As “Eileen” suggested in the comments section of a recent “Dr. El” blog, disclosing personal information can be a good way to establish a more intimate connection with residents. While self-disclosure can create warmer relationships, there also can be unintended and unwanted consequences to revealing such details.
In contrast to psychologists who study interpersonal interactions for a living, staff members are unlikely to have fully considered the impact of their self-disclosures. Doing so can improve their relationships with residents and avoid unanticipated pitfalls.
Here’s a guide* to the ups and downs of self-disclosure along with a handy flow chart (see below) to help you and your team decide when it’s the right move in any given situation. My inclination toward privacy is reflected in the flow chart, so consider it a starting point for discussion among team members or in a staff training session.
Part of the pleasure in working with elders is hearing about their lives and learning from their experiences. Sometimes revealing a detail or two from our own lives can help a reticent resident open up.
Self-disclosure allows workers to be more open and relaxed at work and to establish deeper relationships with those in their care.
Being “real” with residents can reduce the somewhat artificial boundaries between people in different phases and roles in their lives and can be part of a healthy organizational culture.
On the other hand, self-disclosure can sometimes get workers in trouble.