Date of Award

Spring 2-9-2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Clark Campbell, PhD

Second Advisor

Kathleen Gathercoal, PhD

Third Advisor

Sarah Hopkins, PsyD


There has been a significant amount of research that addresses the topic of therapist self-disclosure. Issues such as what to disclose, when to disclose, the ethics of therapist disclosure, and the benefits and harm of therapist self-disclosure have been debated over the years. How self-disclosure varies among therapists has also been a focus of research. Unlike the area of self-disclosure, research on rural practice is a new and expanding field of research and there is great need for more research in this area. The hypothesis of this study proposes that therapist self-disclosure varies by setting; that rural therapists are more likely to disclose information about themselves than their urban counterparts. This hypothesis is based on anecdotal evidence from rural therapists who report that because of the close-knit nature of a rural community, they feel the need to self-disclose more in order to establish trust with their clients, but are at times unsure that this the right thing to do ethically. Therapist Self-Disclosure 1v A questionnaire was designed in collaboration with the author's supervisor to explore this hypothesis, which was sent out to both urban and rural therapists. The questionnaire addressed demographic variables, self-disclosure practices, and the therapists' perception of the impact of self-disclosures. Efforts were made to maintain the anonymity of the participants in acknowledgement of the controversial nature of the topic of self-disclosure. The data from the questionnaires was analyzed using SPSS. There was one significant finding when the rural and urban groups (as defined by percentage of urbanization) were compared and this finding did not seem to support the hypothesis. This finding suggested that urban therapists perceive that their unintentional self disclosures have a more positive impact than do rural therapists. One other significant finding indicated that therapists who identify as practicing in rural areas report experiencing more unintentional self-disclosure. This finding partially supports the hypothesis. Anecdotal responses to an open-ended item demonstrated the salience of such issues as dual roles and unintentional disclosure for those practicing in rural areas. The reason for the paucity of significant results in unclear. There are several weaknesses associated with the survey research method and that may be associated with this study in particular. It is clear that more research is needed to determine the impact that dual roles and unintentional disclosure have on rural therapists and their clients.