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Psychotherapists sometimes disclose personal information to their clients during therapeutic sessions. We report here our analysis of how these 'therapist self-disclosures' are done. In a sample of 15 sessions involving four therapists, we find that all therapists use them sparingly and some not at all. When they do, they 'match' something in the client's preceding turn. Vehicles for the match can range from comparatively simple agreements to more complicated 'second stories', which use analogies from the therapists' own current life. We find that these 'personal' disclosures are invariably rather ordinary but are made to bear visibly on the therapeutic business at hand, though not always in obvious ways. The ordinariness of therapist's self-disclosures underpins what seems to be one of their main actions - to 'normalize', for a number of disparate local interactional contingencies, the clients' experience. We discuss the practice of using one's own life experiences to bear on one's client's troubles, noting the recurrent features of extreme case formulations and explicit recipient design. We conclude with a brief discussion of the relation between our analyses and those which might be offered by members of the therapeutic community. © Walter de Gruyter.

Original publication




Journal article


Communication and Medicine

Publication Date





27 - 41