Southern New Hampshire University Therapist Self Disclosure and Immediacy Discussion

Discussion 2: Self-Disclosure

Knowing that clients might react negatively to your work with them may cause anxiety, frustration, and even anger. It is inevitable that you will work with a client who expresses anger or disappointment over working with you. This does happen in the social work field and is to be expected over time. Understanding how you might react to allegations of incompetence or anger over incomplete goals is essential to managing this type of exchange. While a negative interaction may be justified if either person did not fulfill responsibilities, often it is a result of the client’s personal reaction to the situation. The best response is to use these interactions to build the therapeutic bond and to assist clients in learning more about themselves. Stepping back to analyze why the client is reacting and addressing the concern will help you and the client learn from the experience.

For this Discussion, review the program case study for the Petrakis family.

By Day 4

Post a description of ways, as Helen’s social worker, you might address Helen’s anger and accusations against you. How might you feel at that moment, and how would you maintain a professional demeanor? Finally, how might you use self-disclosure as a strategy in working with Helen?

Support your posts with specific references to the Learning Resources. Be sure to provide full APA citations for your references.

By Day 6

Respond to at least two colleagues who suggested a different strategy and suggest different approaches to working with Helen.

Colleague 1: Melinda

Helen started by asking the age of the social worker, saying the social worker is to young and not experienced to be working with Helen (Laureate Education, 2013). Helen is upset and blames the social worker for Alec moving in because Alec stole medicines from Magda. In that moment the social worker probably felt frustrated, worried and overall anxious. The social worker became upset within the video as her defensive mechanism. I would try and remain calm and professional by asking Helen why she believes that I as the social worker is too young and inexperienced. Explaining the schooling and experience as the social worker could help the situation. However, even though on the outside you want to scream, keeping it cool calm and collective will be most effective when working with someone like Helen.

Using self-disclosure has and is a topic that some social workers do not believe in. However, personally I have found it more helpful when working with a client that I as the social worker have feelings too. McTighe states “At the same time, they are learning to attend to the many levels of conscious and unconscious communication that are occurring throughout the treatment. Making therapeutic use of this material by means of well-conceived and well-crafted interventions can thus seem a Herculean task well beyond the grasp of the trainee” (2011). Knowing your levels of conscious and unconscious communication; whether that is the barriers the social worker has or the things that you may disagree with. Will help in the long wrong. Using self-disclosure at this moment of feeling that your barriers or disagreements will show can help off set. Example: “Helen, I understand you feel I am at fault for this and I have felt this way too when…” This will help Helen understand that everyone has feelings. The social worker could even go to the extent of telling Helen, “I feel upset right now too that you are blaming me, however, Helen, I just want to remind you that we both talked through the problem and we both came the solution. Using this method will help Helen understand that I too am upset because we were working together. But then moving on to a new solution to the new problem.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2013c). Petrakis family: Episode 3 [Video file]. Retrieved from

McTighe, J. P. (2011). Teaching the use of self through the process of clinical supervision. Clinical Social Work Journal, 39(3), 301–307.

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. M. (Eds.). (2014a). Sessions: case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].

Colleague 2: Kristine

Description of ways to address Helen’s anger toward you, as her social worker

This type of situation happens more frequently than I would like it to, whether in the role of social worker or the role of certified nurse’s aide. Ways that you as the social worker might address the anger coming from Helen is to justify it. Statements like “I understand you are upset over the turn of events but let us talk about this”, or “I can see that you are angry right now, can you walk me through what happened to cause your irritation”. Sometimes all it takes is acknowledgement when they are upset and the right question to get them talking about it. Having the social worker, as in the case study of the Petrakis family, react in the moment to the anger Helen was giving her did not help things.

How I might feel at that moment

I have felt as if I had done something wrong when things went haywire with clients that I serve. In helping someone ambulate to the restroom who has had a stroke, or a total joint replacement sometimes they can lose their balance and fall. They blamed me saying I pushed them to get out of bed too soon, or something like that. I have been yelled at for something that happened on the shift prior to mine, and while I felt bad, I had to tell them that it was not me at that time, and that I would try to make it better. You feel small, and if you are sensitive to another person’s feelings things like this can leave a person emotional.

How would you maintain professional demeanor?

I acknowledge that whatever they say happened did happen and their feelings are justified. I work hard to re-establish the rapport we had built prior to the incident or offer to trade another caregiver a room and bow out of their care. I know that personality clashes happen, understanding another person’s way of doing things can be hard. By working the problem, you can come to a solution, it just takes some thought and consideration to obtain a happy medium.

Use of self-disclosure.

The use of self-disclosure can help and hinder relationships. It can be great sharing similar situations with those you serve, letting them know they are not alone in how they are feeling. On the other hand, they may see your self-disclosure as a way of making the conversation about you and your experience. You have to read the client and weigh the significance of sharing to their situation, and that comes with experience.


Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. M. (Eds.). (2014a). Sessions: case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].

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