"Being human": A grounded theory approach to exploring how trainers on clinical psychology doctorate programmes decide whether or not to disclose personal experiences of psychological distress to clinical psychology doctorate trainees

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Objective: Recent research and guidelines recommend that trainers on clinical psychology doctorate training programmes consider disclosing personal experiences of psychological distress to trainees. Disclosure is thought to promote cultures of openness, validate and normalise trainee distress, encourage trainee disclosure and help-seeking and challenge stigmatising narratives. However, little is known about how trainers decide whether, what or how to disclose. This study aims to address that gap by exploring the processes and factors involved in trainers deciding whether or not to disclose personal experiences of psychological distress to trainees, generating findings of relevance across counselling, psychotherapy and psychology training courses. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with nine trainers on UK clinical psychology doctorate programmes from around the country and analysed in accordance with constructivist grounded theory methods. Results: Findings indicated that participants valued disclosure personally and professionally but were wary of the dangers of disclosure. Disclosure decisions were made by judging the context against internally held criteria. If criteria were not met, then disclosures were not made. Outcomes, whether positive or negative, served to reinforce the value of disclosure and the importance of managing risks, creating a positive feedback loop. Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest factors that are important for trainers to consider when deciding whether or not to disclose. The six-factor framework developed may be useful for trainers to consider within reflective practice, supervision or during guided self-reflection in order to make safe, helpful and ethical decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-929
Number of pages11
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Issue number4
Early online date25 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • psychology
  • counselling
  • psychotherapy
  • professional training
  • lived-experience
  • mental health difficulties
  • disclosure
  • Grounded Theory
  • psychologist training
  • grounded theory
  • lived experience

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