Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Inescapable Self-Disclosure: The Lived Experiences of Pregnant Counselors Working with Sexual Offenders

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Inescapable Self-Disclosure: The Lived Experiences of Pregnant Counselors Working with Sexual Offenders

Article excerpt

In 2010, 73% of the American Counseling Association's members were female (Evans, 2010). Based on this statistic, it is plausible that counseling while being pregnant is a common experience among practicing counselors. Most women experience physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy (Dyson & King, 2008). In addition, the visually unavoidable physical changes, occurring outside of the counselor's control, may herald issues of transference, countertransference (Bienen, 1990; Dyson & King, 2008; Fuertes, Gelso, Owen, & Cheng, 2013), and self-disclosure (Audet, 2011; Silverman, 2001).

Issues related to self-disclosure can be complex for pregnant counselors who provide mental health counseling services to forensic and criminal populations, including clients who have committed sexual offenses. The specialized area of counseling sexual offenders can be emotionally taxing for counselors, and counselors working with sexual offenders tend to experience burnout at a rapid rate (Moulden & Firestone, 2010). However, counselors working with sexual offenders were found to have significant personal and professional satisfaction from their clinical responsibilities (Scheela, 2001). Despite these findings, there is a lack of research related to the experiences of counselors working with sexual offenders and the issues stemming from their specialized work (Chassman, Kottler, & Madison, 2010; Dreier & Wright, 2011). Correspondingly, the literature does not adequately address the specific needs and experiences of the female population of counselors who provide mental health services to sexual offenders.

This phenomenological study examines the lived experiences of female counselors who provided sex offender counseling services throughout their pregnancies. During the individual interviews, counselors shared the experiences that emerged from the inescapable self-disclosure of their pregnancies.

PREGNANCY IN COUNSELING

Women experience both physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy. These may include nausea, sickness, preoccupation with the pregnancy, weight gain, and the visible physical signs of pregnancy (Dyson & King, 2008). These changes may cause unique challenges for the pregnant counselor, and for many pregnant women a natural preoccupation with the self and the unborn child often exists (Bienen, 1990). According to Silverman (2001), pregnant counselors may have feelings of guilt as a result of the physical and psychological changes they experience due to pregnancy. Increased anxiety can occur if the counselor's pregnancy in some way relates to or coincides with a personal event or specific therapeutic challenge for the client (Bienen, 1990; Stockman & Green-Emrich, 1994). The appropriateness of self-disclosure in the therapeutic alliance continues to be heavily scrutinized and has elicited much debate among counseling professionals (Audet, 2011; Gibson, 2012; Newberger, 2015; Ziv-Beiman, 2013). Notwithstanding, many pregnant counselors are placed in the situation of addressing their pregnancies due to the visible changes pregnancy creates; thus, inescapable self-disclosures are created, and the counselor's pregnancy becomes known to the client (Daly, 2014).

SELF-DISCLOSURE

The process of determining one's comfort level and professional stance regarding self-disclosure begins when counselors in training start to formulate their own thoughts about the appropriateness of self-disclosure (Bottrill, Pistrang, Barker, & Worrell, 2010). Through continued training and professional experiences, counselors continue to hone their self-disclosure skills, and often begin to feel more comfortable with self-disclosure as the therapeutic alliance develops (Gibson, 2012). Self-disclosure is at times challenged as ethically violating boundaries and lacking professionalism, and at other times endorsed clinically and theoretically (Gibson, 2012; Newberger, 2015; Ziv-Beiman, 2013). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.