For those who work relationally, that is, for those who employ in therapy sessions, their experience of the client and the ‘work’ together, sharing personal details or stories is something you do from time to time, whether it is elicited or not. Modeled early on during the first number of sessions, as part of how they ‘sit’ and are present with clients, the therapist’s disclosures may be said to help create the safe and collaborative ‘third space’ of therapy. But, what about when the client is an adolescent? What about when three sessions into the work, the young client exhibits great pride for the kinds of manipulations they successfully ‘use’ with their parents, making you wonder briefly if they might employ this art with you. When the subject matter turns to illicit drugs and the adolescent’s use of them and they enquire as to whether you (who for them at the moment is an adult, a therapist, and someone he/she is considering trusting) use them, the therapist’s disclosure in this instance speaks to issues of the therapist’s trust of the client, interest in authenticity and ultimately an unspoken equality in honesty in portraying personal experience.
Answering truthfully to a question that comes out of the natural flow of the exchange can mean a ‘powering down’ before the youth can make the therapist-client relationship more human. Feelings of being exposed to someone younger might arise making you feel uncomfortable. Knowing yourself and what is the source of this discomfort seems important. Telling a lie, even when the likelihood of the youth ever knowing different might undermine the authenticity of the emerging connection from the therapist’s perspective. If this tricky moment were later in the work with the client, it’d be a question of maintenance of the connection.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA