Therapeutic Disclosure

People with addiction often seek help from a therapist when their behaviours have been discovered (by a partner, employer or the police) or they have reached a point where they no longer wish to carry on with behaviours that don’t fit with their integrity. A significant step towards change and recovery is opening up the secrecy. The most common fear voiced at this stage is – “Will my partner leave/throw me out when they find out what I have been doing?”. This can lead to Trickle Truth, in a bid to avoid further hurting the partner and feeling more shame. Unfortunately this can prolong fear and prevent the possibility of trust being rebuilt.

A Therapeutic Disclosure (a full disclosure managed by a therapist) creates a space where the story of the person with the addiction can be heard. The therapist’s primary role is to help the person with addiction consider the timing and to ensure emotional and psychological safety for both parties throughout the process.

The purpose of a full disclosure is to reduce fear by opening a space where honesty, empathy and accountability can be found. Without honesty, empathy and accountability couples find it hard to reconnect and begin to re-build trust.

What are the benefits?

For the Partner:

  • They are empowered to make a decision based on reality (rather than fantasy and fear) whether to stay in the relationship or not.

  • They are empowered to work out what their needs are based on the facts.

  • They can divert energy from detective work to their own recovery.

  • Fear of further discoveries/disclosures is reduced.

For the person with addiction:

  • Fear of partner discovering information is removed.

  • Energy can be diverted from maintaining secrets to recovery.

  • A full disclosure is in line with the commitment to honesty and accountability (with self and others) – increased integrity.

  • Intimacy can be increased due to shared vulnerability.

  • Impression management is removed – any love and empathy from the partner can be received by the real self so needn’t be discounted.

A Therapeutic Disclosure is often followed by formulating an Accountability Contract, based on what the person with the addiction has disclosed and what the partner needs in order to continue the relationship in the short term e.g. – access to passwords and finances. This can act as a bridge until trust is rebuilt.