The Power of Therapist Self-Disclosure

The Power of Therapist Self-Disclosure


Therapist self-disclosure, when used appropriately, can be a powerful tool to build trust and understanding with clients. However, it must be used judiciously, with the client’s wellbeing as the top priority.

What is Therapist Self-Disclosure?

Therapist self-disclosure involves a therapist sharing personal information and experiences with a client. This could include:

  • Talking about their training and qualifications
  • Sharing how they dealt with a challenge similar to the client’s
  • Revealing personal details like their relationship status, parenting experiences, etc.

The Benefits

When used properly, therapist self-disclosure can:

  • Help clients feel understood and less alone
  • Equalize the power dynamic and build trust
  • Model vulnerability, introspection, and healthy coping strategies

The Risks

However, inappropriate or excessive self-disclosure can:

  • Shift the focus to the therapist rather than the client
  • Cross professional boundaries in the relationship
  • Negatively influence client perceptions and outcomes

Best Practices

Experts recommend therapist self-disclosure should:

  • Be rare and brief
  • Be guided by the client’s needs rather than the therapist’s
  • Support the therapeutic process and clinical goals
  • Follow strict ethical guidelines around privacy and boundaries

An Empowering Tool

When used judiciously by a skilled professional, therapist self-disclosure can empower clients and lead to greater healing. However, counselors must remain mindful of when it is appropriate and how much to share.


What are the benefits of therapist self-disclosure?

Potential benefits include building trust and rapport with clients, normalizing client struggles by sharing similar experiences, and modeling healthy vulnerability and coping strategies.

What are the risks?

Risks include shifting the focus to the therapist’s issues, crossing ethical boundaries, overburdening the client, and undermining perceptions of professionalism.

How much should therapists self-disclose?

Expert opinion is that self-disclosure should be rare, brief, focused on benefiting the client, and follow strict ethical guidelines around confidentiality and boundaries.

When is it inappropriate?

Self-disclosure becomes inappropriate when excessive, driven by therapist needs rather than client needs, breaching confidentiality, or crossing intimate boundaries.

What guidelines should therapists follow?

Guidelines include ensuring it supports therapeutic goals, obtaining client consent, avoiding intimate details, emphasizing client needs first, and upholding strict professional boundaries surrounding the disclosure.