Some therapists feel comfortable with detachment (or emotional distance) from their clients. Some imagine that they will do their best work as a therapist if they are able to be “objective”. I disagree entirely with this concept and resulting practice. Part of this self-enforced detachment involves not sharing any more than is necessary about their own lives. Of course, the therapy session should always be about the client and his or her needs and keeping a clear boundary between the therapist as a person and in the role of therapist seems a logical way to keep the focus on the client. How would I respond to this?
Sharing Brings Connection
When people are aloof, we either don’t share ourselves, or we find that we are giving much more than we receive. People feel connected when sharing with others and having others reciprocate. These connections help to build positive relationships.
Sharing Brings A More Equal Relationship
When we tell others about ourselves, we give them a form of power. They know things about us that isn’t common knowledge. If one person gives entirely of themselves and receives nothing in return, a one-sided relationship exists – this is not the sort of relationship building that we want to model in a therapeutic relationship. Narrative Therapy moves away from this therapist as “expert” model, to one where the client is the expert in his or her own life. The therapist becomes a companion on the client’s journey of self-discovery. The therapist sharing when appropriate can foster the companionship needed to take this journey together.
Sharing Brings Privileged Positions
If I share something special or intimate from my life with another, I am saying to them that they are special enough to know or be a part of my life. Therapists are in very privileged positions and – only when therapeutically advantageous to the client – sharing with the client can help them to understand that they as clients are also privileged.
Sharing Brings Empathy and Models Behaviour
We want to understand clients in order to help them. Clients need to understand their significant others outside of therapy in order to progress through their issues. It is extremely one-sided to imagine that we can understand clients and that they will have no concept of who we are. This is a very unnatural and one-sided “relationship”. When we share appropriately, we help the client develop empathy for us and we model behaviour that many need to practice in their own lives.
Sharing Emotions Can Be Comforting
When a person is telling you about their sadness, pain, fears or other difficulties and you verbally or tearfully respond (for example), it can help the client to feel comforted and understood. This is not to say that the therapist will respond to all difficulties, but when there is a need or desire to share emotionally and the therapist represses it for fear of boundaries, clients tend to feel this self-imposed distance.
Sharing Limits and Considerations
The therapy session is for the client. The therapist does not share because he or she has a bad day and unloads on the client. The therapist does not share to impress the client. The therapist does not share from personal reasons, but only does so when it is felt that this will help the client. The client should not demand that the therapist shares, as sharing comes in the development of relationships – not from demands.
Sharing With My Clients
As a therapist, I do not want the session to be about me and will not focus on myself generally, but I do understand that the client may want to know more about this person with whom they are sharing their heart and soul. One of the ways that I am able to share of myself with those who want to know more about me is by sharing my thoughts and experiences on this site. Clients and others are able to get a glimpse into me as a person and as a therapist and decide how our relationship might develop.
Looking for a Therapist
Over the years, I have said this many times – find a therapist that suits YOU. Don’t just select a therapist because they are a convenient drive from your house. Don’t just select a therapist simply because someone has recommended this person. Find a therapist with whom you think you will be able to share and who will help you. If you want a counsellor who will share something about themselves, rather than just a single page website and a mobile phone number, do a bit of research online to see what she or he shares with others.