectionistic standards through relating the standards and expectations I have of my own life to helping those who are struggling with feeling of frustration or low self-esteem by sharing how I motivate myself by “giving credit” or other such techniques I have used in my own life with success.


I don’t use self-disclosure with every patient but it does happen frequently. Self-disclosure is a way to give people a different perspective—a different way of thinking about their problems.   I have also found that it goes a long way in strengthening the therapeutic relationship when patients recognize that I am a human being who is willing to share something of myself to help them.  

~ by drdymphna on August 2, 2008.

3 Responses to “Self-Disclosure in Therapy”

  1. The most common mistake in using self disclosure is that the self disclosure is focused more on the physician’s than the patient’s needs.
    Longer disclosures interrupt the flow of information exchange and expended valuable patient time in the typically time pressured primary care visit.
    Regards Dr Shock

  2. Looked at one way, self disclosure is a kind of storytelling. And storytelling is a powerful way to illustrate models of behaviour and logic that patients can experiment with or adopt. If the story happens to be autobiographical, that may make it more effective.

    I agree with you that some self disclosure also strengthens the therapeutic alliance, as a natural extension of the genuineness you bring to the relationship.

  3. […] Self-Disclosure in Therapy, Elizabeth Cordes writes that self disclosure by a therapist can be a good thing, but only if […]

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