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While there are several advantages to self-disclosure, there are also risks. One risk is that the person will not respond favourably to the information. Self-disclosure does not automatically lead to favourable impressions. Another risk is that the other person will gain power in the relationship because of the information they possess. Finally, too much self-disclosure or self-disclosure that comes too early in a relationship can damage the relationship. Thus, while self-disclosure is useful, it can also be damaging to a relationship.

Self-disclosure to clients raises numerous boundary issues involving potential or actual conflicts of interest in social workers’ relationships with clients. Not all forms of self-disclosure are problematic and unethical, but some are. For example, clinical social workers agree that they should not disclose detailed personal information to clients about their intimate marital or relationship histories and struggles. Such disclosures clearly would be unethical and potentially exploitative and clinically harmful. However, social workers may disagree about how much personal information clinicians should disclose to clients about their debilitating illness, substance abuse history, religious practices, sexual orientation, marital status, or plans to leave the agency.

Social workers occasionally disclose personal information to clients when such self-disclosure could produce tangible, material benefits or favors for the social worker beyond monetary payment for services rendered. For example, social workers sometimes provide services to clients who have expertise from which the professionals themselves may benefit. A social worker who has a nagging plumbing problem may disclose this information to, and seek advice from, a client who is a plumber. A social worker with chronic lower back pain may choose to disclose this fact to a client who is a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon, hoping to obtain some practical advice. A social worker struggling to manage her deceased father’s complex estate may decide to share a complicated probate issue with a client who is a lawyer in an effort to resolve the problem.

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The complaint against personal essay as an inherently self-indulgent form has become a familiar if uninformed critical chestnut, while scholarly conversations about the ethical dimensions of self-writing have, in a more thoughtful way, deepened our understanding of the ramifications of writing anybody’s life. Both might serve as constraints against some types of self-disclosure. At the same time, though, the personal essay is nearly by definition a space that elicits the less polite details of one’s life as a threshold onto psychological meditation and philosophical inquiry. Lyrical essays may owe their tonal allegiance and associative structures to poetry, but they’re still held to an expectation of reflective openness, I think, as what differentiates the essay from a poem (and, too, from certain works of postmodern fiction). The lyrical essayist is thus cautioned against the excesses of confessionalism as a deterrent to the sort of generalized life lesson many readers want from autobiography, but also against the oblique symbolic connections typical of poems. How much is too much or not enough self, then, in this particular form of self-writing?

Self Concept and Self Disclosure - Term Paper

Ethical Considerations
To protect clients, social workers should be familiar with prevailing ethical standards in the profession that are relevant to self-disclosure and boundary issues. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics includes several important standards pertaining to conflicts of interest that can emerge when social workers disclose personal information to clients, whether for purposes of intimacy and emotional connectedness, personal benefit, altruism, or as a result of unexpected or unanticipated circumstances (standards 1.06[a-c]).

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