Best Practices for Self Disclosure

November 3, 2011

Many people who work in the addictions field often have personal experience in substance abuse or addiction. While it may seem therapeutic to share these experiences, it is important, if you are in recovery, to keep your work separate from personal recovery. The Florida Certification Study Guide states, “While occasional appropriate self-disclosure can help the client to open up or motivate the client by providing a role model, too much self-disclosure removes the focus from the client’s own recovery.”

It is imperative that a counselor is aware of how their own issues may be stirred by a client’s problems. Refrain from bringing the context of the counselor’s own personal issues into the therapeutic relationship. For example, the addiction counselor must not rigidly adhere to the opinion of insisting that their experience on their road to recovery is the only acceptable path to recovery. In general, projection of the counselor’s own experiences onto that of the client’s situation can be damaging or, at least, counterproductive.

So when is self-disclosure appropriate?

Let us start by defining self-disclosure so we have a clear point of reference. Self-disclosure is simply the ability to relate information about oneself. It may be an experience or the ways one thinks and feels. There are two simple rules to follow when self- disclosing.

  • The first rule, if the counselor is inclined to self-disclose, is for the counselor to have a clear purpose or goal for the intervention.
  • Next, analyze why he or she is choosing to self-disclose at this particular time. If there is any doubt about their intentions, a more conservative, nondisclosure position should be taken.

For more information, the following is a link from Alcoholics Anonymous, for Members employed in the alcoholism field http://www.aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/mg-10_foraamembers.pdf

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