Research demonstrates that self-disclosure can help build the therapeutic alliance. McCarthy & Betz (2001) observed revelations expressed from counselor to client can have a powerful impact. The researchers noted, “This revelation is seen by some professionasl as a valuable relationship building tool essential for establishing authenticity.” (p. 274.). Knox, Hess, Peterson, & Hill (1997) ( as cited in McCarthy & Betz, 2001) noted clients of self-disclosing counselors described their counselors as “real and human and the relationship as balanced.” (p. 274). Further, research has shown that self-disclosure can be helpful in alleviating the sense of isolation individuals from diverse backgrounds tend to experience, and can be instrumental in shortening the length of time required to create a strong therapeutic alliance. Goldstein (1994) (as cited in McCarthy & Betz, 2001) pointed out, “self-disclosure can be particularly crucial in working with clients whose diverse backgrounds, or altenrative lifestyles contribute to feelings of isolation that may delay the establishment of the therapeutic bond.” (p. 274.).
One way self-disclosure impacts the client in positive ways relates to how close the counselor’s self-disclosure is to the content of the client. In addition, the client/counselor relationship would take on an egalitarian nature as described in more detail later in the paragraph. Hackney & Cormier (1996) (as cited in McCarthy & Betz, 2001) pointed out for self-disclosure on the part of the counselor to be effective, there would have to be a connection to the client’s material or content. The researchers observed, “the most effective self-disclosing statements are those that closely resemble the client’s remarks in content and mood.” (p. 275.). Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett (2012) clarified that self-disclosure tends to create a relationship between client and counselor that is egalitarian in nature. This type of relationship helps the client to feel more at ease in therapy. The researchers explained, “Disclosure tends to build comfort and trust even when the next steps of the interview may not be comfortable.” (p. 226.).
Ivey, A. E., Bradford Ivey, M., & Zalaquett, C. P. (with Quirk, K.). (2012). Essentials of intentional interviewing: Counseling in a multicultural world (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
McCarthy, P. R., & Betz, N. E. (2001). Differential effects of self-disclosing versus self-involving counselor statements. In C. E. Hill (Ed.) , Helping skills: The empirical foundation (pp. 389-396). American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10412-023