• The impact of therapist self-disclosure on clients who are themselves therapists: An exploration of discourse and lived experience

      Reeves, Andrew; Swinden, Colleen (University of Chester, 2020-08-18)
      The practice of therapist self-disclosure (TSD) has been of interest to the counselling community for over 100 years. The available literature on the topic is vast. A review of the research literature indicated a need for further research employing three factors: i) the use of a concise definition of TSD; ii) research that includes the client’s perspective; and iii) a methodology that used a qualitative approach, with the underlying assumption that the lived experience of hearing TSD may be more nuanced and complex than has previously been outlined in academic literature. For this study, the definition of TSD was outlined as a statement made by the therapist that reveals something about their life outside of the therapy room. Using semi-structured interviews with eight participants who had experienced TSD, and who were also therapists themselves. The transcripts were analysed twice using a novel approach that employed a combination of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and discourse analysis (DA). While in IPA the emphasis is on understanding and gaining a sense of how participants describe their internal life world, by contrast in DA, the analytic emphasis is on the discursive resources used to create or construct those descriptions, and how these are mobilised by participants in terms of subject position and associated rights, duties and responsibilities of these positions. The findings were then synthesised at the post-analytical stage. Six superordinate themes emerged: i) the therapeutic relationship prior to the disclosure; ii) the disclosure content; iii) the disclosure process; iv) the short-term impact; v) the longterm impact, and vi) meaning making. Within these superordinate categories, 17 subordinate themes were identified. The DA analysis explored how, after their experiences as clients, the participants construct their own use of self-disclosure as therapists. The findings illustrated a variety of rhetorical devices that were needed to carefully manage the ethical dilemmas that can potentially accompany a therapist’s decision to disclose (or not) to their clients. These findings support extant research, but also provide fresh interpretations and many opportunities for future research.