As we get to know our partners better, we reveal more and more of ourselves to them, particularly our innermost thoughts and feelings.  This is known a self-disclosure (Jourard, 1971). Social penetration theory (Altman and Taylor, 1973) suggests that each partner matches the self- disclosures of the other in terms of the breadth and depth of the disclosures.  This is more important at the beginning of relationships.

Problems with disclosure that are often encountered in counselling include:

  • 1- Over-disclosure

This leaves the person over-exposed and defenceless to ridicule and so on.  It can also place the other in a difficult situation if they are not ready to reciprocate.

  • 2- Under-disclosure

This hinders the relationship from developing.  It may leave the other person feeling over- exposed as a result of feeling that they have revealed too much about themselves

  • 3- Mismatching

This happens where an individual discloses information (usually related to stress/trauma) that is out of the realm of experience of the other.

  • 4- Pseudo-disclosure

This occurs when an individual describes feelings, rather than talks about them on an emotional level.  In the counselling situation it may be that they do not know how to self-disclose, they are resisting, or do not in fact trust anyone.

Problems can arise when for example one partner has revealed much about themselves, and the other is still too afraid to reveal things about themselves.   When they are ready to do so, the other partner may have already withdrawn from the relationship.

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