Judith S. Beck Writes In: Self Disclosure in Cognitive Therapy

I’ve recently been thinking about Self Disclosure in CT. In traditional psychoanalysis, analysts deliberately refrain from revealing anything about themselves. There is no such prohibition in Cognitive Therapy and I find that I do a lot of self-disclosure to patients whom I think will benefit from it. For patients with perfectionistic standards, I might reveal the standard I apply to myself and have taught my children: To try to do a reasonable job a reasonable amount of the time. For patients who believe they are inferior because they have not achieved as much as they or others expect them to, I often talk about my son who has severe learning disabilities and my view that he is neither inferior nor superior to others. For patients who struggle with self-esteem, I usually describe how I give myself credit throughout the day, whenever I complete a task (or part of a task), even if it’s minor and not particularly difficult. Following self-disclosure, I discuss with patients how they believe what I’ve said might apply to them. 

I don’t use self-disclosure with every patient but I do with most. Self-disclosure often gives them a different way of thinking about their problems. And it goes a long way in strengthening our relationship when patients recognize that I am a human being who is willing to share something of herself to help them.