I’ve recently been thinking about Self Disclosure in CT. In traditional psychoanalysis, analysts deliberately refrain from revealing anything about themselves. There is no such prohibition in Cognitive Therapy and I find that I do a lot of self-disclosure to patients whom I think will benefit from it. For patients with perfectionistic standards, I might reveal the standard I apply to myself and have taught my children: To try to do a reasonable job a reasonable amount of the time. For patients who believe they are inferior because they have not achieved as much as they or others expect them to, I often talk about my son who has severe learning disabilities and my view that he is neither inferior nor superior to others. For patients who struggle with self-esteem, I usually describe how I give myself credit throughout the day, whenever I complete a task (or part of a task), even if it’s minor and not particularly difficult. Following self-disclosure, I discuss with patients how they believe what I’ve said might apply to them.
I don’t use self-disclosure with every patient but I do with most. Self-disclosure often gives them a different way of thinking about their problems. And it goes a long way in strengthening our relationship when patients recognize that I am a human being who is willing to share something of herself to help them.