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Akua's avatar

Has anyone else lied to their therapist?

Asked by Akua (4635 points ) December 17th, 2012

I have been going to therapy every tuesday for the last 2 years and even though I feel that he has helped me in a lot of areas, I wonder if I would see more results if I told him everything. Is it necessary for us to tell our therapists every little thing? Is it even relevant? Or is it perfectly natural to hold back some things that I consider personal and that I feel do not affect my life negatively? For instance should I tell him that I like to smoke pot? Or that I like to watch porn? Or that I have cheated in just about every relationship I have been in with a man? I don’t think it would make a difference or change anything so do I divulge this info? He’s not a priest and so I don’t feel like I need to confess. Is it natural to pay for therapy and then hide certain parts of yourself?

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53 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Ask your therapist what would be best for you. They unusually have a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Akua's avatar

@YARNLADY but if I ask him this question he’ll know I’ve been holding back.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I’ve been in therapy for 26 years. Personally, I tell my therapist everything. I don’t look at it as going to confession. I look at it as purging my mind of my demons. I’m not implying that what you’ve written here are “bad” things. I’m saying in my case I have to be completely open to receive maximum benefit from the doctor patient relationship.

If this was a physical ailment, would you hold back from your doctor any physical symptoms? I suspect the answer would be no, because you would want the doctor to have all the facts in order to do you the most good.

The therapists I’ve been to want as much information for the same reason. They want to help and not judge. A therapist worth his salt won’t accuse. He’ll most likely expect that you have things to tell that you’ve held back.

If it helps, you can begin your next session by stating you have some things you’d like to mention that you didn’t feel like you could since you weren’t completely sure the doctor-patient relationship between the 2 of you would last.

And for the record, I still have a few secrets after 26 years of therapy. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I need therapy.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Akua Counselors don’t judge, they are there to help. You can’t possibly tell your counselor every single thought and act you have ever done.

janbb's avatar

It is hard to believe that the fact that you have cheated in every relationship you have been in is not relevant to your therapy. You don’t need to reveal every detail of your daily life but major events and actions are pretty important to the process.

augustlan's avatar

Anything that might be at all relevant should be talked about. If you smoke a lot of pot, that might be relevant. If you watch a lot of porn, that might be relevant. You cheat a lot, and I don’t see how that can not be relevant.

Akua's avatar

@janbb I hear your point about the cheating. I started therapy to deal with childhood abuse and neglect and PTSD. I wasn’t sexually abused as far as I can remember, so I thought the fact that I cheated in the past (a lot) had no bearing on my treatment. Of course I’m probably wrong which is why I asked this question. Most of the time when I have cheated it has been out of boredom or lack of sex/attention in the relationship I was in. It never occured to me that I was cheating for any other reason. Thanks for giving me something to think about. @Hawaii_Jake your reply was comforting. If you still keep aspects of your life to yourself after 26 yrs then I don’t feel so guilty for hiding for 2 yrs. Thanks guys

bkcunningham's avatar

I think it would be very important to tell your therapist you are using a mind altering drug and are telling lies to a intimate partner. The fact that you are holding back things and aren’t certain if it could be detrimental to your mental health is concerning to me.

Akua's avatar

@augustlan Nah I wouldn’t say I do any of these things a lot but I guess that depends on your definition of a “lot”. I’ll stay up for hours watching porn maybe once a month or every two months and the cheating doesn’t happens mostly in cycles depending on the opportunity and it is never random, it’s always someone I’ve known for years and we agree to meet and have sex somewhere. Maybe once every six months although it hasn’t happened in quite a long time. Smoking pot is my way to unwind because I don’t like alcohol that much. So when other people are having their cocktail, I light up to get mybuzz but I can go months without smoking in between if I have too. @bkcunningham I don’t consider pot to be any more mind altering than a glass of rum but I see where you’re coming from. And I’m in therapy because I have had concerns about my mental health for years, so with that we’re on the same page. I have trust issues due to abuse and telling someone I know personally and respect all my secrets freaks me out. Really scares me.

filmfann's avatar

Yes and no.
I never really lied to my therapists about my experiences, or my feelings.
I did give one the impression that I needed to go back on anti-depressants. My brother-in-law was struggling with his daughter going rebellious. He couldn’t deal with it, but didn’t have the medical coverage to get any help or medication. I knew I had enough shit in my life to convince my therapist that I needed the drugs, so I made an appointment, and spilled my guts. They immediately prescribed Paxil for me (I had been on them before), and I gave them to my BiL.
I felt better for talking to a therapist, and my BiL was able to get a grip while his daughter rebelled, and finally turned around and straightened herself out.

wundayatta's avatar

I have never lied, but I know many people who do, and they tell the same lies you do. They don’t talk about pot and sex, etc.

Your therapist likely knows, because whatever your diagnosis is, this behavior is part of a pattern. It would help for them to know the pattern is confirmed. The pattern you mention is characteristic of the disorder I have. Almost every single person I know in my support group has done these things.

The thing is that the reason we don’t tell is shame. We are ashamed of what we have done and are doing. This is because we don’t understand why we do them. It’s really pretty simple. It’s self medication. Yes, even the sex. It’s how we cope with the pain. Of course, your therapist can’t tell you that if they don’t officially know. And you can’t get comfort knowing that what you do is part of your disorder, and there are good reasons for you to do it.

Then you can’t work on finding other, less disruptive and harmful ways to cope with the illness. Which is the whole point of the therapy. I’d say you were wasting your money. I hope you don’t have big copays. But if you don’t talk about everything, you can’t really get good help from a therapist.

Now it is possible the therapist will start telling you what to do. If that’s the case, then you have the wrong therapist.

I tested mine. I told her what I was up to. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t beat me up about it. She didn’t. She said she didn’t want to stop me from doing anything. She just wanted to help me make sure I didn’t harm anyone in the process, or harm myself. She was able to do that.

She helped me understand why I do these things. She helped me lose my shame for doing them. She helped me figure out how not to harm people and how to stay safe. She was able to be very helpful since I told her everything.

It is also helpful to tell your psychiatrist about the drugs you take. They really need to know everything, in order to keep you safe. There can be harmful drug interactions between pot and other drugs. Or alcohol and other drugs. They need to know so they can prescribe properly.

Of course, they will tell you you should stop. Then you can discuss that. But if you don’t tell them, they can’t really help you, and they could harm you, unknowingly.

Sometimes we don’t tell our therapists and psychiatrists the whole truth because we are self-destructive. That is very common. We don’t want to be well. We don’t think we deserve to be well. By keeping secrets, we can keep the crucial information, thus keeping ourselves from getting better. There are a lot of reasons why we do this, and most of them are pretty individual. If you want to talk about it, your therapist is the person to talk to.

The sex, believe it or not, is about finding the only thing possible that might make it feel like life is worth living. It is the only thing that might possible fill the black hole in the pit of your stomach that feels endlessly empty. It’s about love. About connecting to others. I believe some people need this in a much more comprehensive way than normal people do.

But most never get it, because people are afraid of the intensity. Don’t know how to live with it all the time. Plus, people often stop at sex, thinking that’s all they are allowed to have. They can’t push it as far as they really want to go, and most of them, I believe, don’t even know what it’s about. Often they stop themselves, too. Knowing it’s bad. Or that other people think it’s bad. They internalize that message, which means they can’t even get the thing that feels like it would cure them.

This is almost impossible to explain. It sounds so ridiculous to most people, I think. But in my experience, a lot of people are like this. They act out all over the place, sort of knowing what they want, yet unable to allow themselves to have it. Happiness is not for us. Not in this society. Maybe in Europe or in other nations, but not here. It is incomprehensible here. But until you tell your therapist, you can’t work on it.

Akua's avatar

@wundayatta @filmfann I never said in the OP that I lied about anything. I just never mentioned it to him and I was wondering if I should. Suddenly I’m feeling judged lol. Listen, I just wanted to know if other people “Held back” information from their therapist. If he asked me if I smoke I would probably say yes because I’m a bad liar. He has even told me that HE smoked pot in his college days but I couldn’t bring myself to say “Me too!”.

wundayatta's avatar

Sorry. It was in the title. You were asking about lying. I thought you considered lies of omission to be lies. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. How can I judge you when I have done similar things? I am not judging you. You can be sure of that.

Bellatrix's avatar

Why don’t you share these things with your therapist? What is holding you back from speaking about the things you now feel perhaps you should share?

Akua's avatar

Thanks @wundayatta . And your reply wasn’t hard for me to understand at all. Makes perfect sense. I wrote a letter to my therapist hinting at some of my vices but then I chickened out when it came time to explain it. He knows I have issues with trust and confrontation so he tells me if I cant say it, I can write it down or text it to him. Your right about it being shame. I do feel shame about a lot and guilt about most everything else

bkcunningham's avatar

The abuse and trust issues go hand-in-hand, @Akua. It sounds to me like you are getting ready, maybe not completely ready, but preparing to turn another corner in your therapy if divulging more to your therapist is on your mind. I’m not judging you whatsoever. Your “crimes” sound pretty innocent to me. It is the holding back and not taking it to another level that is bothersome. But, it takes time. There is no calendar that says you should be here on this date in therapy. Take your time. It sounds like you are doing fine.

Akua's avatar

I don’t think I’ll be able to look at him or have him look at me once I tell him everything. And as most of you have pointed out, he probably does already know about these things based on my behavior

augustlan's avatar

A good therapist will never make you feel judged. They only want to help you, and in many cases, help you stop judging yourself too harshly.

Bellatrix's avatar

You know, it seems to me that your fear of how he might react is exactly why you should discuss these things with him. He is a therapist. He has heard it all before. You can’t shock him. He does need to understand you and how you tick to be able to help you resolve your own issues. If you hide things from him, it’s a bit like cheating on a test. You really only cheat yourself.

I hope you can find the courage to tell him these things you feel are so shocking. I have found in the past, writing a letter is easier than telling someone things in a face-to-face situation. Perhaps you could write down all these things you are hiding from him but that might be relevant to your situation? You could just give it to him to read later. Or post it so he has it when you arrive. The fear you are feeling is worse than any reaction from him. I can promise you that.

Akua's avatar

@Bellatrix good point. I see him tomorrow and I think Im going to come clean about these things. I was thinking that maybe I felt awkward about telling him these things because he is a man and most of my abuse issues are with men. But he is a great therapist and has helped me with a lot od my PTSD and the nightmares. But Im going to tell him everything. Thanks to everyone. I appreciate all your advice

marinelife's avatar

The three things that you mention are all very relevant to your life and your therapy. For example, I would think that learning why you cheat in every relationship would be important to you so you could not cheat.

filmfann's avatar

@Akua I never said in the OP that I lied about anything.

Question title: Has anyone else lied to their therapist?

Who is the else?

josie's avatar

When I got out of the service, I took a few sessions with a therapist. I told him everything. It was a great help.
Frankly, I do not understand why anybody would spend good money to get help from a therapist, and then tell him a fake version of their life. What a waste of money.
It is sort of like paying tuition, then cutting class. No wonder you are seeing a therapist.

bkcunningham's avatar

It isn’t always that simple, @josie. There’s a lot of shame and trust issues when it comes to being abused. I’m really hopeful for @Akua because she’s taken the first steps to seek help. What an accomplishment. I’ve known many people throughout my life who need the help and haven’t been strong enough yet to make that move. I say, way to go @Akua. Keep on keeping on.

josie's avatar

@bkcunningham Then why go to a therapist. Imagine feeling sick and not telling the physician your symptoms. It’s an evasion, thus it’s immoral. Not to mention a waste of money. I will hold out hope that we are talking about wasting the patients money, and not tax dollars.

bkcunningham's avatar

In this situation I’d have to guess it is to help learn some coping mechanisms and to help learn to trust again. Trust yourself and others. It isn’t instantaneous my friend. It is like knocking down a few enemies at a time until you finally get a stronghold and move in and access what needs to be done to fight the next battle. It is a process that takes time.

I understand what you mean though, @josie. It does seem easy enough on paper. In reality, some mental health issues take years to untangle.

josie's avatar

@bkcunningham No shit that they would take years to untangle if the therapist does not have all the knowledge to develop a diagnosis and treatment. Maybe the people we are talking about really do not want to get better. I have always wondered if some folks want to stay messed up because it gives them a handy excuse for, well, being messed up. Anyway, none of my business. Good luck to any dishonest person looking for happiness. But it won’t ever happen. Out.

hearkat's avatar

I learned from experience that like much in life, what you get out of therapy depends largely on what you put into it. My first attempt at therapy was a pleasant enough experience, but I did not open up fully and wasn’t willing to dig into the depths to the core of my issues. I found that weeds return if even a little of the roots remain. So for my next attempt, I found someone I felt I could trust and I held back nothing. I made a good amount of progress, but it still took me a long time to get to the point where I believed I deserved happiness and personal integrity and that I was capable of forgiving myself for all the mistakes I’d made.

Cruiser's avatar

Your therapist is not going to heal you….only you can heal you. I know for a fact you have told yourself everything and anything you could possibly tell this therapist and do you think they will tell you anything new you haven’t already been told by them or by yourself?? You either wake up and put on the big girl panties and deal with what you are more than familiar with or prance through life expecting someone else to solve your issues.

Akua's avatar

@josie FYI, I have a job, I am covered under my insurance for all my medical care and that included my therapist and I pay co-pay’s. Your tax dollars pay for nothing. I spoke to my Therapist and he told me he was seeing a patient for 10 yrs before the guy felt he could trust him. No I dont want to be this way and I dont use it as an excuse nor am I feeling sorry for myself. This is life and not everyone is equipped to just shrug it off and get on with their life. I hope people like you and @Cruiser never need to see a therapist but if you do, I hope people are more compassionate to you than you are to others. I don’t expect anyone to solve my problems either. I work very hard at trying to fix them myself which is why most people go to therapy. @Cruiser I have no idea what you are talking about and neither do you for that matter. @filmfann you are right, I should have chosen a better word in the OP but I did not mean to say that I thought I had lied. I only feel like my inability to trust people may be interfering with my treatment.

hearkat's avatar

[edited – wrong post! I have no idea how that happened]

glacial's avatar

Probably, your therapist will be more interested in exploring why you felt the need to hide things from him, when he is the one person you should be able to tell everything to. Personally, I don’t see the point in going to therapy unless you’re prepared to tell the truth and disclose everything. Otherwise, you might as well rely on your own judgment alone to figure out who you are and how to deal with your life.

And… if you’re not telling your therapist everything, you’re not getting full value for what you’re paying him. ;)

augustlan's avatar

@Cruiser That is awfully dismissive of those of us who have serious challenges and found therapy extremely helpful in addressing them.

hearkat's avatar

@Cruiser – you are correct that a therapist can not heal the patient. However, many (if not most) people can not heal themselves without guidance. That is the role of the therapist.

gailcalled's avatar

I never lied to my therapist. He had had decades of seeing and listening to patients. There was nothing that he had not heard.

You watch porn; you are habitually unfaithful. Surely you know that you are not unique.

Why would I have wasted my time (and his time) and a lot of money?

I would consider that what you need to conceal or hide to be very relevant. Why choose some parts of your life to obfuscate and not others?

wundayatta's avatar

Much of this discussion is a perfect example of why people don’t talk in therapy. They are afraid that therapists will be like most people, who overlook no opportunity to shame someone for something.

Why bother to go to therapy if you aren’t going to talk? Hidden message: shame on you for wasting the therapist’s and your own time.

This is why people don’t talk about mental illness issues. Even in a supposedly enlightened place like fluther, people will bash the mentally ill right and left. Even one or two of those who have experienced working on shame in therapy, themselves seem to show no sympathy. Kills me.

I think it is incredibly brave of the OP to ask this question, knowing that people would likely jump all over her. I think we hear from her that she plans to work hard, and she wants to deal with these issues. I think it is fair to interpret asking a question like this as a sign that a person has already decided to talk about it. So there’s no need to bash them.

So let’s applaud the OP’s efforts and encourage her to keep on moving forward towards self-help. Let’s be supportive, please.

Shippy's avatar

Only if you feel it is important to you and your recovery. If you then lie, it is lying to yourself.

ucme's avatar

No, but I almost died when I was thoroughly pissed, way back in my mid-teens when quite frankly I shouldn’t have been drinking anyway.

bookish1's avatar

I jumped into this conversation late. But, +1 to @wundayatta for what he just said.
I don’t have trust issues, I have a surplus of trust, but I knew I had found the right therapist for me when I didn’t want to reserve any information to myself.
Good luck, @Akua.

Akua's avatar

Thank you @wundayatta for saying everything I was thinking. As I read some of these posts I thought about the fact that if these people who don’t even know me can say these things, then what do I have to look forward to when I speak to my therapist? Sure he is a great professional and wouldn’t say anything to judge me to me face but then what would he think of me in his head? Would he lose respect for me? You see mental health issues (especially those stemming from childhood abuse) are very complex. @josie thinks I’m dishonest because I have mental health issues that I never chose for myself, they were forced upon me. And @Cruiser mentions big girl panties. Well I wasn’t a big girl when these things happened and just because you grow older doesn’t mean that a person is any more equipped to deal with trauma from the past. You have absolutely no clue as to the kind of abuse I suffered at the hands of people who were supposed to love me, people I trusted. If I were physically ill and went to a physician, I would tell him everything so that he could save my life, but what about people with anorexia who lie and tell the doctors they are eating or bulimics who deny vomiting? I guess they are dishonest people who need to just pull up there big girl pants and eat a sandwich huh? If it were that simple psychiatrists and therapists would not even be necessary. The two of you sound like the very people who made it necessary for people like me to need therapy in the first place. @bookish1 thanks for the luck. By your responses some of you gave, I think I feel strong enough to tell him what’s on my mind. Your all right, he is worth trusting and I’m sure he’s heard it all before. I’ve been wanting to tell him all this for over a year but I just couldn’t bring myself to say it but he can’t possibly be as judgemental as some of the perfectly well-adjusted people who replied to my OP.
“Moral Indignation is Jealousy with a Halo”

Akua's avatar

Update: I had my regular Tuesday afternoon appointment with my therapist and I told him everything. I feel so much better and he wasn’t surprised or judgemental. He just looked at me and said that he has even MORE respect for me because he knows how hard it was for me to say it out loud! I couldn’t believe it! I told him about the pot and the cheating and everything. I asked him if he was going to advise me to stop cheating right away and he just said I should focus on my feelings of having trusted someone for the first time in my life and not worry about the cheating part for now. I feel so good I came home singing today. I love my fluther family.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

That’s great news, @Akua !

bkcunningham's avatar

Keep singing!

glacial's avatar

Good for you, @Akua!

Bellatrix's avatar

Such a happy end to your question. Very happy for you @Akua!

augustlan's avatar

Yay! Thanks for updating us, @Akua!

bookish1's avatar

Wonderful news. Way to go.

wundayatta's avatar

What a relief, eh? I’m proud of you. Keep it up.

janbb's avatar

Yay you!

Cruiser's avatar

@Akua I do not want to take away your need or desire to see a therapist. I do know what I am talking about. I spent almost 2 years with therapists struggling with an alcohol addiction and depression so I thought. After a year with my trusted therapist she said I needed an addiction counselor and found one who kept telling me he can’t help me only God and AA can. He knew something I could not appreciate but his words only aggravated me as I did not and could not believe in a God. But I was so tired of the booze Merry-go-Round that I finally took a chance and walked through the doors of my first AA meeting. Doing so I was able to surrender my addiction to a higher power I came to know as me and those around me that supported me and my skewed perception of what I wanted in this life of mine. 10 months later it was me and not my therapists who invoked real change. Once I stopped relying on Dr’s for relief and took charge of my own choices did I finally make meaningful changes in my life and in my head. Just my story.

hearkat's avatar

@Cruiser – in your case, the 12-Step program was the guidance that best suited your needs, and I am glad it worked for you. I know others who would shoot down that program the same way you were quick to shoot down therapy in your reply above. For those whose issues might not include addiction, or perhaps were the underlying case of addiction, a therapist’s guidance might be better-suited. Most of my own breakthroughs occurred after I stopped therapy and continued working on my own, but I wouldn’t dismiss therapy because of that. At the very least, once someone finds a counselor or therapist that they feel they can trust, it provides them a safe place to open up, tod dig out the deep-rooted weeds, and to plant the seeds of a healthier mental process.

Cruiser's avatar

@hearkat I agree as my journey took me from the most comfortable supportive option to the harder more tough love option of facing my issues from serious introspection I was in charge of. Please bear in mind my alcoholism was merely me using booze to self medicate an underlying depression and did not require booze to blame my problem on just stopping drinking. It came down to no more excuses and accepting this role before I could begin the healing I sought. Lord know I heard it all ad nauseum from the therapists and thank “God” the last one knew I would only heal if I took charge of the healing.

Akua's avatar

@Cruiser I am not addicted to anything and my faith is just fine. But I’m glad YOUR way worked for you just like MY way is working for me. Our situations are totally different and I don’t even need big girl panties to see that.

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