When we can’t cope with our mental state and need help, we often visit a therapist for clarity. Therapy has tremendous benefits for our mental health, and many people find solace in the peace they get from unloading their emotions and grief on a therapist.
The funny thing is that many people that visit their therapist lie to them. Why lie to your counselor when they’re just there to help you? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of going to therapy in the first place?
It’s strange behavior, but many people take this route when they enter their therapist’s office. This post unpacks why people lie to their therapists. If you’re one of the people that do it, maybe you can gain clarity on your behavior and turn things around.
How Many People Choose to Lie to Their Therapists?
Did you know that a staggering 93% of people lie to their therapists at some point during their treatment? 73% of those lies relate to the treatment itself. In most cases, the lies involve the patient being deceptive about their response to treatment or when rating the therapist’s work to protect their doctor’s professional image and their feelings.
Lying about how the therapy is effective when it isn’t or agreeing with them isn’t very useful in helping your mental health and state of awareness in your self-image. Being honest during your treatment allows the therapist to adjust their course to make your sessions more effective and useful to you.
Research shows that the relationship between the therapist and their client is vitally important if the patient hopes to improve their mental health with the treatment. If you have a strong relationship with your therapy, the treatment is more likely to result in your achieving a breakthrough with your treatment.
If you lie to your therapist, you’ll never manage to build an authentic relationship with them in the therapy room, and you’re doing nothing but wasting your time and money on the treatment. If the therapist doesn’t get honest feedback from you, they’ll never know your true state of mental health and if their therapy sessions are bringing you any benefit.
10 Reasons Why People Lie to Their Therapist
So, why do people lie to their therapists? We broke it down into ten reasons. If you’re lying to your therapist, it could be because of one of the following problems.
Fear is a powerful motivator when it comes to lying. We worry about how the therapist will perceive us and that they won’t understand why we feel like we do. We worry they’ll judge our behavior and thoughts and won’t see things from our perspective when we reveal the truth.
We fear the thought of the therapist rejecting us, dismissing our feelings, or not believing what we have to tell them. We fear being told that we’re not worthy of love and that we’re worthless or crazy. Fear is one of the biggest motivators for lying to your therapist, and it’s a genuine concern we all have when we unpack the feelings we have growing inside us.
#2 To Avoid Judgment
A good therapist won’t judge their clients. However, the reality is therapists are humans too, and they have thoughts just like everyone else. We’ve all seen TV shows where a therapist talks to a friend or family people about the people she meets in her sessions, and we carry those impressions into our time in the therapy room.
The reality is the therapist will make a judgment on our behavior; it’s part of human nature to do so. Sometimes, the therapist might not handle what the client tells them, and they don’t respond in a therapeutic manner that benefits the client.
Some therapists might judge their clients for what they reveal in therapy, and dismiss their client’s emotional responses or concerns, causing people to hold back with what they reveal in the session. If a therapist is judgmental towards their client, it can regress their mental state, and the client loses their sense of trust in the relationship, becoming quiet or unresponsive.
#3 To Conceal Shameful, Embarrassing, or Painful Details
One of the biggest reasons people lie to their therapist is that they don’t want to reveal something about their life or behavior that they find shameful, embarrassing, or emotionally painful. It’s just too challenging for them to get past the emotions that block them from revealing what they feel and think about something bothering them.
As humans, we struggle with telling others about our deepest, darkest secrets. We don’t like being embarrassed at our revelations, so we decide to lie instead. It takes time for clients to build a relationship of trust with their therapist, where they become capable of revealing anything to them.
We all can suppress things in our minds and convince ourselves that something is true when it’s not. We might think that something we view in our lives is irrelevant to our therapy session, causing us to leave it hidden, out of sight of the therapist. However, when revealed, we discover that it’s very important and a huge part of the problems we deal with in our daily struggles.
This might be partially due to the client’s lack of insight into their emotional awareness. However, in some cases, they might think that its insignificant and hold no value in the therapeutic process. In reality, it’s part of the problem, causing disillusionment, denial, or the building of false beliefs and cognitive distortion.
Our minds convince us of something when it’s not true, and the client might not recognize its importance to the process or what the truth is in their life.
#5 The Therapist Might Report Them
One of the common fears people have around therapists is that they’re mandated reporters in most states. That means that if a person is feeling suicidal and in danger of hurting themselves, the therapist must report this activity to the authorities.
These reports become part of a database, branding the client for life as a potential suicide risk, even if they only temporarily feel this way. It’s usually a less common theme causing people to lie to their therapists, but it’s still a justified concern.
#6 A Lack of Rapport & Trust
The relationship between a therapist and their client is complex. It takes significant time for the two to build a trusting relationship where the client can be open about their thoughts and feelings during the session.
Without building rapport between parties in the therapy room and establishing trust, people may decide to put up a wall during their session and act defensively out of self-preservation. Clients usually withhold crucial information about what’s bothering them until they feel they can trust the therapist.
#7 To Maintain Their Self Image
When we have to reveal our deepest fears and most embarrassing thoughts to someone, our ego and self-image take a blow. Research suggests that clients hide information from their therapist in an attempt to construct a desirable impression of themselves for their therapist.
In some instances, this cathartic approach may have some benefits. Sometimes, it’s to keep things hidden to keep the self-image intact and risk a total meltdown in our ego. Occasionally, we don’t see ourselves as who we really are and can’t acknowledge of behaviors to the therapist out of the fear that we might shock them and lower our value in their eyes.
#8 Issues with Transference & Countertransference
When a client unconsciously transfers or redirects the feelings they have about people in their life onto the therapist, it’s called transference. The client may lie to their therapist because the therapist represents another important person in their life that they lie to in order to protect themselves.
Transference also involves the act of trying to impress the therapist. Countertransference is a similar issue. However, in this case, the therapist unconsciously redirects their feelings onto the client. This behavior may damage the relationship in the therapy room, lowering the value the client receives from their sessions.
As mentioned, building a relationship between the client and the therapist takes time. Many people are skeptical of others and find it hard to trust someone else in their life, even if they don’t know them or have any interaction with them outside of a professional setting.
For some clients, rapport and trust might not be enough to get them to open up about their mental state. It might take months or years for clients to trust their therapist enough to reveal what they’ve been hiding and experience the breakthrough they need.
#10 As a Coping Strategy
Many clients decide to lie to their therapist to avoid reliving abuse or trauma. Lying is a coping mechanism for many people, and unwinding this behavior also takes significant time and trust to develop in the therapist/client relationship.
What are the Limits to a Therapist’s Confidentiality Responsibilities?
Most therapy sessions are confidential. However, there are times when a therapist may have to break confidentiality to prevent a terrible outcome. For instance, if the client displays an intention to hurt themselves or others.
The therapist will break the confidentiality agreement if the client reveals abuse of children, seniors, or disabled individuals during their sessions. In some cases, the therapist may also receive a court order demanding that they break the confidentiality agreement.
Should I Divulge Everything about My Life to My Therapist?
While it’s common for people to lie to their therapist, it’s not helping them heal. So, yes, people should divulge everything to their therapist if they want to experience the highest value from the time they spend in the therapy room.
Transparency helps clients receive the goals they set out to achieve with their therapy sessions. Treatment is a significant investment of time and money, and being as honest as possible gives you the best outcome from the treatment.
What Do I Do If I Don’t Trust My Therapist?
As mentioned, it can be challenging for some people to develop the rapport with their therapist needed to build a trusting relationship in the therapy room. We’ve already discussed how people lie and conceal information from their therapist and the damage it can cause to their treatment plans and mental health.
Lying to your therapist only creates another person in your life where you feel you have to build a construct to deceive them. This doesn’t benefit your mental health; it degrades it further. When we have to lie to others, it creates an internal struggle that eventually turns from the psychological to the physical, ruining our life.
If you feel like you can’t trust your therapist, you might want to consider finding someone else. Sometimes, people aren’t compatible, and a change is all it takes to see results. Or maybe you’re uncomfortable taking it in a face-to-face setting. Talking with a therapist over the phone might take the personal aspect out to f the situation, allowing you to be more open with your mental health professional.
Strategies to Source a New Therapist
If you feel you need to end the relationship with your therapist and find a new mental health professional, it’s probably a good idea to action those thoughts. It’s your subconscious telling you it’s struggling to open up to them, and maybe you’ll have better results with someone else.
So, how do you source another therapist? It’s important for you to prioritize your needs, not your current therapist’s business. Understanding that you need to take care of your mental health should be paramount to your decision to find a new mental health professional.
Start your search for a new therapist by asking for referrals. You can always tell your therapist it’s not working out for you and ask them to refer you to a colleague. However, some people might find this embarrassing and choose to end the relationship and find someone else themselves.
If that’s the case, you can pick up referrals from your general practitioner or through directory listings online. Arrange a consultation call, and see how you feel talking to your new therapist before committing yourself to treatment.