Typically a self-disclosure is done when we initially meet someone and as we continue to build and develop our relationships with people. As we get to know each other we self-disclose things. If one person is not willing to "self disclose" then the other person may stop disclosing information about themselves also.
In a counseling session, the patient or client does the "self disclosing" while the counselor, or therapist listens. Their role is to help the client see things from different angles. This allows the client to see and evaluate options he or she may not have thought about, which may give the client more power when making important life decisions. There are several relationship perspectives in self-disclosing information in counseling sessions. That of patient to therapist, therapist to patient, supervisor to supervisee, and supervisee to supervisor. Each of these relationships affect the tendency to disclose personal information. The clinical space available for patients to disclose should be far broader than that of the therapist.
Self disclosure is a building block for intimacy, intimacy can not be achieved without it. We expect self disclosure to be reciprocal and appropriate. Self disclosure can be assessed on an analysis of cost and rewards which can be further explained by Social exchange theory. Most self disclosure usually occurs early in relational development, but more intimate self disclosure occurs later. Male and female differences in self disclosure are mixed. Women self disclose to enhance a relationship where men self disclose relative to control and vulnerability. Men initially disclose more in heterosexual relationships. Women tend to put more emphasis on intimate communication with same sex friends than many men do.