Perceptions of therapist responses to shame disclosures by clients: A quasi-experimental investigation with non-clinical participants

Martin J. Dorahy, Julia Gorgas, Donncha Hanna, Signe U. Wiingaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1428 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background
Therapist responses to initial shame disclosure in therapy have received little empirical attention.

Aim
This study explored different therapeutic responses to shame disclosures in terms of their perceived helpfulness. Responses ranged from complete withdrawal from the feeling (withdrawal) to completely tuning into it (non-withdrawal). Given the tendency of shame to evoke avoidance, participants higher on shame-proneness (as measured by The Experience of Shame Scale) were expected to perceive withdrawal responses to shame as more helpful than non-withdrawal responses.

Methodology
Fifty-five non-clinical participants were assessed for shame-proneness before viewing videos of mock therapy sessions showing clients either disclosing shame (two videos) or shock (control condition). Participants then rated the helpfulness of different therapist responses. The responses differed in the degree they allowed the client to withdraw from their emotions.

Results
High shame proneness was associated with rating withdrawal responses to shame as least helpful. Overall, neither the withdrawal response nor the non-withdrawal response were rated as particularly helpful. The therapeutic response which addressed management strategies when shame is initially experienced in therapy was deemed most helpful.

Conclusion
Despite the tendency to withdraw from shame feelings, this response is not deemed helpful in therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Volume15
Issue number1
Early online date04 Dec 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

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