Self-Disclosure in Psychotherapy NBCC approved

Barry A. Farber, PhD

Course Description

Traditionally, the therapeutic relationship has been characterized as one in which the patient divulges everything about him- or herself, while the therapist acts as a blank slate, revealing nothing. Yet as Barry A. Farber shows in this highly readable book, this characterization does not describe what really happens in therapy. Drawing on empirical research as well as theory and clinical experience, Farber comprehensively explores the nature of self-disclosure by both therapists and patients, its role in the therapeutic process, and ways practitioners from any orientation can make optimal use of it and navigate typical dilemmas and challenges.

Following an introductory overview that highlights the reasons why disclosure is currently such a prominent issue across different schools of psychotherapy, chapters focus in turn on the perspectives of patients and therapists. Farber presents extensive data on patterns of disclosure and reflects on the benefits and costs of sharing personal material in a variety of clinical situations. Rich with detailed case material, the book tackles such compelling questions as:

  • When and how self-revelation can enhance healing and change
  • What types of disclosure may be harmful
  • Why either party may fail to reveal important information
  • The impact on disclosure of race, gender, culture, and sexual orientation
  • How to use disclosure to strengthen the therapeutic relationship
  • Special considerations involved in disclosing to children

A separate chapter discusses supervision, covering how supervisors and supervisees decide what to share with each other, what kinds of disclosures each is likely to find helpful or unhelpful and how this issue affects the quality of the alliance and the work that is accomplished.

Written in a clear, down-to-earth style, this concise volume addresses a topic of central concern for psychotherapists and counselors from all professional backgrounds including clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, family therapists, clinical social workers, addiction counselors, pastoral counselors, and school psychologists.

About Authors

Barry A. Farber, PhD, received his degree in clinical psychology from Yale University. Currently he is a professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has twice served as chair of the Counseling and Clinical Psychology Department at Teachers College, and has been the program coordinator and director of training in the Clinical Psychology Program since 1990. Dr. Farber serves on the editorial boards of several professional journals, and maintains a small private practice of psychotherapy in Mamaroneck, New York. His three previous books include the coedited volume The Psychotherapy of Carl Rogers: Cases and Commentary. Dr. Farber has written articles on stress and burnout, psychological-mindedness, therapist and patient representations, career motivations of therapists, and the therapist as an attachment figure. He is currently working on a book about psychologically astute rock and roll lyrics.

Learning Objectives

  1. Explain the positive aspects of self-disclosure in general.
  2. Describe and explain what issues patients tend to avoid discussing in psychotherapy.
  3. Describe the controversy over the alleged benefits of self-disclosure in psychotherapy, and the research which supports it.
  4. Explain the classical position on psychotherapist disclosure.
  5. Explain the difference between factual self-disclosure and self involving counterfertransference disclosure.
  6. Explain the guidelines to follow for when a psychotherapist may refrain from disclosure and instead, should remain silent.
  7. Explain the reasons for supervisor self-disclosure in clinical supervision.

Course Contents

  1. The Nature of Self-Disclosure
  2. Clinical Perspectives on Patient Disclosure
  3. Research Perspectives on Patient Disclosure
  4. Patient Disclosure: the Outcome Controversy
  5. Multicultural Perspectives on Patient Disclosure
  6. Historical Perspectives on Therapist Disclosure
  7. Research Perspectives on the Therapist Disclosure
  8. Clinical Perspectives on Therapist Disclosure
  9. Supervisee and Supervisor Disclosure
  10. Conclusions


Customer Comments

“Excellent coverage of subject. Farber’s text will remain a useful reference for years.”

– J.G., MFT, CA

“Really good! Helpful!”