June 27, 2007

Personal disclosures by helpers are not beneficial to clients

On Science Blog I read this: "In well-intentioned efforts to establish relationships, some physicians tell patients about their own family members, health problems, travel experiences and political beliefs. While such disclosures seem an important way to build a personal connection, a University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry investigation of secretly-recorded first-time patient visits to experienced primary care physicians has found these personal disclosures have no demonstrable benefits and may even disrupt the flow of important patient information." I think exactly the same goes for most other kinds of helpers like: coaches, therapists, constultants, and mediators. Focus on the client and leave your own views and experiences out of the picture. The solution-focused approach has emphasized this all along.


  1. Coert,

    Is it possible that because they lumped every kind of disclosure together that the kinds that were helpful were canceled out by the kinds that were not helpful? Or did the study say that every type of personal disclosure was not helpful?


  2. While I think that we, as interventionists, tend to overestimate the usefulness of self-disclosure, there may be some truth to what you say. In general, I think self-disclosure is often unnecessary and distrating. But it is quite possible that there are expections to this. It may be that a certain type of self-disclore in a certain type of context may usually work well.

    Any ideas about what kind of self-disclosure and what type of situation this might be?

  3. Dear Coert and Rodney,

    Maybe a possible situation where self-disclosure could be useful, is when the client (group) is heavily primed by the facilitator's past as an expert. For instance, when participants of a leadership training in advance found out that the trainer has been a leader himself, they might want to hear how he dealt himself with problems, euh,...(future) successes. Perhaps the more we are positioned as an expert before the actual session - by a sponsor or by HR in a company, for instance - the more this might change certain expectations towards the facilitator to share his own experience and ways he dealt with setbacks. Sharing experiences as a leader more ex cathedra yet doesn't exclude playing it back to participants: "is this recognisable for you?", "how did you deal with this yourself in your specific situation?", "how is this useful to you?" followed by scaling questions, etc...From one-up to one-down again?


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