Strategies for Self-Disclosure

Recently I was asked some brilliant questions by an occupational therapy student.

These were:

  1. Where would you as a clinician draw the line when sharing personal experiences with consumers?
  2. How would you balance being honest, open and building a relationship with the client with maintaining professional boundaries and professionalism?

My Strategies for Sharing Parts of Your Story with Consumers

This is a brilliant question and one I have been thinking about in answering.

Which is great for my practice too!


There are a few things to consider. 

First the organisation

  • Do they value the lived experience?
  • Do they have consumers come into speak regularly
  • What is the team’s attitude to this?
  • Did they hire you knowing you had a lived experience? What does the position description say? Organisations might write they value cultural and lived experiences. 
  • Put a feeler out there with your team – without disclosing yourself. You could even mention my teacher taught from the lived experience. How does that sound?
  • How does my sharing make you feel? What resonated with you.
  • Think about the teachers you connect with most. What is it about that relationship that you feel is different from others.
  • We all have different therapeutic approaches. Be authentic yet comfortable.
    Suggest making a list
  • What is it you feel that you can share and what do you think is too much.
  • How do you know the client will be receptive to sharing?
  • Where are they on their journey.
  • For example if someone shared with me they had BPD when I was first diagnosed with depression I don’t think I would have been receptive because I couldn’t accept I had depression. However, I have heard the complete opposite from others. Hearing that someone else has the same experience as you can be validating.
  • Sometimes sharing is also non-verbal. eg. how you dress, how you speak, your values. An obvious example is when do I choose to wear my self-harm scars versus not too? 
  • Do you feel safe? I wouldn’t share anything like your residence. 
  • Journal.
  • Trial and error. Try sharing with someone something small. How did the experience go? 
  • It really comes down to trial and error.
  • Being at volunteer agency would be a good place to trial this and see what your experience is like. 

These are just some of my strategies. Please add your strategies in the comments below. This can be a very lonely space.

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