Self-disclosure of sexual orientation by social workers with clients

On my first placement for my Masters in Social Work I was instructed to hide my (gay) sexual orientation, and if asked, deny it, because clients might not want to work with me if they knew, and because self-disclosure was unprofessional and potentially dangerous.  Although this struck me as wrong on a number of levels, trying to articulate a coherent response was surprisingly difficult.  I had never really thought about the issue before.  Having taken it for granted that I could be out in my personal as well as my professional life, I’d never had to justify it.

As a student, I had to write an essay on reflective practice for my course, and I chose to reflect on this experience so that I could try and work out my position on the issue of self-disclosure, especially regarding sexual orientation.   Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s not much written about it, and in my search I got some negative reactions from people when I raised the subject, which led me to believe that the attitude I had experienced might not be uncommon.

I chose to explore the issue further in my Masters dissertation.  Was my experience a one-off, or are views about the undesirability of self-disclosure of Lesbian and Gay, compared to Straight, sexual orientation common among social workers?  And if so, why?


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