Psychologists' authenticity: Implications for work in professional and therapeutic settings

Derek J. Burks, Rockey Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Psychologists engage in a multitude of social roles of varying degrees of emotionality, subjectivity, and objectivity because of the nature of their profession as well as their unique backgrounds that have drawn them to that profession. This study sought to understand how psychologists recognize and experience the concept of authenticity in the context of their professional lives. A purposeful sample of 17 clinical psychologists from metropolitan areas in the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest were interviewed. Using a phenomenological, qualitative research design, 262 significant statements were extracted and grouped together, resulting in 11 emergent themes specifically relating to a therapeutic, health care context. Rigor and thoroughness were achieved via multiple validation procedures. Psychologists defined authenticity as the matching of one's inner thoughts, beliefs, and feelings with one's outer presentation and behaviors. They believed that authenticity involves sensory and emotional qualities rather than purely cognitive or verbal qualities. Concepts of self-disclosure and mindful awareness were discussed as related to authenticity. It is of note that both humanistic and nonhumanistically inclined psychologists equally valued authenticity in the professional and therapeutic setting. Participants also discussed how authenticity and inauthenticity are experienced and modified in the therapeutic relationship, as well as the negative effects of inauthenticity in professional contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-104
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Humanistic Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • authenticity
  • genuineness
  • humanistic psychotherapy
  • therapeutic relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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