Therapy FAQ

Should I Tell My Therapist Everything?

Picture this: You are in your therapist’s office and they have asked you to share your concerns. Should share a well-guarded secret that significantly contributes to your concerns? As your heart pounds and uncertainty rises, you wonder: Should I tell my therapist everything? How much information is too much in therapy? This article discusses the […]

By Alan Deibel, LCPC

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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Picture this: You are in your therapist’s office and they have asked you to share your concerns. Should share a well-guarded secret that significantly contributes to your concerns? As your heart pounds and uncertainty rises, you wonder: Should I tell my therapist everything?

How much information is too much in therapy? This article discusses the importance of honesty in therapy, why people may lie, and what to do if you don’t trust your therapist.

Importance of Opening Up to Your Therapist

Being truthful about your feelings and thoughts is essential in therapy, helping you to unearth your underlying issues. Specifically, being honest with your psychotherapist is important because:

It builds trust: Sharing your lifestyle, past, and yourself with the therapist is essential for a complete treatment. It also creates confidence in the therapeutic relationship. This trust builds a safe space to express your feelings and experiences.

It enhances self-awareness: Being honest in psychotherapy allows you to better understand your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Also, telling the truth can help you identify the patterns and triggers that cause your difficult situations.

It fosters personal growth: Honesty helps patients to reflect on their weaknesses and identify their areas of improvement. In addition, patients can gain insights, learn new perspectives, and make impactful changes in their lives.

It strengthens emotional well-being: Being truthful with your therapist boosts emotional healing. It allows you to express your intrusive thoughts and feelings authentically, alleviating emotional burdens like stress and anxiety.

Honesty is ultimately necessary for the success of your treatment. Expressing your feelings, drawbacks, and goals provides your therapist with the required context

Tips for Being Honest with Your Therapist

While nervousness in therapy is common — particularly if it’s your first session — being dishonest can be counterproductive. Acknowledging your concerns and finding the courage to express them is integral. The following tips can help you feel more comfortable and be honest with your therapist:

Prepare adequately. Before you begin any session, take deep breaths and relax your mind. Also, ease your mind and focus on your feelings. If you are nervous, list things you want to discuss with your therapist; you can refer to it if you have difficulties knowing what to say.

Sharing your concerns can foster honesty. If you are worried about privacy or what your counselor will do with the information you share, look to get some clarity. Your mental health professional will explain your state’s privacy policies and let you know when they may share information you give. Enquiring on their confidentiality can help you keep calm and open up to the therapist for consequent sessions.

Let your therapist know if you need help opening up. Therapists have interventions to reduce the pressure of communicating, making it easy for clients to express themselves.

Challenging yourself can help you to open up to your therapist. If you always have challenges communicating your feelings, make it an objective to express your feelings during therapy. Note what it feels like and notify your therapist. This way, your healthcare provider will know the kind of treatment plan to use.

Finally, let your counselor lead if you fear they’ll judge you. It’s your therapist’s job to create a comfortable and safe room for you to open up about your own issues.

Why People Lie in Therapy

According to Joseph Melendez, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy, “Lying to your therapist is counterproductive but also understandable” as people typically want someone to like them and not think poorly about their decisions. But therapists are there to help you, not judge you. 

Here are reasons that may make it hard to tell your therapist the whole truth:

Preventing an Unpleasant Emotion

While a lot of people go to therapy to address their problems, talking about difficult topics can be a significant hurdle. For instance, questions about sexuality or talking about something that happened during childhood can be distressing.

Self-Preservation

Sometimes people may go to therapy because others — for instance, family members or probation officers — want them to. Therefore, they may not be prepared to make changes, and their goal is to avoid the consequences of telling the truth. So, such people are likely to lie to their therapist to maintain their status quo.

Lack of a Strong Therapeutic Relationship

If there’s no solid therapist-client relationship, patients may find it hard to disclose their painful and sensitive feelings. Additionally, a history of betrayal and difficulty trusting others may make patients lie to therapists.  

Denial and Not Ready to Relive Trauma

If people still deny their intrusive feelings, they are more likely to lie to their therapists. They may use denial as a coping and defense mechanism for their overwhelming and stressful situations.

Additionally, people may be dishonest with their counselors to reduce the negative events of the truth, for instance, emotional pain. They may think discussing trauma with therapists will overwhelm them or remind them of a painful event that happened.

Desire to Be Liked by the Therapist

It’s common for patients to develop feelings for their therapists. If this happens, they might worry that the counselor will see them as bad people for their mistakes. Additionally, they may think therapists will judge them for discussing an unpleasant story, for instance, how they lost their temper. Therefore, it might feel unsafe for them to reveal things that make them look bad.

Protecting the Therapist’s Interests

Sometimes patients don’t want their therapists to feel uncomfortable. Therefore, it may be difficult for them to share something they think it’s unpleasant or disagrees with something a therapist said.

What Not to Say to Your Therapist

While it’s advisable to share personal information with your therapist, there are some topics you should avoid to maintain professional boundaries. The following are some of the things you should not do in therapy:

Don’t Lie

It’s natural to fear judgment and rejection over some life experiences. However, lying to your therapist will derail the reasons you need mental health professionals in the first place.

Additionally, don’t tell them half-truths despite how embarrassing some details could be. If it’s hard to share the entire truth, schedule the conversation for a later date when you are comfortable.

Don’t Complain About a Previous Therapist

While you want to share with your new therapist, don’t discuss how much you hated the previous one. The goal is not to rehash problems with a past therapist but to establish a good relationship with this new one and work together to achieve your goals.

Don’t Ask for Friend Requests 

Mental health professionals are required to maintain boundaries with their patients. While there may be a close working alliance with your therapist, you cannot go past it. Therefore, don’t make requests that jeopardize their profession, such as friendships beyond therapy sessions.

Understanding the Limits to Confidentiality

While a licensed therapist should keep the content you share private, they may disclose it for ethical and legal reasons. According to the American Psychologists Association, psychologists may sometimes break confidentiality with the client to:

Additionally, mental health providers have exceptions to confidentiality if:

If you are a victim of past abuse, your therapist may not be required to report it. However, enquire about your privacy to know what they may report.

What to Do If You Don’t Trust Your Therapist

Distrust in therapy may arise from reasons such as:

Discussing your feelings with the therapist can help decide whether you are a good match. Additionally, your therapist can help you overcome distrust you may feel if you are honest with them.

Finding a New Therapist

Given the importance of trust within a therapeutic relationship, it’s necessary for you to see a therapist who you’re comfortable with. While changing therapists can feel overwhelming, these tips can help you navigate the process:

Notify your current therapist: Discussing your feelings and plans with your current therapist before you terminate your therapeutic relationship is important. It helps you to identify closure and what’s missing in your recent alliance with the therapist. Additionally, it allows you to understand any red flags to watch out for in the new therapist.

Ask your current practitioner to transfer your progress records: Because you are not supposed to access your process notes, ask your counselor to share them with your new therapist.

Also, understand what you need from the new therapist: Because you already know what you didn’t like about your previous counselor, list what you need from the new one. For instance, you may want a therapist who:

Finally, schedule a consultation call with your new therapist: The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses proposes the following questions to ask your psychotherapist:

Therapists are always receptive to questions, so ensure all your t’s are crossed and i’s dotted before choosing a new therapist. 

Connect With a Trusted Therapist Today

While it’s natural to withhold information from your therapist, opening up and being completely honest is integral for your treatment. Further, understanding possible reasons for dishonesty and what not to say to your therapist can help establish a solid therapeutic relationship.

Ultimately, it’s important to trust your therapist. If you’re ready to find one you can open up to, Grow Therapy can help. Use our search tool to narrow down your list of vetted therapists in your area who accept your insurance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
Alan Deibel, LCPC

Alan Deibel is a licensed clinical professional counselor with over 12 years of experience who specializes in ADHD, addiction, anxiety, trauma, and PTSD.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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