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Using spiritual self-disclosure in psychotherapy.

The purpose of this article is to outline a series of recommendations to aid therapists in developing and integrating spiritual self-disclosure into the therapeutic process. The authors introduce six categories of spiritual self-disclosure by adapting Well's (1994) and Kottler's (2003) categories of self-disclosure. Arguments for and against therapist self-disclosure are offered, along with underlying assumptions inherent to the use of self-disclosures that incorporate spiritual themes. Assumptions and recommendations for therapists that may facilitate clinically relevant, culturally sensitive, and ethical implementation of spiritual self-disclosure are offered. Case examples highlighting how therapists can integrate spiritual self-disclosures into clinical practice are also provided.

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Self-disclosure can be broadly defined as "statements that reveal something personal about the therapist" (Hill & Knox, 2001). The disclosure of personal information by therapists in the course of their work with clients has been a topic of serious deliberation among psychotherapists (e.g., Hill & Knox, 2002; Knox, Hess, Petersen, & Hill, 1997). Furthermore, when, what, and how much to disclose has been the subject of additional debate, as well as whether self-disclosure is appropriate at all. Many therapists agree, however, that self-disclosure can be a powerful intervention if used properly (Kottler, 2003).

Despite the on-going debate among clinicians over therapist self-disclosure, there is a striking dearth of literature on therapeutic disclosures that are spiritual in nature. Spiritual self-disclosure has been defined as a spiritual intervention in which the therapist shares "aspects of his or her own spiritual experience" (Richards & Bergin, 2005, p. 287) with the client. To date, the literature has previously addressed spiritual self-disclosure only in abstract, non-precise terms, and most often as a vague intervention strategy (e.g., Richards & Bergin, 2005). Thus, the purpose of this article is to integrate spirituality into the discussion surrounding therapist self-disclosure and to provide recommendations for the clinically relevant, culturally sensitive, and, ethical use of spiritual self-disclosure. Our goal for this article is to demonstrate how therapists might utilize spiritual self-disclosure to normalize client experience, offer encouragement, provide modeling, or convey a message or information without imposing their beliefs on clients.

ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST SELF-DISCLOSURE

Arguments have been made both for and against the practice of therapist self-disclosure. One of the most salient arguments in favor of therapist self-disclosure postulates that this practice humanized therapists and increases the intimacy of the therapeutic interaction (Kramer, 2000). Guy (1987) addressed therapist self-disclosure within the context of significant events in the life of the psychotherapist (e. g., marriage, divorce, retirement), stating:

Regardless of the theoretical orientation employed, patients need to know that the therapist is alive, vulnerable, and affected by life events, and yet able to survive and live a meaningful life. If this is not the case, there is no reason to hope that the labors of the psychotherapist, and participation in psychotherapy, will result in the desired change. (p. 195)

Therapists are models of interpersonal interaction and clients often respond to therapist self-disclosure with increased disclosure of their own experiences (e. g, Kottler, 2003). Further, appropriate self-disclosure may serve to: (a) convey respect and facilitate the therapeutic relationship, (b) provide feedback about the impact of the client on others, (d) expand the repertoire of experience and possibilities for clients, (e) reassure clients or normalize their experiences, and (f) facilitate hope. Kramer (2000) argued that therapist self-disclosure also serves to decrease client transference. That is, the more clients actually know about their therapists (e.g., therapists' thoughts, feelings) the less he or she is likely to project onto therapists, helping to avoid potential hindrances to the therapeutic alliance. Moreover, therapists who self-disclose are consistently rated by clients as more helpful in both quantitative and qualitative studies (e.g., Hill, et al., 1988; Knox, Hess, Petersen, & Hill, 1997).

Kramer (2000) and Kottler (2003) also enumerated several arguments against using self-disclosure in therapy. First, it is possible that therapists will use disclosure inappropriately or for the wrong motivations. For example, therapists may disclose to meet their own needs (psychological, emotional, to be their own needs (psychological, emotional, to be liked, etc.), manipulate or control clients, or defend their own actions of behaviors. Self-disclosures may also shift the focus of therapy onto the therapist, thus marginalizing the clients' needs. There is a possibility that therapists' disclosure may also exacerbate clients' symptomology, especially those with poor boundaries (e.g., client diagnosed with borderline personality disorder). The main argument against self-disclosure in psychotherapy is that it has the potential to harm the client if done improperly or insensitively.

It is important to note that not all psychotherapeutic modalities would encourage self-disclosure as a therapeutic tool. Contemporary psychodynamically oriented therapists, for example, generally do not self-disclose in order to maintain a therapeutic frame that fosters exploration of the client's internal world. Self-disclosure can be experienced by the client as an implicit message that the therapy is also about the therapist, which is generally the concern about self-disclosure in contemporary psychodynamic therapy. However, there is an increasing emphasis in relational psychoanalysis and attachment-based psychoanalytic therapy on the therapist disclosing the impact the client has on the therapist (e.g., Stern et al., 1998). This fosters attachment, and is very different than disclosing content about the therapist's life or background.

ASSUMPTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Before using spiritual self-disclosure, therapists should consider several underpinning assumptions associated with this intervention. In the following, we outline assumptions that are intended to give therapists insight into possible limits and applications of spiritual self-disclosure in counseling and psychotherapy. Recommendations and examples for how therapists might attend to the highlighted assumptions are also addressed.

First, therapists should consult their governing ethical codes and guidelines to assist in determining appropriate uses of spiritual self-disclosure. Tan (1994) identified a series of potential pitfalls in religiously-oriented psychotherapy, the first of which is the danger of imposing therapists' religious beliefs or values on clients, thus reducing clients' freedom of choice. The issue of the sharing and imposing therapists' spiritual and religious values is explicitly addressed by various professional codes of ethics (e.g., American Counseling Association, 2005; American Psychological Association, 2002) and should not be done to manipulate or coerce clients. Therapists may find it helpful to utilize an ethical decision-making model (e.g., Chapelle, 2000). A number of authors (e.g., Chappelle, 2000; McMinn, 1996; Richards & Bergin 2005. Tan, 1994) have suggested guidelines and principles in making ethical decisions with regard to the use of spirituality in therapy. Therapists should also consult their agency or practice setting guidelines and policies before implementing spiritual self-disclosure. Obtaining informed consent for using spiritually oriented interventions, including spiritual self-disclosure, could also be obtained to ensure adherence to ethical principles (Hathaway & Ripley, in press). It is also recommended that therapists seek out training, supervision or consultation for addressing spirituality in counseling and psychotherapy (Worthington, et al., in press).

Second, therapists should only use spiritual self-disclosure if clinically relevant. Kottler (2003) noted that there are certain clients for whom therapist self-disclosure is most often contraindicated: (a) clients who may be inclined to use the information against the therapist in some way, (b) clients with personality disorders or Axis II leanings, (c) clients who might be inclined to readily adopt therapists' characteristics or who have poor identity formation, (d) clients who tend to focus on the needs of others rather than their own needs, (e), clients who fear closeness with therapists or intimacy in general, (f) clients who are self absorbed, (g) clients aversive to discussing emotional latent material or intense emotions. Similarly, caution should be taken when working with psychotic clients who may incorporate religious themes into their hallucinations or delusions. It may therefore be useful for therapists to listen, focusing on client experiences, symptoms, and diagnostic criteria, for either client indicators (e.g., discusses positive religious coping strategies) or contra-indicators (e.g., reports atheistic worldview) for using spiritual self-disclosure.

Third, cultural sensitivity needs to be displayed when integrating spiritual self-disclosure into treatment. Some clients, such as non-religious clients or clients who prefer to discuss the sacred with a spiritual leader may be less interested in discussing spiritual issues in counseling and psychotherapy. Still, researchers have found that many religiously and spiritually committed clients wish to discuss spiritual matters in the course of treatment. Further, researchers have found that matching client and therapist based on their religious and spiritual backgrounds or traditions enhances the efficacy of spiritually oriented interventions (Post & Wade, in press). In health related studies, discussing spiritual matters has been found to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health outcomes (e.g., Kristeler, Rhodes, Cripe, & Sheets, 2005). Assessment tools such as the ADDRESSING model could also potentially be used to help therapists determine the cultural significance of clients religious and spiritual beliefs (Zinnbauer & Barrett, in press).

Fourth, it may be inappropriate for therapists to disclose spiritual information about themselves to clients who are hostile toward religion and spirituality, may have had negative experiences with religious and spiritual leaders or organizations, or are psychotic and may incorporate religious themes into their hallucinations or delusions. Using psychological tools such as the spiritual genogram, which can be used to examine clients ' spiritual experiences and relational patterns across generations, is one way therapists might identify such potential problematic negative attitudes toward or experience with spirituality (Frame, in press). If negative patterns or experiences are reported, therapists need to make sure that a strong therapeutic alliance is established before using spiritual self-disclosure, and once again, only if the client is open to this from of spiritually oriented intervention.

Fifth, therapists must decide whether they will disclose experiences that occur within the therapy session or experiences and information from outside the therapy session. Some have asserted that therapist disclosure about immediate feelings and thoughts in session are appropriate and that disclosures about therapists' outside experiences and life are inappropriate as they distract from clients' experience (Wachtel, 1993). Others have found that disclosure about personal, outside experiences of the therapist were of major value and use to clients. For example, Knox, Hess, Petersen, and Hill (1997) found that "personal non immediate information" (p.279) about therapists' lives were rated as most valuable by clients. This may require that therapists engage in self-awareness activities to help determine their comfort level with, and ability to effectively use spiritual self-disclosure. For example, therapists might seek out peer consultation or attempt to journal about topic (Frame, in press). Therapists might also turn to their theoretical orientation for guidance, as certain approaches appear to more readily utilize immediacy than others (e.g., interpersonal approaches).

Sixth, there are several questions therapists can ask themselves when deciding whether a disclosure would be appropriate (Kottler, 2003): (a) What do I hope this will accomplish?; (b) To what extent am I attempting to meet my own needs?; (c) Is this the right time?; (d) How will the client personalize what I share about myself?; and (e) How can I put the focus back on the client? Table 1 offers a sample set of questions related to the various dimensions of therapist spiritual self-disclosure that may assist the therapist in deciding whether this kind of intervention is an appropriate therapeutic activity with a particular client at a specific point in therapy.

Seventh, therapists must be aware that self-disclosure may also be nonverbal and can be intentionally or unintentionally communicated through tone and facial expressions. Therapists might consider receiving informed consent to either audio or videotape sessions that can later be reviewed to listen for or watch for nonverbal communication around spiritual issues. Likewise, self-disclosure may occur through clothing, jewelry, pictures on the wall, and books on the shelf. Spiritual self-disclosure may also occur due to iconography, religious literature, posters, and affiliations indicated on professional and educational diplomas. It could benefit therapists to have a colleague provide feedback on how they perceive the implicit or explicit messages being conveyed the implicit or explicit messages being conveyed by office or personal artifacts and symbols. This is not to say that one approach (i.e., implicit or explicit) is better than the other, rather, the point is that therapists should be intentional in how they portray their surroundings (Leach, Aten Hernandez, & Wade, 2009).
TABLE 1.
Considerations in Deciding Whether Therapist Self-disclosure is an
Appropriate Intervention

 Client's Therapist Therapeutic
 Well-being Considerations Relationship

Context * Has informed * How is * What is the practice
Variables consent self-disclosure setting and the type of
 regarding the viewed within the relationship that
 use of spiritual predominant clients and therapists
 interventions theoretical typically establish in
 been obtained? orientation of this context?
 the therapist and
 the practice
 context?

 * How does this setting
 view the use of
 spiritual
 interventions?

Content * Is therapist * What is the * Will the specific
Issues spiritual therapist's content described in
 self-disclosure degree of the self-disclosure
 compatible with exposure to strengthen the
 the client's various spiritual relationship or
 goals in experiences, create distance?
 therapy? expressions, and
 systems?

 * Is there * What is the
 specific content therapist's level
 in the of training/
 disclosure that supervision and
 may trigger competency in the
 negative use of spiritual
 reactions by the interventions and
 client? use of
 self-disclosure?

Process * Will the * How healthy is * How will the power
Variables spiritual the therapist's differential endemic to
 self-disclosure own spirituality? therapy place pressure
 likely move the on the client to copy
 client forward the therapist rather
 in his/her than pursue his/her
 growth process own spiritual journey?
 or will it
 produce
 unhealthy
 reactions such
 as shame and
 guilt?

 * How will * Does the * Will the modified
 spiritual therapist feel relationship that
 self-disclosure safe in may emerge from
 at this point* disclosing sharing spiritual
 aid the personal experiences be
 therapeutic information? beneficial to the
 process? therapeutic process?

 * What unresolved
 issues might the
 therapist have
 that would
 motivate this
 disclosure with
 this particular
 client, at this
 time, in this
 context? Does the
 therapist utilize
 supervision that
 would affirm
 appropriate
 spiritual
 interventions?

 * How will the
 spiritual self-
 disclosure be
 documented in
 clinical records?


SPIRITUAL SELF-DISCLOSURE IN PSYCHOTHERAPY

Wells (1994) and Kottler (2003) proposed that therapist self-disclosures could be divided into six categories (e.g., personal experiences). In the following, these categories have been used as template and adapted to highlight how spirituality can be integrated into therapist self-disclosure. It should be noted that these classifications of self-disclosure are not as distinct and orthogonal as their descriptions may insinuate, as they often overlap and occur simultaneously. For example, a therapist may disclose a personal struggle (mistake and experience), then describe how he or she felt (feelings), and how the faith community was used (personal data, experience, and opinion).

Moreover, Tan (1996) and Hall and Hall (1997) describe a continuum for integrating spirituality with implicit (e.g., therapist prays silently for a client) and explicit (e.g., therapist prays our loud with a client) anchors. Spiritual self-disclosures may also fall on such a continuum, as disclosures may vary in the degree to which they are implicit or explicit. For example, some therapists may feel uncomfortable disclosing personal spiritual information to clients choosing instead to share relevant non-personal examples, such as sharing a quote from a sacred writing (thus displaying a more implicit type of disclosure). Overall, we encourages therapists to draw from and utilize spiritual self-disclosures across the afore-mentioned continuum. However, the majority of case examples that we offer in the following section are more explicit in nature, which was done to make the types of spiritual self-disclosure more salient for clinical application. Also described below are a series of recommendations of guide therapists' use of spiritual self-disclosure.

1. Therapists use self-disclosure to communicate personal spiritual data. Therapists may disclose personal data of a spiritual nature such as the therapist's religion, denominational affiliation, any theistic training, or significant spiritual experiences. This may be done implicitly by displaying spiritually-oriented wall decorations or by wearing religiously meaningful jewelry. It can be communicated explicitly by verbally sharing the name of the religious denomination he or she attends along with his or her church or synagogue of choice. Clients often want to know something about the person with whom they are talking, and spiritual information about their therapist may be important information to those who are highly religious and spiritual. Morrow, Worthington, and McCullough (1993) found that the way in which a therapist responds to a client's religious values is more important to clients that the actual religious affiliation of the therapist, thus illuminating the potential impact of a therapist's religiously-oriented disclosures. Chesner and Baumeister (1985) found a positive correlation between intimacy and disclosure when the client and therapist were of the same religion, but this was not significantly larger than the intimacy of therapeutic relationships in which the therapist did not disclose his or her religious affiliation. Therefore, therapists should be aware of the potentially positive and negative consequences of disclosing spiritual information about themselves and how such information may impact their work.

Case example. A highly anxious client from a very conservative religious background reluctantly entered therapy with considerable suspicion regarding the process of therapy, the role of spiritually in therapy, and the ability of the therapist to help. The intensity of her anxiety was considerably diminished when her therapist disclosed that she shared a similar religious background, and that the therapist understood her concerns about how God would be included in the therapeutic process. The use of familiar religious language and concepts, based in a common religious heritage, served to reduce initial anxiety so that they could work more effectively on her anxiety disorder.

2. Therapist incorporate self-disclosure to communicate personal feelings about God or the divine. Therapists may explicitly reveal to clients how they feel or have felt toward God, as well as they feel or have felt toward God, as well as his or her perceptions about what God may be feeling toward the client. Therapists may also share a time when they were disappointed or angry with God. More implicitly, therapists could facilitate a conversation about how God interacted with a person in the Bible with a situation similar to the clients, or discuss a Psalm or Proverb. Emotions are inherently ethereal and can be spiritual in nature and it may argued that to disclose one's emotional experience is to disclose a distinctly spiritual experience. As a caution, Knox, Hess, Petersen, and Hill (1977) reported that some participants experienced a negative reaction when their therapists disclosed negative emotions. However, this did not detract from participants' overall positive evaluation of therapist self-disclosure.

Case example. During the process of therapy a client discussed a deep sadness and frustration regarding how distant he felt from God. Such feelings are not unfamiliar in spiritual writings but were so disturbing to the client that he questioned many of his religious beliefs and was about "to give up on God." While some counselors might not enter into this discussion and would refer this client to a spiritual director or clergyperson, the therapist chose to self-disclose a time in her own life when she felt that God was very remote. The therapist described how she had moved beyond this period in her life by intentionally reconnecting with other believers from her faith tradition which opened up a sense of connection not only with others but with God. The theological dichotomy of the transcendence and immanence of God, informed the counselor's ability to appropriately disclose her own experience of the ebb and flow of spiritual life.

3. Therapist utilize self-disclosure to communicate professional opinions. Many highly religious and spiritual clients may be interested in their therapist's perspective on medication, self-help books, popular remedies, lifestyle choices, cultural fads, specific denominations or churches, etc. They may seek their therapists' guidance when searching for religious readings or in finding a clergyperson to be involved in their treatment or to whom they can take theological questions. Therapists may explicitly offer suggestions and opinions or more implicitly guide the client in finding the resources themselves, perhaps suggesting only where to go to find information that would help the client make his or her own choice. Therapy training emphasizes the need for therapists to be careful regarding giving their opinions to clients and how disclosure of such information can affect the client's treatment and the therapeutic relationship. For example, Hanson (2005) found that clients perceptions of the helpfulness of therapist self-disclosure was mediated by the skill with which the therapist handled the disclosure, and the therapeutic relationship was found to be the variable most affected by appropriate and inappropriate disclosure. Spiritual self-disclosure can be even more powerful considering it adds spiritual authority to the already powerful intervention of therapist disclosure of personal and professional values.

Case example. Bibliotherapy appears to have considerable merit, however when recommendations for spiritual reading are given, the therapist has even greater influence on client values. A client struggling with compulsive eating patterns asked his therapist about a diet plan program that was recommended by his church. Framed within a religious perspective, this book prescribed what the therapist considered to be radical weight control strategies, and made excessive claims of success, all apparently derived from, and supported by, religious authority. While endorsing appropriate therapeutic strategies to deal with the compulsive eating, the therapist recommended that the client carefully evaluate the religious claims and views of God implied in the approach. In doing so the therapist used her professional opinion and spiritual awareness to guide the client in his physical and spiritual growth process.

4. Therapists include self-disclosure to communicate spiritual metaphors. Therapists may choose to disclose their view of the sacred through discussing religious or spiritual imagery or symbolic descriptions. Using self-disclosure to communicate spiritual metaphors can increase clients' understanding of abstract and complex concepts, ideas, and emotions (Lyddon, Clay, & Sparks, 2001). Much of one's spiritual experience involves faith, imagination, and wish-fulfillment, all of which are facets of spiritual experience clinicians may choose to disclose to clients. While some would argue that therapist disclosures should always be void of fantasies of any type (Fisher, 2004), other have pointed to the potential therapeutic power of deeper therapist disclosures, especially when the therapeutic alliance is strong (Myers & Hays, 2006). Therapists may choose to explicitly disclose their personal wishes and metaphors, or they may disclose more implicitly by drawing from Biblical or literary metaphor.

Case example. Within the context of a longer-term therapeutic relationship, the therapist asked the client's permission to share a fantasy he had of the client. With the client's consent he described how in the midst of all the transition in careers and relationships that the client was experiencing, he saw the client (a Christian) walking a path in the tropical jungle that was rough but had been cleared. Ahead of him on the path was Jesus clearing the foliage from the pathway. The biblical image of God going before us was explored as a way of helping the client come to terms with the fear that was overwhelming him in his current life transitions.

5. Therapists employ self-disclosure to communicate spiritual experiences. Some therapies may have had significant personal experiences with God or persons in their faith community that they believe could be beneficial for clients if shared. James (1902/1936) called these numinous experiences which are characterized by a sense of connection with something or someone beyond the self. Examples may include a conversion experience, a moment of calling or clarity, or an instance of emotional or physical well-being. The disclosure of spiritual experiences reveals how the therapist has related to God, self, and others. Richards and Bergin (2005), along with professional codes of ethics (e.g., ACA, 2005; APA, 2002), note that it is unethical for therapists to impose their religious values on clients by attempting to persuade them to adopt certain beliefs. Therefore, therapists may wish to disclose experiences more implicitly by depersonalizing the experiences disclosed. Talking about an experience of a friend or Biblical character, for example, Therapists must be aware of the power differential inherent in the therapeutic process and never communicate their spiritual experiences as normative, exemplary, or do so with the goal of manipulating a client's choice.

Case example. Specific religious systems emphasize particular types of versions of religious experience and it is often helpful for the therapist to have some insider knowledge of how such experiences are described. For instance, charismatic and Pentecostal Christians might describe the experience of "being filled with the Holy Spirit," and various groups within this faith tradition might describe the evidences of such an experience differently. A client from such a tradition expressed considerable concern regarding whether she truly was "filled." Rather than entering into biblical and theological discussion regarding this, the therapist shared his experience of "being filled" that differed from the client's but effectively revealed that spiritual experiences are often unique and personal. While therapist self- disclosure of specific spiritual experiences may not often be indicated, it is possible that a therapist describing a variation or form of a spiritual experience may serve to normalize a client's experience and help the client reduce concern about whether he or she fits a particular religious framework.

6. Therapists may use self-disclosure to communicate spiritual mistakes. Therapists may reveal their mistakes, poor decisions, or other actions for which there exists struggle or disappointment. Some clients feel alienated from God because of their mistakes and imperfections, and such disclosures from therapists can serve to normalize clients' experience. The disclosure of therapist mistakes can help humanize the therapist and spark discussions about grace, repentance, confession and forgiveness. Therapist disclosure has been found to enhance the therapeutic alliance and normalize clients' experiences, thus making them better able to process mistakes and failures (Hanson, 2005). Some therapists may be uncomfortable disclosing their mistakes to clients and may choose to more implicitly disclose the mistakes of people they have known in the past or highlight the mistakes of Biblical persons, which may also serve to normalize the client's experience.

Case example. Many religious systems utilize rituals to help people move beyond their mistakes and sins. For example, a therapist used a brief description of how a simple confession ritual was part of his own process of moving beyond a broken relationship for which he had felt responsible. This disclosure became the impetus for exploration in therapy of how the client could develop a ritual or process of coming to terms with the car accident he had caused.

NEGATIVE CASE EXAMPLE

We began the article with the proposition that spiritual self-disclosure can be a useful intervention if integrated in a clinically relevant, culturally sensitive, and ethical manner. Moreover, we also stressed that caution needs to be taken to avoid the possible mishandling of spiritual self-disclosures in counseling and psychotherapy. Though we outlined possible shortcomings of spiritual self-disclosure, up to this point, the case examples provided have highlighted positive ways that spiritual self-disclosures might be integrated into treatment. Before concluding, an example of inappropriate spiritual self-disclosure is offered to further stress to readers the need for careful consideration when using this intervention.

The following case example highlights several misuses of spiritual disclosure. At the core of this negative case example is the therapist's imposition of her own spiritual experience onto the client thereby detracting from the client's growth process, exhibiting a lack of sensitivity to the client's own spiritual values, which ultimately damaged the therapeutic relationship.

Case example. A highly depressed and potentially suicidal woman expresses her desire to hear from the therapist what keeps her going in life. As a person of faith, the therapist, out of her own anxiety and need to help at a critical time in the client's life, discloses her post-partum depression a few years earlier. She describes for the client a series of intentional spiritual activities that were extremely helpful in her own healing process. These included meeting with another young mother from her congregation for mutual prayer, asking for a blessing from her religious leader, and practicing a set of guided imagery exercises involving specific religious content and themes. While the client initially felt relieved that even her therapist had experienced serious depression, the client's social network and religious context were not nearly as supportive as the therapist's, which intensified concerns regarding the hopelessness of her own situation and her life. Soon after she terminated therapy complaining to her next therapist that this self-disclosure was destructive for her in that it did not help her grow, did not acknowledge the differences in life circumstances and religious contexts between her and the therapist, and damaged her trust in the therapist.

CONCLUSION

The issues of spirituality in therapy and the use of self-disclosure have been the subject of both debate and investigation in the field of psychology, yet the practice of spiritual self-disclosure has received very little attention in the literature. Many therapists are sensitive to how religious and spiritual issues impact their clients' lives, but through the practice of spiritual self-disclosure, the religious or spiritual experiences of the therapist may also become a tool to foster client growth and change. As the overarching ethical guideline of therapy is to do not harm, therapists are encouraged to weigh several ethical, clinical, and cultural matters before disclosing spiritual aspects of themselves to clients, as well as to consider the potentially positive benefits of such disclosures.

A limitation of the types of spiritual self-disclosure provided is that they were adapted from domains of non-spiritual disclosure. There may be other types of spiritual self-disclosure yet to be described. More research is needed in this area, and both qualitative and quantitative methodologies could be employed to further clarify the types of spiritual self-disclosure and to determine its effect on the therapeutic process. Qualitative investigations could be used to understand the decision-making process therapists currently use when considering self-disclosure or to study clients' perception of the affect of their therapist's spiritual self-disclosure on their therapeutic work. Quantitative research methods could be utilized to illuminate such issues as the frequency of spiritual self-disclosure and its impact on measurable therapeutic outcomes. In sum, it is hoped that this article will stimulate therapists and researchers to further investigate and consider the nature and clinical implications of spiritual self-disclosure within the therapeutic context.

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AUTHORS

DENNEY, RYAN M. Address: 1606 North IH 35 Apt. 11 San Marcos, TX 78666. Title: Doctoral Candidate, The University of Southern Mississippi. Degree: M.A. Research interests include spirituality and posttraumatic growth.

ATEN, JAMIE, D. Address: 118 College Drive #5025 Hattiesburg, MS 39406. Title: Assistant Professor, The University of Southern Mississippi. Degree: Ph.D. Specializations: Spirituality, supervision, rural psychology, and qualitative methods.

GINGRICH, FRED, C. Address: 6399 South Santa Fe Drive Littleton, CO 80120. Title: Associate Professor of Counseling. Degree: Ph.D., Denver Seminary. Specialization: Marital and premarital counseling, counselor, supervision, and cross-cultural counseling.

Please address correspondence to Ryan M. Denney, MA, 1606 North IH 35, Ap. 11, San Marcos, TX 78666. Email: rdenney 1980@yahoo .com.

RYAN M. DENNEY AND JAMIE D. ATEN

The University of Southern Mississippi

FRED C. GINGRICH

Denver Seminary
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Author:Denney, Ryan M.; Aten, Jamie D.; Gingrich, Fred C.
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Date:Dec 22, 2008
Words:5976
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