As a neophyte counselor there are still a slew of issues and topics that I’m getting used to. I was lucky enough to continue my work with ex-offenders during which I’ve grown more comfortable dealing with issues of probation, prison experiences, blush-worthy sex topics, and a gamut of experiences that pull on the full range of emotions. Still, it’s the personal questions directed towards me that make me freeze up.
“Do you want kids?”
“Why aren’t you married?”
“Do you believe in God?”
While I have answers and explanations for each of those questions that I would normally be happy to spout over a drink at the bar, in the counseling chair I feel just like…
While there are a number of reasons they might be asking those questions, I realize that sometimes it’s just a humanizing method. These questions are just leading to the bigger question clients might have: “Who are you?”
How much of who I am is important in session and I still struggle with determining when it might be appropriate to answer any questions the client might have; disclosure isn’t always cut and dry.
I try to determine whether disclosure would have any therapeutic usefulness. Does it matter if I pray to one God, pray to several gods, don’t pray at all? What value does the answer have and if it does have value, what is the best way to express it and where do we go from there? Is it unreasonable that some would want to know more? To feel less like they’re coming in for therapy and more like they’re meeting with someone they know? It’s tricky ground this therapeutic relationship stuff and the rules around disclosure do not seem to be “one size fits all.”
I tend to err on the side of caution, not giving too much, volunteering virtually nothing, and when I do answer, it may be the bare minimum. Would it be so bad to share a real answer to any of their questions? The answer for me is, “yes, sometimes.” The balance of private and professional feels precarious at times, disingenuous at others. I’ve seen the damage that it can do to have a hard-fast rule that removes the person from the experience. The “It’s Not About Me, It’s About You,” approach. I’ve also seen what happens to counselors that cannot seem to hold their tongue – their usefulness quickly comes into question. From personal experience, I’ve enjoyed the bond that can take place when a therapist discloses; I know that it is a decision they made to do so and that when made correctly it can add something invaluable to the therapeutic experience. Maintaining boundaries is important to me and in the profession. Disclosure is part of that, but learning how to navigate the nuances is still a work in progress.
How to others navigate self-disclosures?
“Damn, and just when I was starting to get it.” ~Edgar Degas
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