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.

Published by otforbpd

Founder of OT for BPD. Mental health Advocate; Occupational Therapy Teacher and Researcher Australia “As an occupational therapist diagnosed with BPD I will use this page to share about the various interventions and strategies that are helpful to those with BPD. I will also share about the positive and sometimes challenging approaches that health professionals have used in my treatment in emergency, inpatient, outpatient and community settings. I hope that by sharing my lived experience I can help improve the experience of those struggling to understand Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) and also support those living with BPD and other mental health challenges Most importantly we will share how occupation can powerfully help change lives!" Laura

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