Self-Disclosure: Theory, Research, and Therapy

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Volume Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Mary Anne Fitzpatrick. David A. Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine self-disclosure as both a personality trait and an interaction process. Issue Section:. You do not currently have access to this article. Download all figures. Sign in. One of the strengths of the case disclosure. However, in the absence of a strong balance to the written guidelines and theoretical models alliance, TSD can show negative effects on clients. These which usually limit their analyses to client needs and same researchers found mixed results regarding the effects outcomes.

Bloomgarden and Mennuti b; Rabinor and Levitt Similarly, Myers and Hayes found Some authors even reveal their own experiences of that third-party observers of a single taped session rated TSD from both sides, as a therapist and as a client e. Overall, therapists report that they use self-disclosure sparingly, ranking it as one of the least fre- Therapist self-disclosure changes across different points in quently employed techniques Maroda ; Farber Many therapists report Several factors have been found to affect the frequency that they disclose biographical information to new clients, of TSD.

TSD does seem to be correlated with theoretical such as their professional training, previous experience, orientation: psychodynamically-oriented therapists gener- and some demographic information e. Therapists therapists Henretty and Levitt Rodriguez In certain practice settings, such as Sparks ; Roberts ; Rabinor As ; Sparks Clinical social workers person. Are there instances when disclosure of difference between therapist There are inconclusive findings about the impact of gender and client, even significant difference, can be powerful and on client responses to TSD Henretty and Levitt Other beneficial?

Most of the current writing on TSD does pre- client variables have also shown limited significance in terms suppose that it will be used to highlight similarity rather of the frequency of TSD. While there may be an assumption than difference between the therapist and the client, how- that therapists working with children might disclose more ever this assumption may be ill-founded. For and child clients Copobianco and Farber This same example, Dan Gottlieb recounted how bodily realities of his study found that child clients may be more likely to ask for quadriplegia were used as part of the therapeutic process with certain types of disclosure, such as parental status and hob- clients Gottlieb et al.

In general, he disclosed fre- bies, and that total non-disclosure from the therapist could quently in his practice, and he described several cases where pose a particular threat to the therapeutic relationship. Of course, regard- across cultural contexts. For example, Lokken and Twohey less of the existence of physical ailments, the practice model a found that American Indian clients rated their European therapist uses will have an impact. Issues surrounding dis- non-disclosing therapists, while African-American clients closure are central in the lives of many LGBTQ people.

A number of writers and cross-cultural work outside of American national have concluded that therapists working with LGBTQ clients contexts. As part of a community which is both on TSD. At the same giving birth to our daughter. Often, in as in sures by therapists e. For example, the setting where I was asked For example, Gilbert Cole recounted his expe- to disclose my sexual orientation as a matter of policy was rience as an HIV-positive psychoanalyst who had been a substance use treatment program for LGBTQ people. My supervisor then disclosure, Ferenczi the most prominent among them; suggested, in my formal review, that I should have consulted however the central tenets of classical psychoanalysis with the parents before coming out to the son, and asked that I remained unchanged Farber However, I believe that this self-disclosure introduced which allowed greater transparency and dis- resulted in useful reflection for the client in question, and closure between therapist and client.

Levitt Clients are free to pass on any information techniques Farber ; Zur TSD is often an that they receive from their therapists, and thus therapists essential component of each of these techniques. In more must evaluate the possible ramifications of their revelations recent variants of CBT, such as dialectical-behavioral ther- being disclosed to anyone and everyone. Filetti and Mattei Symbolic and experiential approaches, on the other hand, used TSD liberally.

Bowenian theory, while Research, theory, and practice all suggest that the use and initially circumspect regarding TSD, moved to a more understanding of TSD is one of the most divergent topics flexible and open position. As a result, practitioners of these newer considerable commonality between the different theories approaches disclose more frequently to clients.

TSD, particularly as therapists strive to turn theory and In work with groups, there have been different theoret- research into practice. A number of of the therapeutic intervention that cannot be explained or group therapists have talked about the potential for nega- limited by theoretical orientation. In general, group practices have been et al. In their consideration of such findings, Messer more open to TSD, with the caveat that therapists need to and Wampold suggested moving from research be prepared for the multitude of possible responses they comparing the relative efficacy of different theoretical may receive from clients, necessitating continual manage- modalities, to considering what elements, common to all ment of how the self-disclosure affects all group members psychotherapeutic theories, account for the bulk of positive individually, and how it affects the interactions of the client outcomes.

This shift in perspective has opened up a group as a whole. In terms of TSD, feminist theory has their own right. Feminist theory advocates a critical peutic alliance Messer and Wampold The thera- For example, ethical guidelines from the Feminist peutic alliance has been found to be one of the most stable Therapy Institute state: predictors of therapeutic outcome Horvath As the range of theoretical perspectives has converged A feminist therapist discloses information to the cli- in recognition of the therapeutic relationship, so have ent which facilitates the therapeutic process, includ- practice guidelines on TSD.

Self-Disclosure Resources for Psychologists, MFTs, Counselors, LPCs and Social Workers

Using a pan-theoretical ing information communicated to others. The framing, Knox and Hill developed guidelines for therapist is responsible for using self-disclosure only therapists in using self-disclosure based on numerous with purpose and discretion and in the interest of the research studies with therapists from a variety of theoreti- client…. A feminist therapist educates her clients cal orientations, and on the responses from their clients regarding power relationships. She informs clients of Table 1.

She clarifies power in its various forms as it and examples for each guideline, the interpretations of exists within other areas of her life, including pro- these suggestions depend very much on the subjective fessional roles. However, they provide an excellent problems and strategies involved. Bloomgarden and Mennuti, a; Farber ; strably affects their understanding and use of self- Roberts ; Maroda The the Internet. Clients can now be expected to look up current guidelines stand in counterpoint to early iterations information about therapists, or even potential therapists, of practice ethics which, while they officially prohibited and have available to them an increasing array of often- TSD, were not codified and thus permitted a wide range of intrusive online investigation techniques Zur et al.

The of Google. Increasingly, therapists will not only need to professional codes have been altered in recent years to decide how much to disclose, but how much to guard recognize the increasing flexibility of therapeutic bound- against disclosure. Already, therapists need to make more aries in terms of self-disclosure, while still upholding the technologically-informed decisions as they choose whe- current legal and ethical sanctions against boundary- ther and how to engage with social networking, online crossings such as sexual contact with clients Zur Williams has described, increasing retrieved within a matter of seconds.

Practitioners should concerns about litigation have led malpractice insurance proceed from the assumption that their clients know far providers to urge practitioners to veer away from all self- more about them than they have ever intentionally dis- disclosure, at least in the American context. While research closed, and that clients may then choose to broadcast suggests that the overwhelming majority of practitioners further information online.

New conversations may be continue to use TSD, albeit infrequently, there is some required, and therapists may need to actively manage evidence that younger generations of therapists are dis- their online profiles. The development to influence TSD. Some authors have sug- socio-legal context may be partially responsible for this gested that other traumatic, societal events such as mass trend, although further investigation is required.

Therapist self-disclosure inspires both passionate convic- Decisions about self-disclosure are also unavoidable in tions and uncertain discomfort. As much as theory, research, and legal or is, in itself, instructive. Now that most practitioners, 71— New York, NY: Routledge. Foucault, M.

To Share or Not to Share

The history of sexuality, Vol. Hurley transl. New York: Vintage. Recommendations to physicians practicing psycho- should therapists disclose? Strachey ed. The standard edition of the need to be weighed carefully, with the knowledge that the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XII — : The Case of Schreber, Papers on technique and scale may be imprecise and gravity unreliable.

The human other works, pp. London: Hogarth.

Self-Disclosure: Theory, Research, and Therapy

Components of the psychotherapy heartfelt fallibility. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 41 3 , — The author would Gottlieb. Mennuti, B Eds. Potentially, different parameters derived from the ratio of emotion words, their valence positive, negative , and their value weak, mild, strong may be respectively indicative of the volume, valence, and value of the emotions that participants experience and choose to share during SD. In summary, accumulating evidence strongly support the idea that computational algorithms that draw on verbal communication can reveal the links between verbal parameters and psychological evaluation e.

To apply this methodology to SD, further research is required to explore the association among these verbal parameters and the relevant aspects of SD as assessed by other tools. However, other more complex parameters should also be considered. For example, analyses that draw on sentence features such as syntactic complexity e. The development of advanced methods for acoustic analyses in the last decade allows researchers to explore acoustic aspects of speech and associate them with psycho-physiological processes underlying verbal interaction.

Although, to the best of our knowledge, such measures have not been used to investigate SD, they have been extensively studied in research investigating other psychological processes, and in particular emotions e. Here we focus on three vocal parameters, namely loudness, intonation, and speech rate that can be objectively measured by analyzing the corresponding acoustic features. The acoustic feature subjectively perceived as speech loudness refers to the intensity level of the voice, represented as the amplitude of the acoustic signal measured in dB.

Intuitively, we feel that when people are reluctant to disclose information, they tend to speak quietly or even whisper, but this intuitive observation has yet to be systematically and objectively examined. More generally, a study that examined a large variety of emotions found that variation in emotion was highly correlated with the variance in speech amplitude Pfitzinger and Kaernbach, Most relevant to SD, accumulating evidence suggests that speaking about personally meaningful events may evoke higher levels of sympathetic activation and potentially lead to increased amplitude range e.

Thus, acoustic analysis of amplitude variation may reflect emotional aspects of SD. Several studies have established the relationship between the acoustic features of intonation and perceptual judgments of emotional activation, emotional valence, and emotional dominance e. The findings revealed differential acoustic signatures for anger and sadness, in which anger was associated with larger intonation variability compared to neutral baseline speech or to sadness. Interestingly, the findings further revealed that increased variations in imperceptible F0-perturbation were associated with sadness.

This finding suggests that acoustic analysis may provide us with implicit indicators of emotion that cannot be consciously perceived, in addition to the vocal features that can be explicitly perceived. The acoustic feature subjectively perceived as speech rate may be calculated as either the number of words per minute WPM or by measuring syllable or phone rate e.

These measures are susceptible to changes in the activation of the sympathetic nervous system e. Indirect indication that speech rate may be associated with SD comes from a study revealing that in comparison to normal speech, during seductive interaction between male and female partners, speech rate was increased. The authors argued that the seductive interaction involves increased SD aimed to establish intimacy. Hence although SD was not directly measured, they suggest that changes in speech rate are associated with changes in SD Anolli and Ciceri, In summary, we propose that acoustic analyses of the vocal expression of the spoken message may provide additional parameters for the evaluation of SD which are not necessarily captured by the verbal parameters.

These parameters seem to be highly informative of emotions, interpersonal interaction, and other psychological aspects of communication that characterize the actual SD. Moreover, these parameters have two important advantages. Second, at least some acoustic aspects of speech are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system; consequently, they may reflect automatic uncontrolled processes not moderated by social and cognitive biases.

Further research is required to study these and additional measures e. The brief review of verbal and acoustic measures presented above suggests that alone, none of these measures can capture the complex nature of SD, as each measure reflects only certain aspects of it. This example demonstrated that general word count is indicative of the volume of SD communication but tells us nothing about how emotional, personal, or reflective it is.

By contrast, intonation and rhythm may be indicative of the emotional intensity of SD communication but not of its content. This seeming drawback may develop into an advantage if these measures are pooled into a combined assessment tool that will offer a multidimensional perspective on SD. Currently, some of the measures described above need to be further explored and their relationship to different aspects of SD need to be further established.

Nevertheless, in a recent study Levi-Belz and Kreiner, , we have made an initial attempt to evaluate SD in interpersonal interaction using combined linguistic tools. Importantly, to evaluate the validity of such tools, we examined to what extent SD as reflected in linguistic measures was correlated with subjective self-reported SD and with SD as judged by others. These preliminary findings suggest that linguistic SD measures may provide a valid evaluation of situated SD, and call for further research to examine the scope of their validity and extend it, and to explore the gap between the long-term self-reported SD and the situated SD as reflected in linguistic SD evaluations Levi-Belz and Kreiner, Thus, in this last section, we outline our proposal for a comprehensive evaluation of SD that integrates both traditional self-report SD scales such as the JSDQ Jourard, and a combined measurement of situated SD evaluation based on verbal and acoustic measures as described above.

We hope that future research inspired by this proposal will develop this approach and empirically test our proposal. The development of a combined tool for evaluating situated SD may pursue either a data-driven approach or theoretically driven one. A data-driven approach may be agnostic to theoretical assumptions and rather begin with the rich array of data provided by the different acoustic and verbal measures.

It can use statistical tools such as Multi-Dimensional Scaling MDS to explore the shared and unique variability of the different measures, outline the major dimensions of SD, and then examine to what extent they fit the SD theoretical literature. By contrast, a theoretically driven approach should begin with a definition of the major dimensions of SD and use statistical tools such as confirmatory factor analysis CFA to map the different SD measures onto these dimensions.

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We believe, however, that any attempt to map the different measures onto dimensions of SD should be guided by empirical evidence. Based on this tentative mapping, it is possible to build a three-dimensional profile of SD. The HOW MUCH dimension refers to the volume of information disclosed and, as demonstrated in previous studies, can be measured by total word count and the duration of the spoken communication. The WHAT dimension refers to the content conveyed in the SD communication, namely, what topics are discussed, what emotions are disclosed, and what characters are referred to e.


It may be evaluated by content measures such as counts of emotion words, reflective verbs e. Finally, the HOW dimension refers to the way this content is conveyed, and may be reflected in the acoustic measures. For example, measures such as intonation and loudness may be indicative of the intensity of experienced and expressed emotions, while speech fluency as measured for example by number and duration of silent pauses may be informative regarding the ease or difficulty in disclosing information. The raw values from all these measures can be standardized and presented on a combined profile as demonstrated in Figure 2.

However, when examining the complete profile, we can see very different SD styles. Huey exhibits high levels of intonation variability and loudness while Dewey exhibits low levels on these measures. Moreover, Huey shows high counts in all lexical classes, and Dewey shows low word counts on emotion words and self-pronouns with relatively high counts on reflective verbs. Finally, Louie exhibits medium values on the total word counts, response duration, intonation, and loudness measures with very low values on fluency, and emotion words, but high counts of reflective verbs.

His profile suggests a more pensive and intellectual SD style, he seems to be willing to share his experience but has difficulties in articulating his emotions. These hypothetical profiles demonstrate how the three-dimensional evaluation of situated SD may highlight the complex nature of SD.

These profiles may represent different SD styles exhibited by three different individuals. However, they may also represent different SD styles exhibited by one individual at different time points. For example, a patient starting a therapeutic interaction somewhat reluctant to talk, gradually talking more but with a reserved non-emotional intellectual SD style, that may turn at a certain point into an intimate emotional SD.

Thus these profiles can reveal changes in SD patterns that can be associated with situational factors such as the dynamic aspects of interpersonal interaction. The proposed tools have three important advantages. Second, it provides an objective evaluation as it is computerized less susceptible to biases of diagnosticians, or to intentional and motivational biases of the individual tested than self-reported SD or to potential. Finally, this tool is highly sensitive to real-time changes during interaction so it can shed light on particular characteristics of the interaction that affect the individual SD in situ.

While the advantages are very clear, it is important to note that the development of such tool requires computationally intensive algorithms. These disadvantages may hinder the development and implementation of such evaluation tools; in order to facilitate this process, it is important to integrate these novel methodological tools with more familiar and widely used tools.

Situated SD profiles as described above reflect actual SD during interpersonal interaction, but as such they are not designed to capture the long-lasting tendency to disclose personal information. These studies indicate that actual SD and self-reports of the stable SD are not highly correlated and suggest that they should be considered as complementary measures of SD rather than alternate or clashing measures. Using both measures may have important implications both at the theoretical and at the practical—clinical levels. At the theoretical level, future research that will explore individual differences in the gaps between the actual and self-perceived SD may shed light on the psychological processes that generate it.

Such dissociation between behavior and self-perception may be indicative of problematic personality development, for example, or inflexible use of defense mechanisms. Understanding the psychological processes that generate the gap can promote our understanding of the contribution of SD to coping with life challenges and conflicts.

Recent research e. As the actual SD style is often a key indicator of such change, the ability to evaluate it may be critical for understanding the underlying processes that triggered the change. Critically, patients with different levels of SD tendency may respond differently to different therapeutic approaches. In addition, the therapist may learn from the discrepancy between the actual and self-perceived SD about the vulnerability of the patient in interpersonal interactions and their difficulties in developing intimate relationships.

Self-disclosure is a complex behavior modulated by stable personality traits as well as by transient situational factors. To obtain a comprehensive appraisal of SD, we must be able to measure the actual situated SD as well as the stable SD tendency. Measuring actual SD presents a number of methodological challenges. Clearly, self-report methods are inadequate, as they interfere with the natural interaction. In this paper, we proposed the development of new tools that may enable better measurement of the transient, situated aspects of SD. Our proposal followed from the widely accepted view that SD involves sharing of personal and emotional information about the self through verbal communication Jourard, ; Cozby, ; Omarzu, ; Chaudoir and Fisher, Consistent with this view, the measures proposed here are derived from the verbal communication of SD and aim to evaluate to what extent this communication is personal, emotional, and concerns the self.

Several of the measures reviewed in this paper have been employed in other contexts to evaluate situated SD as well as other psychological processes.


It seems then that such measures may reflect general non-specific psychological processes. We posit, however, that it is possible to combine the different measures into an integrated assessment tool specifically tuned to SD. We believe that by exploring the shared and the unique contributions of various acoustic and verbal measures to the assessment of SD, future research would promote a multidimensional appraisal of SD.

Such appraisal could be envisaged to complement the measures of stable perceived SD tendency, reveal its interaction with situational factors such as the dynamics of the interpersonal interaction, and allow us to predict actual SD behavior in given situations. We believe that the development of computerized tools to measure the acoustic and verbal parameters and implement an integrated moment-to-moment evaluation in real-time is just a matter of time.

These tools would be helpful in different contexts in which in situ objective evaluation is needed.

For example, on help-lines where the only information available about the caller is the recorded conversation, such tools can be used to evaluate their tendency to SD during the conversation, and enhance risk assessment e. Finally, these tools may be helpful for malingering assessment in which self-reported emotions and distress are suspected to be exaggerated, or even false, attempting to obtain undeserved gains. By drawing on verbal and acoustic measures derived from the verbal SD communication, it should be possible to develop new and exciting tools which are sensitive to temporal fluctuations in SD during actual interpersonal interaction.

This may have important implications both for the research and theory of SD as well as for clinical contexts. Such research may provide evidence-based insights with important implications for the theoretical debates about interpersonal relationship in counseling and psycho-therapy Gunlicks-Stoessel and Weissman, HK and YL-B wrote the first draft of the manuscript, conducted the review of the literature, and were responsible for data extraction and quality assessment. HK and YL-B contributed to the interpretation of data, critically revised the manuscript, and approved the final version.

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Mar Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Received Oct 25; Accepted Feb The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s and the copyright owner s are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Abstract Most previous research on self-disclosure SD focused on its perceived retrospective aspects using self-report questionnaires. Keywords: self-disclosure, objective measurement, behavioral measures, dynamic evaluation, linguistic analysis, vocal analysis, interpersonal interaction.

Introduction Self-disclosure SD , the communication of personal thoughts and feelings with another person Jourard, , has been conceptualized in the psychological literature in various ways and measured using various tools. Assessment Tools for Situated Self-Disclosure Recent years have brought a gradual change in the perception and measurement of self-disclosure. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Verbal Expression Psychological evaluation has always used qualitative analysis of verbal expressions produced in evaluation settings such as interviews and projective tests.

Word Count Tausczik and Pennebaker ; p. Total Number of Words The total number of words produced by a person in an interaction or in one turn in the interaction seems to reflect the volume of SD, such that higher total word counts have been associated with higher SD e. Pronouns The relative counts of different pronouns are indicative of social-cognitive processes, such as social-attention, social status, and trustworthiness Tausczik and Pennebaker,