Degree In Sight

Student with talk bubble

It can be scary or embarrassing revealing difficult personal information to your supervisor, but in many cases, it's a wise move. Here's why:   

  1. Supervisors can help. Over the years, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee psychology professor Nadya Fouad, PhD, has helped students think through family-work balance issues, assisted students with medical disabilities to keep their medical coverage, and even advised a student struggling with a painful breakup. "Many times I've had students come to me with trepidation over sharing a problem they're having," she says. "My reaction—working hard to help them problem-solve it—sometimes surprises them."

  2. It's a relief. Harboring a secret can sap your energy and affect your work and relationships. When you share it, you lighten your load and have the opportunity to figure out next steps, says Jeremiah (not his real name), a graduate of a Northeast university who disclosed a history of substance  abuse to his supervisor.  
    "After I told people about it, I felt much less burdened by it," Jeremiah says.

  3. People know about it anyway. Often when you're struggling, it shows. Discussing your pain opens the door for people to better understand what you're facing and to help you, says Richard Wren, PhD, training director at the White River Junction VA Medical Center in Vermont. "When students reveal difficult information, I feel a sense of relief, because it helps me to organize information I had about them intuitively but didn't fully understand," he says.

  4. It's empowering. Disclosing a problem and dealing with it constructively can be a boon to your therapy work, James adds. "One of my challenges is to accept my history, good and bad, to understand it, and to use it to inform my work with clients," he says.

—T. DeAngelis