To Share or Not to Share?

I’m an oversharer. Because I’ve been in therapy for decades and also participate in 12-step meetings, I am used to being open about my feelings and experiences. But when is it appropriate to share personal information with clients and how much?

Like many people in recovery, when I’m feeling “successful,” like when I have a sobriety anniversary, I sometimes want to shout from the rooftops (or the modern-day equivalent, post it on Facebook). But I need to remember that I’m also representing recovery on my bad days, and carefully weigh any potential disclosures.

When I’m making a decision about discussing my alcoholism, my struggles with depression, or my chronic pain condition, I take a three-step approach. First, I pray about it. Second, I use an adage I’ve heard in recovery meetings over the years. Does it need to be said, does it need to be said now, and does it need to be said by me? Third, I check my motives. Am I sharing out of compassion so the client knows she isn’t the only person to suffer from her condition? Am I motivated by empathy or sympathy? Am I bragging? Trying to get the client to do something I want?

I’ve chosen on a number of occasions to share recovery issues with my clients, and thus far, it hasn’t come back to bite me. In fact, I’ve had a very positive response. I’ve had people ask me about meetings, therapist referrals, books. I’ve had delayed responses like when I got a call from someone who carried my business card in her pocket for two years before she was willing to admit she needed help with a substance use issue.

For me, sharing my experience, strength, and hope sometimes happens when I least expect it. If I’m spiritually fit, I can make good decisions about if, when, and what to disclose to clients.

If you are interested in contributing your own story to the Sidebar, click here. The Sidebar is supported by the stories of our readers, and we appreciate your contributions.