Therapist self-disclosure is a controversial topic in that it has been historically and widely debated in past research and literature across theoretical orientations. Much of the existing self-disclosure research focuses on the effects that therapist self-disclosure has on the therapeutic relationship, using varied methodology in its definition and measurement of how, when, and in what context therapist self-disclosure is utilized. There are also very few studies that investigate frequency rates of therapist self-disclosure; of those that do exist, results are mixed. Additionally, there is little to no research on how self-disclosure is used by student therapists, in actual psychotherapy sessions, particularly in the context of sessions in which difficult or traumatic subject matter is discussed. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study was to qualitatively explore verbalizations of student therapist self-disclosure in psychotherapy sessions with trauma survivors. A sample of 5 therapist-participants from university-based community counseling centers were selected, and transcribed videotaped sessions in which client- and therapist-participants discussed trauma were analyzed. A qualitative and deductive content analysis was employed, using a coding system that was created based on the extant literature on therapist self-disclosure, to examine verbal expressions of therapist self-disclosure in psychotherapy sessions with trauma survivors. The results indicated that the therapist-participants used many different forms of self-disclosure (self-involving disclosures, disclosures that are not otherwise specified, personal self-disclosure, and demographic self-disclosures, in order of frequency) both within and out of trauma discussions. More specifically, self-involving disclosures (SINV-PERS) tended to occur more frequently within trauma discussions while personal and demographic disclosures (SDIS-PERS and SDIS-DEMO) tended to occur more frequently in non-trauma discussions. Therapist self-disclosures comprised 6 of the 9 proposed coding categories over all 5 psychotherapy sessions. It is hoped that this study will raise awareness around the issue of the use of therapist self-disclosure in psychotherapy, both in general and with clients who have experienced traumatic events during the course of their lives. The findings have implications for both future studies examining therapist self-disclosure as well as clinical training practices in graduate programs for student therapists, an area of study that is currently under-researched.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Self-disclosure; Psychotherapist and patient; Psychic trauma -- Treatment

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hall, Susan;