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The Power of Self-Disclosure and Self Awareness

For my entire life I have been known as a “fast talker.” I come from a long line of New York natives and "fast talkers"..... We are loud, have a lot to say, and don’t like to waste time getting our message across.

When I was studying for my master’s degree and entering my first clinical practicum in the fall of 1997, what I perceived as an appropriate speech pattern was pointed out as being a deficit or weakness. I was encouraged by several of my supervisors to address my quick rate of speech, to ensure I was a good speech model for my clients. Although this makes sense, the way it was addressed was negative. Today, I supervise and mentor graduate student clinicians; however, I take a different approach!

In my experience, every individual has some type of communication “issue.” It could be “fast talking,” it could be sound errors, it could be difficulty with clarity of speech, it could be an accent, or even stuttering. So why is it that we are so quick to point out, or judge, these differences? I say, embrace them and consider self-disclosure!

When I began my career as a clinical faculty member at Loyola University Maryland in 2011, I considered myself a person who lacked confidence in public speaking. Over the years, I gained experience in this realm, and today, I am much more confident.

One of the reasons I feel so confident, is that I immediately self-disclose to my audience, what I perceive, or I worry, they may perceive as my communications “issues” (i.e., "fast talking," stumbling over or pronunciation of certain words etc.). I do this for me, not the audience! It frees me from the anxiety of how my lack of a perfect delivery may be perceived and allows me to deliver the best content possible.

So, when I recently attended a continuing education seminar on stuttering treatment, I was surprised, but thrilled, to learn that teaching clients who stutter to self-disclosure their disorder is a key component to effective treatment. It is something I teach all of my client’s regardless of age or diagnosis and has led to significant increases in treatment outcomes.

Clients as young as 2 years old benefit from an approach of self-awareness and self-disclosure. I have discovered that if the treatment process is a partnership and the client is invested in the process, the time in treatment is much shorter. In addition, this type of awareness can eliminate the shame and stigma that can be associated with communication difference or disorder.

A creative way to address self-awareness/disclosure during treatment is the Rainbow of Why. I discovered this activity in an issue of the ASHA leader magazine. During the very first treatment session, the client and I create a rainbow together. After the activity is completed, I ask the client a “why” question for each color of the rainbow. For example, “Why did you come to speech today? If the client responds, “To work on my R sound." I will then say, “Well, why do you want to work on your R sound?” The questions continue based on client response until all the colors of the rainbow have been identified. Each session, we review the Rainbow of Why to promote these skills.

The work I have personally done with self-disclosure has not only improved my ability to speak publicly, it has improved my social communication and relationships with others particular with interactions with unfamiliar people.

If you haven’t tried it… I encourage you to use self-disclosure both professionally and personally and see how it can improve your ability to communicate!



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