Clients' Perceptions of the Process and Consequences of Self-Disclosure in Psychotherapy

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Abstract

The primary aim of this multimethod study was to investigate client perceptions of the process, benefits, difficulties, and consequences of disclosing and withholding material in psychotherapy sessions. Twenty-one clients in psychotherapy, most engaged in long-term psychodynamically oriented treatment, participated in semistructured interviews and completed several Likert-type scales. Results indicate that most clients feel that therapy is a safe place to disclose, made especially so by the goodness of the therapeutic relationship; that the disclosure process initially generates shame and anticipatory anxiety but ultimately engenders feelings of safety, pride, and authenticity; that keeping secrets inhibits the work of therapy, whereas disclosing produces a sense of relief from physical as well as emotional tension; that disclosures in therapy facilitate subsequent disclosures to one's therapist as well as to family members and friends; and that therapists should actively pursue material that is difficult to disclose.

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