Inappropriate or excessive self-disclosure is a form of malpractice that occurs when a therapist speaks about his own personal history or experiences without justification during a session with a patient.

Is Self-Disclosure Ever Appropriate?

Yes, in fact, up to 70% of therapists have used some degree of self-disclosure in their practice.  Self-disclosure is only malpractice if it is excessive or inappropriate.  Self-disclosure can be appropriate if it is done for the purpose of helping the patient.  Some common situations in which a therapist would be justified in making a self-disclosure include:

  • The disclosure is made for the purposes of the patient not the therapist.
  • The disclosure is that type that should be made to a patient with a certain type of disorder.  For example, if a patient is suffering from depression, the disclosure that the therapist had suffered from depression in the past might help the patient by giving him insight into the fact that a person suffering from depression can get past it. 

Ultimately, the appropriateness of a therapist’s self-disclosure comes down to the question of whether it was made with the patient’s best interests at heart.  If the patient benefited from the therapist’s self-disclosure, the therapist will probably not be considered to have committed malpractice. 

Can Self-Disclosure Be Excessive or Inappropriate if the Patient Asks the Therapist Personal Questions?

Even if the patient asks the therapist to disclose personal information, that disclosure can be excessive or inappropriate if it is not made for the sake of aiding the patient in therapy. 

How Do I Know if My Therapist’s Self-Disclosure Was Excessive or Inappropriate?

If you feel that your therapist made a self-disclosure for reasons other than aiding you in your therapy, the disclosure may have been excessive or inappropriate and may constitute malpractice.  Any self-disclosure made by your therapist should be made with your best interests in mind. 

Should I Contact a Lawyer if I Think My Therapist Has Made Excessive or Inappropriate Self-Disclosures?

If you think that your therapist has been making self-disclosures that are inappropriate or excessive, you may benefit from talking with a malpractice lawyer.  An experienced malpractice lawyer can evaluate your complaints and help you understand your rights as a patient.  If necessary, a malpractice lawyer can represent you in court and ensure that your rights are protected.