What Should Therapists Keep to Themselves?

There is very little I will not say to a client; it’s part of my job to be open and honest with them. It’s more about


I say it. Emotional upheaval and poor coping skills are a recipe for irrational thinking and behavior. Telling a client, “You’re being irrational,” gets us nowhere and would probably alienate the client. When a client tells me something irrational I may think, “That’s crazy!” but what I say is, “Do you think that’s likely? Let’s look at a more probable scenario…” or something to that effect. 

When you get down to it, a lot of therapy involves telling clients they’re wrong–that the way they process their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors is unhealthy and dysfunctional. My job is to bring that to their attention in a helpful and constructive way, then help the client learn to process in ways that are healthier and more functional.

There is one thing I’ve seen a few therapists discuss with clients that can be problematic–over-sharing. When a therapist begins to talk about themselves and their own problems with a client, roles can switch and the therapy becomes about the therapist instead of about the client. That’s not healthy or helpful to the client and can lead to harmful levels of transference and countertransference. As a rule, aside from their professional

bona fides

, a therapist should only disclose information about themselves that is therapeutically valuable to the client.