As my reflections on training as a counsellor come to an end for Year 1, I would like to take this opportunity to tackle what may be one of the biggest controversies in the field of counselling: a counsellor’s self-disclosure.
Traditional psychodynamic disciplines state that the therapist must remain a “blank screen” onto which the client can project their transference subjects. To this extent, self-disclosure by a therapist may interfere with this process and contaminate the transference. Other schools of thought such as the Feminist Movement believe that self-disclosure helps bridge the gap between therapist and client by enhancing relationships and intensifying healing and connectedness (Ruskay Rabinor and Gusella 2003).
One discipline or setting in which a counsellor is bound to disclose information about himself or herself is the field of treating addiction and substance abuse. Such treatment schemes often include guidance and counselling by a recovering addict, and this is a well-known fact. Thus, the counsellor cannot avoid disclosing a significant facet of their past, and to an extent, their present. Counsellors in such settings are cautioned to choose what information they do disclose, although there are no distinct rules and guidelines as to what information should be shared (Ham, Stauffer and Hayes, 2013).
An investigation into the benefits of self-disclosure by the therapist found that clients receiving counselling in which the counsellor revealed information about his or her personal life reported lower levels of symptom distress and also reported liking their therapist more. The authors concluded that self-disclosure by the therapist may improve both the quality of the therapeutic relationship and the outcome of treatment (Barrett and Berman, 2001).
I feel that as counselling moves away from the traditional psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches, issues such as boundaries, frames and self-disclosure can be critically evaluated and discussed....