The Effects of Therapist Self-Disclosure of a Mental Health Condition on Client Perceptions of the Therapist
Date of Submission
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology
Kate Tresco, PhD, Chairperson
Jessica Glass-Kendorski, PhD, NCSP
Dana Boccio, PsyD
Therapist self-disclosure is a controversial intervention that is defined in numerous ways and includes a variety of content. Little is known about how therapist self-disclosure of a mental health condition affects clients’ and non clients’ perceptions of the therapist. The first goal of this study was to investigate the effects of therapist self-disclosure of a mental health condition on client perceptions of the therapist on three social influence factors (Attractiveness, Expertness, Trustworthiness) and two facilitative conditions (Empathy and Level of Regard). The second goal was to investigate if client perceptions of the therapist’s social influence factors and facilitative conditions varied by the type of mental health condition disclosed. This study used a survey method to investigate university students’ (n = 267) reactions to vignettes depicting a client-therapist interaction in which the therapist disclosed having one of three mental health conditions (AD/HD, depression, anxiety) or did not disclose any personal information. Participants rated therapist’s levels of social influence factors using Counselor Rating Form-Short (CRF-S) and perceived levels of facilitative conditions, using the Barrett Lennard Relationship Inventory (BLRI). The results of this study found that vignettes that featured the therapist who self-disclosed a mental health condition were rated as significantly more attractive and empathetic than the vignettes of the therapist who did not disclose any personal information. Ratings of social influence and facilitative conditions did not vary by the type of mental health condition disclosed. Limitations of the study are addressed and alternate explanations for the results are explored. Implications regarding the use of therapist self-disclosure of personal experience with a mental health condition are discussed.
Kaufman, Samantha E., "The Effects of Therapist Self-Disclosure of a Mental Health Condition on Client Perceptions of the Therapist" (2016). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. 365.