Self -disclosure in gay male therapists: A qualitative assessment of decision -making

Brent A Satterly, University of Pennsylvania


Self-disclosure is a therapeutic intervention often studied within the context of the therapeutic relationship. Those findings suggested that a moderately strong relationship exists between therapist self-disclosure and client subsequent self-disclosure and client perception of helpfulness of therapy. Increasing attention has been given to the role of the therapist and self-disclosure in light of the therapist's sexual orientation. Researchers have raised questions about the value of self-disclosure with regard to the therapeutic alliance and goals of therapy given the complex issues that sexual orientation and being “out” might raise for clients. This qualitative study clinically assesses the decision-making processes of gay male therapists as to whether or not to self-disclose their sexual orientation to straight and gay male clients. Four focus groups of therapists discussing these decisions were coded, sifted, and analyzed. Analysis of the data revealed three constructs categorizing the specific themes related to the decision-making process around disclosure of sexual orientation for gay male therapists: identity creation, individual identity management (pre-client contact), and individual identity management (client contact). Within these constructs, nine themes emerged: professional identity, organizational culture, theoretical orientation, alternative ways of knowing, real relationship, false-self/real dilemma, sexual identity development, therapist/client boundaries, oppression, and social identity. These themes interacted in fluid and organic ways resulting in the development of a model to incorporate such dynamic constructs: the Intention and Reflection Model (IRM). This model enabled better comprehension of the complexity of variables, which influence the decision-making process. It suggested how to weigh the importance of these variables within the treatment context given the aforementioned organic nature of identity management. To assist gay male therapists in managing this quagmire of decision-making, I have included theoretical and practical implications of the IRM.

Subject Area

Social work|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Satterly, Brent A, "Self -disclosure in gay male therapists: A qualitative assessment of decision -making" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125893.