There are a few schools of thought about how much or how little therapists should share with their clients about their personal lives. I have worked through very different psychotherapy frameworks from zero sharing to bread crumb sharing to irreverent sharing as I’ve stood behind, beside and on top of - that almost palpable WALL right there in the middle of the Client-Therapist relationship.
My last 5 years as a behaviour therapist has really shifted me to the “Let's Share What’s Needed for Therapeutic Value and Connection” side of the fence. Not only does it make me more approachable, relatable and *sometimes* irreverent (my favourite DBT trick to shake things up) -- sharing breaks down that Old Brick Wall also known as: the power differential in the therapy room.
Offering small facts about life experiences (when clinically helpful) showcases therapists as more vulnerable, real and HUMAN.
I don’t know about you - but being authentic in ALL my relationships is the cornerstone to my personal identity (discovered with the help of therapy of course). Finding genuine people to participate in my life is a Value I deliberately seek out in new friends and new colleagues or partnerships who I align with my practice. So why not make sure my Clients see it in Me.
I can’t expect someone to trust and feel safe enough to bare bones and do the hard work with me - if they know little to nothing about The Me Behind That Wall.
The CRPO states that the structure of the relationship between client and therapist is a place “where both work together to bring about positive change in the client’s thinking, feeling, behaviour and social functioning” (CRPO website, 2020). What better way to do this than to strengthen the culture of normalizing both client and therapist, together - dealing with mental health issues; making mistakes; experiencing shame or sadness or joy on relatable plains.
We’ve heard much these past years from mental health experts that mental wellness and resilience needs human connection to take us to the deeper level of feeling heard, feeling seen, feeling valuable and important. That's why I think --
...it’s equally important for the people in the rooms modeling this therapy stuff to *also* walk the walk; be genuine; share details; and openly seek therapy when they need it too.
Personal stories are powerful. Helpers need help sometimes. Working with the public is tough enough. Get out from behind the Wall and show your true self (within reason, clinically - we’re not out for coffee after all :-) ).
The fine print: the above is grounded in evidence based psychotherapy called dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Most of our therapeutic interventions are DBT informed depending on the needs of each unique client. For more info on this and other treatments see the links on our website under Approach to Therapy @ www.willowrockwellness.com
Hi I’m Nadine, a 40-something registered psychotherapist. I’ve been in the counselling, social work and mental health fields for 14 years. My background is community mental health and university settings. Today I focus on adult professionals mainly in helping, service and public careers. Together we work to improve well-being - be it with mood; shifting negative patterns; fostering deep healing; improving stamina; or defining personal truth. Willow Rock Wellness www.willowrockwellness.com is my counselling clinic and all therapy is online or by phone. You can also find me on my pages at: Facebook or LinkedIn