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Should Psychiatrists Disclose Their Personal History To Patients?

Dr. Maureen Goldman talks about self-disclosure for psychiatrists and brings the topic up in the context of Marsha Linehan’s recent announcement that she was treated for a psychiatric disorder as a teenager.

In Clinical Psychiatry News, Dr. Goldman notes:
Psychiatric care and psychotherapy are different from the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, where the mutual sharing of personal experience is an integral part of helping people maintain sobriety. I believe that there is middle ground between disclosing personal information and presenting myself as a blank slate. In my practice, I show myself to be a real person. I make mistakes and admit them. I joke about my poor bookkeeping skills and inferior technological skills. I look things up during sessions if necessary, and I tell patients when I need to do research or consult with a colleague. I treat them as real people, too, not just as patients.
I do not, however, share my own story. Mostly, I think that I can help people feel heard, understood, and known, and create a therapeutic plan without personal disclosure. I communicate that “I get it” without being clear that “I really get it.”
I cannot speculate about the motivation behind Dr. Linehan’s decision to allow her mental health history to be chronicled in the New York Times. The story was a very public disclosure, and in that way quite different from a disclosure made in the context of a one-on-one, doctor-patient therapeutic relationship.

We’ve talked in detail about self-disclosure before, and specifically about whether psychiatrists should tell their patients if they’ve suffered from a psychiatric disorder.  See Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

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