DSC8883 - SECTION 5: EVALUATING THE EFFECTS OF SELF-DISCLOSURE IN TREATMENT
After employing almost any form of intervention, the professional will seek to gauge its success. It is, therefore, important for the clinician to evaluate the effects of the self-disclosure subsequent to its use, particularly if the disclosure seems not to have produced the desired effect upon the client.
This evaluation can be accomplished by debriefing or asking the client a number of questions related to the intervention. These might include “I’d like to know what your reaction to my story is? Do you think what I have just told you is related to your concerns? Did you feel supported, or not supported, by my telling you this story?"
It is important that the clinician have established a fair amount of therapeutic trust and rapport so that the client will be reasonably comfortable providing honest feedback about whether or not the intervention was useful.
Even where verbal feedback is given, however, the clinician should carefully examine the client’s verbal and non-verbal behaviors following self-disclosure. In the client’s facial expression or body language, there may be important indications that the intervention was helpful - or harmful - to the therapeutic process.
The clinician who keeps careful watch of these factors will be better prepared to respond to the client’s reaction immediately. Where the client expresses - directly or indirectly - discomfort or dissatisfaction with the intervention, the clinician can then spend some time in a debriefing process, helping to repair any possible damage to the therapeutic relationship.
This debriefing process should include 1) an affirmation of the client’s discomfort and his/her right to make known this discomfort, 2) some discussion of the intended goals and purposes for the self-disclosure, and 3) some honest, humble and non-defensive acknowledgement that the goals and purposes did not get served in the manner that was intended.
This approach supports and re-affirms the therapeutic relationship, while protecting the professional authority of the clinician. (Some clients may also benefit by an open and honest discussion of the limitations and imperfections all clinicians bring to this difficult and complex field, but this issue must be evaluated in the context of the entire therapeutic relationship.)
Continuous critical assessment of clients’ reactions to your self-disclosures can also serve as a tool for professional growth and improved competence. Through assessment, you can gradually become more adept at identifying your own strengths and weaknesses in the use of this intervention.
In the event that you find yourself disclosing inappropriately or too often, there are several questions that can serve as a guide in the critical self-assessment effort:
Do I have unresolved issues that I need to work-out with a supervisor, therapist, or other person?
Am I anxious with silence in therapy so that I fill the gaps with self-disclosure or other interventions that do not serve the primary goals of the treatment?
Am I trying to be liked, or do I have some need to have the client to identify with me?
Am I anxious about the power of the therapeutic process and use self-disclosure to calm myself?
Am I using self-disclosure to fill gaps in my knowledge and skills?
Honest answers to these questions can only result in increased competence and expertise for the clinician. Where it is clear that the clinician's own personal agenda is being inserted into the therapeutic relationship in ways that are detrimental to the client, it becomes the ethical obligation of the clinician to search for and implement solutions this problem.