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10 Common Reasons to Lie to Your Therapist

The 10 Common Reasons People Deceive Their Therapists Continued

    8. Wanting to maintain a positive self-image. It’s hard to maintain our own sense of self or a positive self-image when we have to confront the more embarrassing or painful aspects of our life. There is research to suggest that sometimes clients hide information from therapists as attempts — sometimes unconscious — to construct desirable images for their therapist. Catharsis may be beneficial for clients in many instances, but the things that keep one’s self-image intact are even more important, even if it means not always sharing everything with our therapist. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves as the people we really are, and may be shocked at behaviors we can’t acknowledge to the therapist because we can’t even acknowledge them to ourselves.

    9. Transference and countertransference issues. Transference occurs when a client unconsciously redirects, or transfers, onto their therapist the feelings they have toward one or more important figures in their life. For instance, a client who grew up with an emotionally unavailable father may get angry at his or her older, male therapist for always being quiet and not saying much.

    A client may lie to his or her therapist because the therapist represents another important individual to whom he or she also lies (usually for very good reasons, such as protecting him- or herself emotionally). He or she also may seek to impress the therapist as part of transference.

    Countertransference is the same issue, except it’s the therapist who is unconsciously redirecting his or her feelings onto the client. Therapists who begin to act in an unexpected manner toward their clients may damage the foundation of therapeutic trust and rapport. Clients may stop being forthcoming with their own feelings in order to return to the previous therapist-client relationship.

    10. Fear. A lot of the previous reasons can be boiled down to one big reason — Fear.

    • Fear of how others will perceive us
    • Fear of what others will think of us
    • Fear of what will be done with the information we share, or how it might someday be used against us
    • Fear of what the therapist will think of us
    • Fear of how others will judge us
    • Fear of having our feelings or thoughts dismissed, of not being believed
    • Fear of being in therapy for the first time and not really knowing what to expect
    • Fear of being told we’re “crazy” or worthless, of being unloved and unlovable
    • Fear of rejection
    • Fear of the unknown
    • Fear of change.

These are all legitimate and valid reasons for “lying” to your therapist. Others — such as intentional manipulation in order to obtain a specific diagnosis for disability reasons or prescription medication for pain relief reasons — are not covered here.

The truth is that psychotherapy is complex and challenges both the psychotherapist and the client to work outside their comfort zone. Change and progress takes effort, and that sometimes means not always being entirely truthful with a professional. But it also means challenging ourselves to try, even when it doesn’t feel natural or easy.

10 Common Reasons to Lie to Your Therapist

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). 10 Common Reasons to Lie to Your Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Feb 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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