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Up Close and Personal: How Much Should a Therapist Share With Clients?


There is quite a debate in the field of counseling right now about how personal to be with your clients. Should you share your own story? Should we share nothing about ourselves? If we do decide to share, when is it too much? It is ever too much?

To be honest, I am having a similar internal debate with myself right now. Should my husband and I share our story with the entire Internet (scary thought) and (if we do) how much should we share? What are the possible benefits? What negatives could this lead to?

I have a general rule of thumb for this in the psychotherapy room, and some clinicians will disagree with me. That’s okay. We can still be friends. I share just a tiny bit about myself initially to build rapport. It typically consists of a few demographic details, like I am married with two kids. Much beyond that, I first ask myself this question.

How will this benefit my client?

If what I am about to share of my own personal story does not help my client, then I have no business going there. There are some vicarious benefits to being a therapist, but having all your emotional needs met by clients should not be one of them. They are paying for a service and therapists should not be using up their time for themselves.

One reason that the therapeutic relationship can be draining at times is that it is a one-way street. In other relationships, there is a constant back and forth of meeting needs.

When a client cannot get a word in during a session, it is a big red flag that the therapist does not know what they are doing. I would suggest you find a new therapist who wants to listen to your story.

So, this brings me back to my original thoughts about how much should we share about ourselves on our blog. As a wife and a mother, I am very protective of our family’s privacy. At the same time, I do feel that sharing our story could help others.

Right now, I am interested in what you think. How much is too much to share on the Internet, both personally and professionally?  To counselors, what do you share with clients?  Please leave a comment below.

Check out Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL to learn more about Dr. Courtney Stivers’ professional work. 

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