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Counselling events that aid and impede the self-disclosures of adult male clients : a critical incident investigation Shelton, Curtis Paul

Abstract

Notions of the benefits of self-disclosure - sincere revelations of ordinarily private information about oneself - pervade our cultural and religious histories. Recent empirical studies also provide evidence of physiological, psychological, and social benefits of selfdisclosure. In counselling, client self-disclosure has long been considered fundamental to both process and outcome. However, a considerable body of empirical literature has demonstrated that men tend to lesser degrees of self-disclosure than women do. Furthermore, as a primarily talk based activity involving the expression of feelings, counselling leans more toward a "feminine" than a "masculine" model. Counselling, then, can be a foreign experience for many men, which may further limit men's already fewer self-disclosures. Flanagan's (1954) Critical Incident Technique was used in this research to investigate the events in counselling that aided or impeded the self-disclosures of adult male clients. A total of 103 critical incidents was collected from the six adult male participants. The seventy-eight events (critical incidents) that aided the participants' self-disclosures were sorted by their similarities into seventeen categories. The twenty-five impeding events were classified into nine categories. Each of the derived categories was illustrated with prototypical incidents. The aiding categories with greater numbers of events and participation rates included (a) Accepting Client, (b) Focusing Interest on Client as a Valued Person, (c) Challenging Client, (d) Actively Engaging Client Non-Verbally, (e) Counsellor Probes, (f) Counsellor Self- Disclosures, (g) Assurance of Confidentiality, (h) Counsellor Perceived as Similar to Client in Important Ways, (i) Counsellor Providing Focus and Direction, (j) Counsellor Reliably Available, (k) Normalising/ Validating Client Experiences, and (1) Client Expectation to Self- Disclose. The impeding categories with greater frequencies of events and participation rates included (a) Counsellor Not Putting the Client at the Centre of the Relationship, (b) Perceived Threats to Confidentiality, and (c) Counsellor Perceived as Biased/Agent for Other(s). The reliability and validity of the categories that emerged in this study were supported in terms of descriptive validity, interpretive validity, inter-rater reliability, comprehensiveness, and participation rate. The results of this research provide an empirical basis for confirming or extending counselling theory and research and for informing counselling practice and training with respect to the events that aid or impede adult male clients' self-disclosures. Three major themes were apparent in the categories of events that affected the men's self-disclosures: (a) the quality of the therapeutic relationship, (b) counsellors challenging clients, and (c) counsellors providing focus and direction. Individual categories with greater numbers of events and participation rates are reviewed in terms of their implications for theory. A mapping of the aiding and impeding categories found in this research as they correspond to the stages in Omarzu's (2000) Disclosure Decision Model is also presented and discussed. As well, the implications for counselling research, practice, and training are discussed.

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