School for Social Work
The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the ways in which lesbian therapists negotiate self-disclosure of their sexual identity—or come out—to heterosexual clients and how such disclosures, or non-disclosures, affect the therapeutic relationship as well as the therapists' personal and professional identities. Twelve lesbian licensed clinical social workers were interviewed for this study. Participants were questioned about their self-disclosure practices of sexual identity with heterosexual clients, how factors such as their work environment and aspects of their social identity shaped their thinking and practice of self-disclosure of sexual identity, and the extent to which issues of heterosexism and homophobia have emerged in their work with heterosexual clients, how such issues were addressed, and what impact they had on clinicians. The findings of the research suggest general consensus among the participants with regards to these topics. A major finding was that participants practiced intentional self-disclosure of sexual identity with heterosexual clients on a case-by-case basis, informed by clinical judgment and experience, client variables, theoretical orientation, personal experiences, work environment, and the prevalence or absence of homophobia and heterosexism. Another major finding was that participants were more apt to come out or consider coming out to queer clients than heterosexual clients. Additionally, therapist self-disclosure of a lesbian identity was found to be revealed or communicated in direct, indirect, behavioral, and unintentional ways. Implications for clinical practice and future research are presented.
Thomas, Molly Caitlin, "Shades of gray : lesbian therapists explore the complexities of self-disclosure to heterosexual clients" (2008). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.