Jump to content

declining self-disclosure to clients


Recommended Posts

I have a new job working with young people, and my employer prefers us to disclose very little about our personal lives. In therapy my tdoc has answered questions I ask her (I usually don't even ask).

These aren't nosy strangers, they are young people I need to build rapport with. How do I go about it? If therapists have refused to tell you things, how did they do it?

for example

"So, how much pot have you smoked?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Vapourware

Disclosure itself can be a two-edged sword, in that while it can help in building rapport between yourself and client, it can also lead to inappropriate boundaries. So, I guess that's probably why your employer would prefer you to minimise disclosure with your clients. I'm also assuming that you are working with vulnerable young people who may have issues with boundaries, so perhaps that's another influencing factor.

In circumstances where they ask you questions like, "Have you smoked pot?", I would try and deflect it. Perhaps by diverting the question back onto themselves by asking their experiences, or why they are asking. Maybe someone else has a better answer than I would. When I was working with young people, I generally didn't have a problem with disclosing and my therapist has also had no problems with disclosure. Plus, I guess when I was working with my therapist, I focused on myself rather than her, so we didn't often broach the subject of her disclosing things to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Disclosure itself can be a two-edged sword, in that while it can help in building rapport between yourself and client, it can also lead to inappropriate boundaries.

Vapourware user_popup.png - I really agree on this one. I really struggle with boundaries, and unless the person "in charge" controls them, and keeps a healthy distance, things can go very wrong ..... for me.

If you struggle to find methods of deflecting the questions or answering them in an appropriate fashion, then possibly chat to your therapist or employer on techniques that they use so that the "young person" does not feel you are skirting around the issue.

I will often ask inappropriate personal questions - with the main aim to put the person off their guard - but the more experienced the therapist/counsellor the better they are at 'deflecting' the question or finding ways that I do not start making the conversation "about them..."

I am not sure if I am explaining that very well (I am a bit hazy in my head right now)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've only worked in one job where self disclosure was a big no no to the point that the medical director would take off his wedding rings to go work on the unit (he was a moron the ED girls had a website/group where they blathered on about tx, the providers (heh) and the guy his wife, and two daughters and etc....)

I personally found it difficult and stressful at times as I believe in a certain amount of self disclosure. The atmosphere felt horribly sterile at times. I think my worst on was a young adult who I really dug (worked with her several times, no matter who her doc was she would request me as family tx) and she was crying about being Bp and not knowing any BP people who were stable and functional. I SO wanted to tell her I was BP (I was really stable at that point) but I couldn't. The best thing I could do was send her to DBTA or NAMI. I kinf of worked around it by saying "you know, most stable BP people, you can't really tell, they're stable, so for all you know there might be more than one BP person sitting in this room right now" and hoped she was smart enough to get it....

That being said, if the person is very anti self disclosure, you are going to have to find a work around. Questions like "how much pot have you smoked" are actually clear boundary violations and not an area that I'd self disclose, in any case. Putting the question back on the person etc usually works best, that type of stuff. Also, you can find good workbooks on how to build rapport with teens in groups, but I forget the name of them (sorry!) and I don't know what happened to mine they have still vanished in the move goddamn it (I know I have at LEAST one more box filled with my therapy shit). You might want to do a search and buy a group workbook that seems appropriate.

I'm really happy that I work in an environment where self disclosure is less frowned on. I've disclosed quite a bit more, but you really have to with my client base. I've disclosed a lot about my kid with parents of other ADHD kids as they find it extremely reassuring and tend to think I know what I'm talking about and stuff, and I've self disclosed random stuff, generally, and tend to worry a lot less about it. The only time I have EVER disclosed my own condition was to a very depressed mom who I was telling needed to learn opposite action, and fast. She was crying so much I said, "Listen, I've been depressed, I get it, I swear I wouldn't ask you to do this if I didn't know it could help you." But this is a special case as she is really, really ill, barely leaves the house, and is unlikely to spread it around. Otherwise, it's more general self disclosure about certain things in life and how I dealt with them as examples in therapy, and whatnot.

Well,, after that blather moving on, sorry I can't be more helpful blue. I guess what I'm saying is you won't be in that environment forever, and it will be good practice for you in a way. Being in non disclosure unit helped me a lot in some ways with boudaries, though I didn't so much enjoy it, but it did get me thinking a LOT more about self disclosure, teh pros and cons, in general.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I worked on a crisis line, we had a similar strict non disclosure policy, and people often would ask loaded questions about the trauma history of various volunteers and suchlike.

The way we generally handled it was first of all to wait for a minute - because sometimes the person was just using the question as a way to segue into talking about themselves and it was sort of rhetorical, and if you stayed open and gave a little space, they would just move on from the question and continue talking without really noticing that you didn't answer. When you're supporting someone, silences always seem longer to you than to the other person, at least that's what I found.

If that didn't work, we would gently try to redirect without making a big deal out of it - either in a more obvious/direct way - "I'd rather keep this about you" or the much maligned "why do you ask?" - or by validating or picking up on something they said before the question - maybe saying "it sounds like you've been thinking about XYZ a lot lately" or "it sounds like [reframing something they were telling you before that].

We might also validate them as we were redirecting, so that they didn't feel blown off - "I can see why it might be important for you to know XYZ" or "I think you have every right to wonder about XYZ", "I think if I were in your position, I might also ask about XYZ" or even "that's a good/interesting/valid question" or "I'm glad you felt comfortable asking me that"

And then if it's not possible to quickly redirect with a validation/deflection, we would go to a more full-on explanation of our policy - "I see why you might want to know XYZ. Unfortunately I can't disclose any personal information about myself, but if you want to talk about your own experiences with XYZ, I would be glad to listen to you." You can say either that it's against the rules, if you want it to seem out of your hands, or that you don't feel comfortable, if you want to own it. Depends on what you think will stick better/what you feel more comfortable with.

You can also say something really generic, like Anna suggested, that kind of skirts around the question - "I think a lot of people have experience with XYZ".

I learned that the most important thing is to figure out why the person is asking, and then try to find a way to give them what they need without answering the question. For example, if they are asking because they are worried you will judge them, you can reassure them that you are non-judgemental. If they are asking because they wonder if you will know the information they're looking for, or be capable of supporting them, you can tell them that you've been trained in issues related to XYZ and you are able to support them. If they're asking because they're curious about you, or because they want to feel connected to you, you can find other ways of validating the relationship, for example, by telling them that you are glad to be talking to them/supporting them.

It all depends on why the person is asking the question. how much they want to know/how persistent they will be, and what they're really looking for from you. It's also important to be honest with the really persistent people, because sometimes people get pissy if they realize that you're trying to sneakily redirect them. We didn't work with many teens, but I imagine that would be a concern there.

Anyway. That was what I learned as a volunteer working phone lines. I'm sure your situation is a bit different, but that's basically how we were taught to handle that situation. Some of the lines we used were sort of clunky or lame, but they did the trick.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I worked with teenagers for over 20 years in a church setting, if you can imagine that. Bipolar 2 actually probably helped in a lot of ways because my craziness seemed normal to teens. I would disclose regrets, failures, bad decisions, hurts and so on, all in a way to be transparent and authentic. Those were things I had done. But I would never disclose Bipolar to them because a) my employers didn't know, b) I thought it might make them see me differently, and c) teenagers are incapable of keeping secrets. If I told one, 200 would know within a matter of 2 weeks.

I only ever told one girl, who very hesitantly came and told me she was bipolar. She was so scared to tell me; afraid I would judge her, look at her differently, tell other people, etc.. So I told her my secret and it changed her life. She's like my daughter now. She's never told anyone my secret. And I haven't told hers.

But that's it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems like you've gotten the info you needed, but I just wanted to say that part of tryp's post

"I see why you might want to know XYZ. Unfortunately I can't disclose any personal information about myself, but if you want to talk about your own experiences with XYZ, I would be glad to listen to you." You can say either that it's against the rules, if you want it to seem out of your hands, or that you don't feel comfortable, if you want to own it

is what I've been trained to do. I make the decision on the last bit--"my job doesn't let me talk about those things" more if I'd a teen I'm really trying to work on following rules with. And "I don't feel comfortable" (or some variation) if it's someone I'm working on respecting emotional boundaries. If neither of those issues are striking, I'll usually fall back on the not allowed b/c of job.

One thing is that there might be different levels allowed...I could never discuss drugs/mental illness and treatment/etc., but I could talk about things like what I liked about school and subjects I had a hard time with, ways that I handled peer situations, and things I had a hard time with with my parents (like rules and why we understand that they hate them), etc. So it might be something to clarify if you want a middle of the road approach.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...