Disclosure is a crucial skill for peer navigators. It is a practice for sharing (parts of) your story with another person. It’s not limited to your HIV status.

Disclosing your own experiences to a client is the core of the peer navigation approach. Learning that someone else has been there can make your client feel less daunted and alone.

You may also disclose your own experience to colleagues and partner services, as a way of helping them understand your role or the needs of your client.

There are tensions that need to be managed when you disclose.

One is disclosing enough but not too much. For instance, in a moment of emotion, you might disclose more than you intended, including aspects of your life story that could expose you to stigma. Revealing only a very small amount of your own story is appropriate when trying to encourage a client to open up. Read the client’s reaction to your sharing. Has your sharing encouraged them? Do they want to hear more?

Another tension comes from the difference in approach between peer/community services and more clinical services.

People working in the helping professions (doctors, nurses, counsellors, social workers) are often trained to keep personal disclosure to a minimum. They may feel some anxiety about the central role of personal disclosure in the peer navigation approach.

Depending where you work, there may be a policy that applies limits on personal disclosure that you need to comply with – or seek an exemption.

There are times when a longer story or conversational turn can be appropriate. There are also clients who need to be encouraged to speak. You can watch for cues (verbal and nonverbal signals) from the client regarding their preferences.

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