When in doubt, sit quietly: A qualitative investigation of experienced therapists' perceptions of self-disclosure

Kristen G. Pinto-Coelho*, Clara E. Hill, Monica S. Kearney, Elissa L. Sarno, Elizabeth S. Sauber, Sydney M. Baker, Jennifer Brady, Glenn W. Ireland, Mary Ann Hoffman, Patricia T. Spangler, Barbara J. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using consensual qualitative research (CQR), we analyzed 13 interviews of experienced psychotherapists about general intentions for therapist self-disclosure (TSD), experiences with successful TSDs, experiences with unsuccessful TSDs, and instances of unmanifested urges to disclose. For TSD generally (i.e., not about a specific instance), typical intentions were to facilitate exploration and build and maintain the therapeutic relationship. Therapists typically reported becoming more comfortable using TSD over time. In successful TSDs, the typical content was accurate, relevant similarities between therapist and client; typical consequences were positive. In unsuccessful TSDs, the typical antecedent was countertransference reactions; the typical intention was to provide support; typical content involved therapists mistakenly perceiving similarities with clients; and the general consequences were negative. In instances when therapists repressed the urge to disclose, the typical antecedent was countertransference and the content typically seemed relevant to the client's issues. We conclude that effective use of TSD requires general attunement to the client's dynamics, attunement to the client's readiness in the moment, ability to manage countertransference, and ability to use a specific TSD appropriately. Implications for practice, training, and research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-452
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Volume65
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Psychotherapy process
  • Qualitative research
  • Therapist development
  • Therapist self-disclosure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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