Functions of self-disclosure

As with all strategies in DBT, therapists use self-disclosure strategically. For example, a therapist self-disclosure about managing a problematic emotion may motivate a client embarrassed about her own emotional responses to share relevant information with the therapist. Self-involving self-disclosure by the therapist may provide an opportunity for the client to learn about the interpersonal consequences of his or her behaviour and possibly motivate the client to modify behaviours that damage relationships. For example, a client frequently aggressively threatened suicide and blamed the therapist for his ineptitude in treating her. After a number of such incidents, the therapist said to the client, “When you threaten to kill yourself and blame me for not helping you, my motivation to help you decreases”. In this example, the therapist discloses the impact of the client’s behaviour on him to draw the interpersonal impact of the client’s behaviour to her attention and to highlight possibly undesirable consequences of her behaviour. Assuming that the client wants the therapist to remain motivated to help, this self-involving self-disclosure may punish suicidal threats and motivate the client to modify her behaviour. In this case, the client was motivated to solve the problem and stopped threatening suicide. The therapist then coached the client in how to communicate her distress and frustration more effectively.

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