Self-disclosure by therapists, a practice that was once frowned upon in psychoanalysis, has become a commonly accepted practice. Therapists who self-disclose believe that they are benefiting their clients by sharing similar problematic situations and offering experienced resolutions. However, the effects of specific types of self-disclosure countertransference (CT) have not been examined until now. “The definition of CT that has been used in most research, and that was employed in the present study, views CT as the therapist’s reactions to the client that are based on the therapist’s emotional conflicts and vulnerabilities,” said Yun-Jy Yeh of the Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology and Rehabilitation Services at Penn State University, and co-author of the study. “In addition to lack of agreement about how to define CT, controversies also exist about its therapeutic virtues.”
The virtues that Yeh chose to examine in this study were perceived trustworthiness, expertise and attractiveness. Additionally, Yeh examined universality, a feeling of commonness that exists between the therapist and client, to determine if disclosing resolved issues, or unresolved issues, would affect that perception. Over 100 college students, with an average age of 20, participated in the study. Yeh found that the students viewed therapists who disclosed resolved matters as more attractive and trustworthy than the therapists who disclosed unresolved issues. But the students felt the same level of commonness with all of them and viewed all of the therapists as equally capable.
Yeh said, “Thus, disclosures of resolved issues were not consistently rated more positively; participants discriminated among the dependent variables and there were specific differential effects as a function of CT disclosure type. In particular, findings suggested the possible benefits of disclosing resolved CT include promoting clients’ perceptions of the therapist as socially attractive, trustworthy, and able to instill hope in clients.” Ye added, “What is suggested, however, is that the disclosure of therapists’ issues, independent of how resolved they are, has similar effects on perceptions of the universality between client and therapist.”
Yeh, Yun-Jy, and Jeffrey A. Hayes. “How Does Disclosing Countertransference Affect Perceptions of the Therapist and the Session?” Psychotherapy 48.4 (2011): 322-29. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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