How None of My Clients Knew I Was Going Through a Divorce and Other Thoughts on Self-Disclosure

February 5, 2024

by Ally S

I think I am scarred by the term “self-disclosure.” There is a vivid memory that lives in my brain
from graduate school of a professor giving a firm lecture on how self-disclosure is never appropriate.
Hearing this, I had an immediate internal visceral reaction and my inner dialogue threw off a million
red-flags, as I had planned on exclusively working with kids post grad school. “So I am not supposed to
tell a kid how old I am or if I have kids or what my favorite color is? How is this any type of competent
care?” Fast forward eight years to my actual practice of individual therapy, and I still have the same
learned visceral internal reaction when I am confronted in session with, “can I ask you a question?”
For the last ten months, I have had a multitude of changes occur in my personal life including a
separation after almost ten years of marriage, navigating coparenting, filing for divorce, and rebuilding
my life independently. My life shifted completely and became something I did not recognize, yet I
showed up every single day for my job as a therapist. I set my personal vendettas outside my office and
proceeded with being a therapist before a person. I would cry in between sessions, on my way home from
work on the phone with my mom, and sometimes on my way to work because there were days where I did
not know if I could set aside my intimate experiences and fulfill my role as a helping professional. I have
actually lied to my clients when approached with questions related to my marriage and provided blanket
responses to deflect my own internal battles of “Is this appropriate for me to share?”
Should I be celebrated in my field because none of my clients have any idea that my personal life
is being reorganized and redefined? Should I wear a badge of honor for dehumanizing myself in service
of some unrealistic fake rule? I honestly find it more exhaustive and heavy to continue to carry the facade
of not being a person with a life and emotions and problems and struggles.
While my journey through my divorce is an incomparable experience to the majority of vicarious
and first-hand traumatic experiences my helping professional colleagues experience, it is a stepping stone
to open the discussion for a more vulnerable and authentic experience in the therapeutic relationship. We
tell our clients that we are a team together in their endeavors towards wellness; but from what I remember
about being on a high school softball team, it was the teammates I knew absolutely nothing about that I
trusted the least. I am not, in any way, suggesting that we monopolize our sessions and disclose all our
personal information as if our clients are our supports – that would be unethical by all means. What I am
considering, however, is how beautiful a therapeutic relationship could be if we didn’t feel the desire to
close ourselves off during the therapeutic hour. I have had colleagues share with me their horrific personal
experiences all while continuing to go to work and show up for our people: miscarriages, receiving
devastating health news about themselves or their loved ones, losing spouses, experiencing their own
suicidality and mental health diagnoses.
We willingly continue to prioritize our clients, every single time. This is not meant to guilt our
clients into asking us how we are doing, because we will absolutely answer with a “Feeling content, let’s
focus on you,” every single time. The sole purpose of writing about this topic was to bring to light the
importance of acknowledging the humanness of therapists, of helping professionals because far too often
while we carry the weight of our people, we are already exhausted by the weight we carry in our own
And I already know your quick solution to all of this – THERAPIST SELF-CARE! Let me tell ya,
I am privileged to engage in a lot of self-care and I am still exhausted by my personal life so I am not
convinced that is it. I am convinced that it is breaking free from the old and outdated models of ethics that
require us to keep ourselves small and quiet for the “benefit” of our clients. I believe that giving helping
professionals a little more grace on self-disclosure would radically change how we are perceived and how
we treat.
In one of my most recent sessions with my therapist, when I told him that I thought I was ready to
start telling my clients (when it was deemed appropriate) about my divorce, his response was a reminder
as to why I am forever grateful that he is MY therapist, “Your clients will benefit so much from your
perspective. Ally, it will make you a better clinician.”

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe for More

Get news and information from BCA!

Read More

Related Posts

Career Guidance Seminar

Career Guidance Seminar

Career Guidance Seminar Career Guidance Seminar What can you expect from this session? Job search has changed! Let me help bring you up to speed. We need to ensure you have a basic working knowledge of the best ways to begin your new career search We will cover what...