Tuesday, December 5, 2017


When is Disclosure and the Analyst’s Sharing of Information Appropriate?

I have had unending suggestions from personal friends that I should share personal stories in my blogs “to increase traffic….to get more hits…to get more followers. ...people will identify with you if you share…” My response is always an educational discussion of the therapist in the analyst/analysand relationship with regards to treatment.  It is not that disclosure is a sin in the psychodynamic or psychoanalytic world (the old school theorists might argue that it is) but that an analyst’s role in the purpose and ethics of disclosure is not to be taken lightly and is of ethical concern.

Which becomes intricate and delicate in the era of social media and contemporary technology.  Although complex, anyone can appreciate the struggle that a well trained analyst faces in today's shift in the ideology and introduction of Self-disclosure and the new transparency in treatment.  

Adding to the confusion in therapeutic self-disclosure data is evidence supporting different outcomes of rejecting and endorsing disclosure in treatment. Historically, Freud and Jung and the psychoanalyst/dynamic traditionalist favor the therapist’s non-disclosure of any personal information.  The post modern, narrative,  humanistic and nitched clinical modalities of today, however, embrace difference in treatment allowing for a ranged levels of disclosure and shared information between client and patient.  

With this being said, my professional belief is to flex toward the side of non-disclosure - even when I urge to share my intimacy.  For the general population there is a whole new world of transference and countertransference.  And although a good-enough therapist (Winnecott) knows this world and has probably been down the road of the exchanged  personal information, each situation is a opportunity of rich material, as well as danger and subtle (and sometimes direct) harm.

So with that lengthy introduction (or is it avoidance) about disclosure I wanted to bring up the anniversary date of the death of my father.  My father entered hospital on November 21, 2016 and died November 28, 2016.  Today, December 5, 2017, marks the one year anniversary of his ritualistic funeral.  For me, I was fortunate in that I had a wonderful role model of a man.  One might argue, I was very different from my father. However, my differences were a result of our similarities and his ability to allow me to strive for obtaining excellence within my ideologies of trying to accomplish positives in life.  I could go on and on and on about how meaningful my father was to his community, and how he was my go-to-guy for fixing handyman issues, as well as, life issues.  But in this writing, to discuss my father is to address the art of disclosure and its reason (or as I often term:  What is the payoff for the client for the disclosure) for the reveal.  I recently reviewed the film Call Me by Your Name.  Although there were vast differences between the protagonist and myself; I connected with Elio’s character as he was the listener to his father’s brilliant monologue about unconditionalism.  This father archetype is so crucial to the male psyche.  The template of the father figure is the construct of who we are.  

So, the death of the father or the death of the god is the earthquake of Mt. Olympus.  I have felt the tremor of Mt. Olympus.  What is so poignant the death of the god’s god is that mythology does not give us the story of Zeus death.  Therefore, we must struggle with its meaning and decide our path with no roadmap.  I would argue that regardless of the relationship between father and son, the male must shed his skin to become new while redefining himself as the Long Live the King anthem burdens and presents hauntingly daunting.

For many of us death is the haunting ontological questioning.  The thought of death has a life force within itself in that like a birth of a child you never know how great it can become.  Great in a way that it can flourish like the vibrant rainbows in the waterfalls of Costa Rica; or, it can cancer in a plague so earthbound that the hollows of a Siberian winter become the familiar.  Even to challenge mortality through medicine or to euthanize provokes social, religious or moral debate which only places us in the hubris of the gods.   

For us mortals, we might escape the rituals of the loved one’s death through shields of protective communities, blatant excuses, social obligations, career commitments, or even the will to consciously avoid.  However, many of us have, and most probably will experience this inevitable ritualistic transition. Whether Hades domain becomes a travel to a spiritual realm; or, existentially, to the uneventful corpse to dust ending.  The funeral, burial, the celebration, wake, the cremation, ashes, the end.  

What is true is that upon the death of Zeus you will be moved.  Whether mortal, hero or god; you will be moved.  Whether we have fortune in obtaining admiration for our father, or, if the roles are tense, the death of the father Archetype allows for the unknown to flourish.  

In my lived narrative, I had such an admiration before, and during my father’s demise that his experience was a qualitative intrigue.  I learned to love Zeus and his ruling over  Titans, gods and mortals.  I learned to love his Alzheimer’s as he had moments of clarity and humour.  I watched in awe at his command to “Stand Down” as he would order others when he felt they were challenging his military leadership status.  I, as an adult man, learned to sleep with my father to comfort him in his latter stages of dementia.  As he macheted his way through the emotional forest of amyoid and tau fibers the gentle of a man called me by his psyche as he could verbally articulate his need to provide for his son, and ensure his safety throughout life.  That is the pure and intimate connection and bond my father gave me which helped me know the divine of the father Archetype.  I was fortunate to be warmed by the flame and to witness without entering to dangerously.  I was not burned.

In discussing disclosure, the analyst’s role of sharing information and a therapist’s reveal of the death of the father presents ongoing off ramps on the freeway to treatment. Disclosures always lead to such off ramps.  Some exits lead to the bad parts of town that lead to unseemly areas.  Some exits lead to bad parts of town that allow for learned experiences.  Some exits take you to these bad parts allowing you to return to the next on ramp a few blocks down.  Some exits don’t allow you to get back on the freeway.  Some exits take you to pleasant parts that swindle you to stay in an unrealistic bliss.  Exits are what they are- disclosures, distractions. Directions leading away from your course.   A good enough therapist can manage these exits knowing when to steer you back on the freeway and allowing you to exit when necessary.  

So as a year has passed and as Zeus is dead, the mourning and rituals of candles have ceased.  The payoff of telling the analysand about the death of the father is this:  Therapist grow and evolve.  A therapist can resonate with J.D. Salinger as Salinger fights for us to understand that Holden Caulfield is not an alcoholic.  He argues the symbolic drinking is to manage the state of melancholy, the existential questioning of life.  Caulfield is not symbolic suicidal and not a symbolic dipsomaniac.  The son of Zeus can have a year of stunted drive and it is apropo when Apollonian logic is self questioned and Dionysian theatrical mischief is now unregulated.  Therapist feel, grow and are challenged.  

The good therapist learns from these experiences and adds these inherited thunderbolts of power to his box of psychic knowledge to revert back to the Apollonian healing for the client.  Moreover, troubled therapist does not know how life experiences negatively affect the clients as he reveals in session “My father died I have to go to the funeral and I can’t make session.”  The Dionysias has no regulator or director.  So, I still struggle with disclosure with my clients ongoing.  Which means the question is are you able to get back on the freeway and stay on travels.  What is in it for you that I reveal.  Some of you will need information from me.  As as I go through the flames of life and as I learn that Zeus is a mortal creation to understand the inexplicable I still lean toward the side of caution preferring more times than not; to not disclose.  But then my father died and his funeral was one year ago today - and not a day goes by that I do not think of him.  So, needless to say, I get it.  As a therapist in Los Angeles I understand family stressors, marital strain, bereavement, depression, uncertainty, life cycles, mid-life questioning, death, inheritance concerns, estate planning, aging, parenting issues, power-of-attorney (POA), Alzheimers, dementia, elder care.  Oh yes, I get it.  And yes, I am not just an analyst or couples counselor but now an empathic marriage therapist with a broader insight into the depths of life challenges.  

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