THERAPIST SELF-DISCLOSURE C. H. Patterson From The Therapeutic Relationship, Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole, pp. 80-84. O.H. Mowrer has for some time emphasized self-disclosure on the part of the therapist, leader, or facilitator in groups. In this section we consider the nature of self-disclosure, how it is measured, and how it looks in practice. The Nature of Self-Disclosure What the effects of self-disclosure are is not clear from the research available. Yet there are those who advocate therapist self-disclosure. Beutler states that "the degree either of experimenter or therapist self-disclosure precipitates a similar disclosure level in subjects and patients.” (12) But Strong and Claiborn write that "therapist disclosure to encourage patient disclosure does not seem like a good use of the therapist's power unless some specific disclosure is needed.” (13) A study by Derlega, Lovell, and Chaiken (14) found that therapist self-disclosure increased client self-disclosure only when the client was informed before therapy that therapist self-disclosure was appropriate. Analogue studies suggest that relatively few therapist self-disclosures, and disclosures of only moderate personal material, are most facilitative of client self-disclosure. Self-disclosure early in therapy as a model for client self-disclosure is unnecessary if the client understands the nature of therapy. Most clients expect to talk about themselves; indeed, they usually cometo therapy for that purpose. If clients do not understand this, then simple structuring of the client's role is more efficient and effective than modeling, since the client can misunderstand or fail to understand the modeling. Clients don't expect therapists to talk about themselves, and may be embarrassed, puzzled, or mystified when they do. Clients are not really interested in the therapist's personal life when they come for therapy. Therapist disclosure of similarities with the clientin the effort to increase his or her attractiveness may reduce the client's perception of the therapist's competence and expertise, or may be perceived as reassurance that the client's problems are not as serious as he or she had thought, with the possible result of decrease in motivation for therapy or desire to change. On the other hand, therapist disclosure of differences in background, education, and experience from client's may lead to negative feelings, reduced attractiveness, or feelings that his or her problems are more serious than he or she had thought. Strong (15) has suggested that therapist self-disclosures provide social comparison data and thus increase or decrease patients' evaluations of themselves, the severity of their problems, the validity of their ideas, and even their self-esteem. There is almost a
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