Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Jessica E. Toft


Social Work


This study explored how therapists’ subjective experiences as client recipients of therapist self-disclosure impact their attitudes about therapist self-disclosure. Additionally, it investigated how therapists’ personal therapy and theoretical orientation impact their use of self-disclosure with clients. Two specific types of therapist self-disclosure were studied: 1) emotional disclosures – or self-involving/transparent disclosures – in which therapists allow clients to see their emotional responses or reactions to the dynamics of the therapy session, and 2) personal disclosures – or self-disclosing/self-revealing disclosures–in which therapists share non-immediate personal information with clients. The nonprobability sample consisted of licensed psychotherapists who themselves had been psychotherapy clients. In an anonymous online survey, participants (n=101) reported on their experiences with therapist self-disclosure as clients and their subsequent use of self-disclosure as therapists. Data were analyzed using Spearman’s Rank Order Correlations (quantitative) and Grounded Theory method (qualitative). Findings indicated both moderate and strong significant correlations between therapists’ experiences as recipients of therapist self-disclosure and their use of self-disclosure with clients. Regarding both disclosure types, respondents were distinctly positive about their experiences of their therapists self-disclosing to them and identified the therapeutic alliance as the primary beneficiary of such disclosures. While respondents reported experiencing emotional disclosures negatively less frequently than personal disclosures, there is some indication that – when a disclosure is experienced negatively – the risk of damaging the therapeutic alliance may be greater for emotional disclosures than for personal disclosures. No significant relationships were found between theoretical orientation and respondents’ experiences or use of therapist self-disclosure. Based on the findings in this exploratory study, further study into the impact of personal therapy on therapists’ use of self-disclosure is warranted.

Included in

Social Work Commons