Explore the subject of 'self disclosure' by councellors
Disclosure in the dictionary is 'the act of revealing and exposing to view' My understanding of self disclosure in this context is to mean revealing the counsellors personal information and emotions. In this unique relationship this is to be expected when the client is communicating, in fact it is actively encouraged, because that is their roll in the therapeutic relationship. However my exploration will concern when is it acceptable for the counsellor to talk about themselves or their own feelings? Counsellors must speak since this is a talking therapy and surely every word and response is a form of self disclosure, yet what is said can have serious consequences. I will demonstrate how and when this can hurt or assist the client. When I began having personal counselling myself, I expected a relationship like a close friendship, I found the fact that this 'expert' had the answers, but didn't offer them to me, which was at times very frustrating. My counsellor was psychodynamic and I am now aware that different styles of counselling accept a more open, less restricted, approach to self disclosure. Since this is however a psychodynamic course, I will endeavour to, within length limitations, give an outline of the important issues using this approach to the subject, illustrated with bibliography, class learning and personal experience of being a client.
Our professional roll as counsellors incorporates enforcing certain boundaries, even on our ability to speak candidly about what we feel and think. The client is encouraged to talk openly and freely, to help them to learn from the exploration of their problems. However when using the psychodynamic approach we withhold our own knowledge and experiences, although sometimes it may appear to be appropriate and useful to the client. It can often be quite difficult to do this, especially when clients are asking us questions, but once we have started revealing personal details, it may be difficult to stop. We should be aware that a client could also be trying to get the counsellor to verbalise as a form of resistance or defence, to avoid talking about and facing their own problems. I agree with Freud's view; "It might be expected that it would be quite allowable and indeed useful, with a view to overcoming the patient's existing resistances, for the doctor to afford him a glimpse of his own mental defects and conflicts, and, by giving him information about his own life enable him to put himself on an equal footing.....I have no hesitation in condemning the technique as incorrect." (quoted by M.Jacobs 1992; 84)
Non verbal communication is very important, as we as counsellors can learn from client's body language, we must take care that the client does not read ours. Freud preferred the client to recline on a couch for just such a reason, he said "I do not wish my expressions of face to give the patient material for interpretation, or to influence him in what he tells me." (quoted by M. Jacobs 1992; 84)
The counsellor today however, must learn to control their immediate reactions, particularly the negative ones of shock or disapproval, verbal or otherwise. During my personal experience of being a client, I noticed that my counsellor came to grimace at the mention of the name of one of my close supportive friends, and I later realised, through things she said, that she felt some rivalry towards this person. This self disclosure of her counter-transference feelings was very damaging to our relationship. We have to be very aware of our clients reactions to what we say and do, in this way, even if we have made a mistake, our positive responses to the error can be useful instead of damaging to the client.
Self disclosure may be invited by the client's inappropriate...
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