Day 1839: Use of self

Psychotherapists (like myself) use the term “use of self,” which includes thoughtful self-disclosure, transparency, and sharing aspects of one’s personal self for therapeutic connection.

I’ll use this quote from the Amazon description of the book  The Use of Self in Therapy.

One of the most powerful factors in therapy is that it involves the intensive relationship between two (or more) human beings. The issues of transparency and self-disclosure therefore become important concerns for therapists; how can they use themselves effectively in their work without transgressing on professional regulations?

I’m going to use myself in the following example of use of self.

Yesterday, I was asked by a doctor to meet with a Spanish-speaking patient whose mother had recently died in the hospital.  The meeting included the tearful patient, a hospital interpreter, a social work intern who was observing me, and myself. The patient told me, through the interpreter, that she felt guilty about the death of her mother and also that her doctor had previously suggested she see a therapist for treatment of  depression. I assumed that this patient would resist the idea of seeing a therapist for many reasons, including a culture-based stigma about mental health treatment.  As we discussed the realities of therapy, I told her she might be surprised how many people saw therapists for helpful support.   I decided to self-disclose. “I see a therapist,” I told her. Immediately, the intern revealed, “I see a therapist, too.” The interpreter said  — in Spanish and then in English — “I do, also.” All four of us laughed, as I observed that the patient was the only one in the room who was NOT seeing a therapist.

Is there use of self in these photos?









When our world turns upside down, using our selves and our shared humanity can help us stop and connect.

Here‘s James Brown’s use of self in song:

I look forward to my readers’ use of self in the comment section, below.

Speaking for myself, use of self always includes thanking all the selves that help me express myself and — of course! — YOU.


Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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23 thoughts on “Day 1839: Use of self

  1. Certainly, a key, for me overcoming addiction

  2. Debbie Terman

    I love the idea of rippling. It made me cry. I like to think that I will leave the world a little better place because I was in it. A very comforting thought (though I hope to stay around for another 30 or so years…).

    • You will definitely leave the world a better place because you were in it. Thanks for the comforting comment, Debbie. ❤

  3. I feel good, too, Ann! That’s disclosure, too. 😉 ❤

  4. My therapist once said, “there’s 2 types of people. Those who are getting help and those who need help.”I love that thought.

  5. Your example worked well. Most important is the therapist’s motivation. Yours was in the client’s interests. I’ve known those who disclose for their own needs.

  6. A wonderful and helpful post, Ann. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Another awesome post

  8. The internet is a remarkable network that brings strangers together, expanding the ripples we create, but it’s worth noting that it hasn’t, and never will, replace the kind of personal interactions that you and three others had to help one person in a crisis, and to help each other.

  9. I love the excerpt: “The issues of transparency and self-disclosure therefore become important concerns for therapists; how can they use themselves effectively in their work without transgressing on professional regulations?” It’s such a delicate yet real issue with professionally regulated health care professions, precisely because of the “scientific” method learned in school. There seems to be such a clash between the “science” of behaviors and the reality out there, and what turns out happening is more related to the “synchronization” of multiple selves, such as the example you gave of your intern and yourself. Multiple selfs could be “self-less” too. The concept of “no self” in spiritual and Buddhist practice requires us to understand two distinct meanings of selflessness and true self.

  10. I am glad you could be with this woman and hope she will be well. It could have been comic that you ll revealed that you had therapists (these crazy hospital staff, she could be thinking). And goodness, It’s been a while since I heard or saw James Brown. That was some outfit he was wearing, but it obviously made him feel good!

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