A Qualitative Analysis of School-based Mental Health Professionals’ Views on the Use of Self-disclosure and Humor
Date of Submission
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Robert A. DiTomasso, Ph.D., ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology
Rosemary Mennuti, Ed.D., Chairperson
George McCloskey, Ph.D.
Barbara B. Williams, Ph.D.
There is some controversy in the therapeutic community over the use of therapist self-disclosure and humor. On one hand, there are those who contend that use of these therapeutic techniques can have both relational and outcome benefits. On the other hand, there are those who indicate employment of these counseling methods can interfere with the counseling process by being a distraction, as they take the focus away from the client. Relatively little research has been done on the effectiveness of utilizing these techniques, especially the use of therapeutic humor. Review of the research shows there are relational and consequent outcome benefits of therapist self-disclosure and use of humor. Little to no research has been done on the benefits of these counseling techniques in the elementary and secondary school setting. Consequently, a qualitative research design was utilized to examine this research topic. Eight school psychologists and six school social workers from the southern New Jersey area were interviewed to obtain their opinions on the use of these counseling techniques. These school-based mental health professionals delineated both relational and outcome benefits they perceived as a result of using these methods in counseling students. Perceived relational benefits cited for both of these techniques included humanizing them in the students’ eyes and fostering a connection with students. Perceived outcome benefits cited included imparting information to students, influencing student perspectives, as well as enhancing student affect and facilitating positive behavioral change. There was also evidence that suggested there were personality/background experience variables that influenced how favorably the subjects viewed the use of these counseling strategies. None of the professionals interviewed indicated they had formal graduate training in the use of these techniques. Most of them learned about how to utilize them through training they pursued on their own or by trial and error on the job. This points to the need for more research and training on the use of these nontraditional counseling methods to augment the positive effects of therapist self-disclosure and use of humor.
Felloney, Robert, "A Qualitative Analysis of School-based Mental Health Professionals’ Views on the Use of Self-disclosure and Humor" (2010). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. 161.