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The Art Of Lying To Your Therapist

Being vulnerable is hard. Being vulnerable to a therapist, believe it or not, can be even harder. Nilab Siddiqi explores the difficulties faced when opening up to therapists and why it seems to be such a common issue.

Look. It’s not like I want to lie to my therapist. I don’t! I’m just chronically unable to open up. It’s a big problem, I know.

I was so proud of myself for taking the leap a few years ago and booking my first appointment with a therapist (let’s just say it was a long time coming), and, well, I’m still proud of myself for continuing to go and opening up some, but the truth is, I lie a lot. Well, I guess it depends on whether a lie of omission is considered a lie on its own.

And the best part of it is…I’m not alone! Apparently, everyone lies to their therapists! Huzzah! According to a 2015 APA survey[1], 93% of their respondents said that they’ve lied at least once to their therapists, and damn, does that make me feel less stupid. Why do you feel stupid, you ask? Hmm. It might have to do with me spending upwards of $1000 annually to not get into the nitty gritty of my issues with the person I’m paying $1000 to help me.

Why do I lie to my therapist, you ask? Well, aren’t you inquisitive. I don’t know exactly why I hide so much from the person I should be most vulnerable with. I’ve just always been like that. I’ve never (ever) been the kind of person to be open with people about how I feel whether it be my closest friend or my family, I just can’t do it. It doesn’t matter if I’ve just been in a violent car crash or my house has burned down or I fell off a ladder after getting broken up with, you ask me ‘how are you’ and I’m always replying with ‘great!’.

I go to therapy once a month and every time I go, I have to follow a strict routine, so as to not wander off and talk about things that I really should be talking about. Let’s go on this dishonest little journey together.

Step 1: Over the entire month write down a list of things to talk about that aren’t what I really need to talk about

Yeah, that’s right. I make sure I have a list of incidents/issues to talk about and none of them have ever really been the things that concern me the most. I call that damage control, but some people would call it lying. Potato, po-tah-to.

Step 2: Make sure I get there half an hour early so my therapist doesn’t hate me

Probably one of the issues I should talk to my therapist about. Probably not gonna talk to her about it.

Step 3: Ensure that throughout the entire session, I don’t use vulnerable language

Yes, I’m here to talk about my problems and become a better version of myself. No, I’m going to use the word ‘depressed’ or ‘afraid’ or ‘overstimulated’, that feels … big.

Step 4: Don’t let my therapist start talking about serious issues

She can’t fool me. I’m a seasoned professional, baby.

Step 5: Book my next appointment and pay my abnormally large fee

All while knowing I’ll be back next month and continue to not talk about what needs to be talked about.

Et voila, my monthly therapy routine.

But you know what? I think it’s normal. I know now that a lot of other people lie to their therapists. Whether it’s telling partial truths, lying by omission, or altering small or large facts to avoid being vulnerable, it’s all normal. Only in the last few years have discussions of mental health and well-being become more normalised in the western world, and it would be a shame for us to act as if it’s something that’ll automatically be easy for everyone. For some people, opening up about their mental health might be as simple as anything, and for others, it might be the hardest thing in the world, and that’s okay.

That’s why we’re all there isn’t it? Because we have issues we need to get through. It’s just that some issues take years to crack into, and that’s completely fine. In its own way, lying to your therapist or hiding things from them is still a way of telling the truth. Being honest with yourself is more important than anything and, in order to actually be seeing a therapist, you would have had to on some level been brutally honest with yourself about the help you need.

So if you find yourself relating to this article at all, please remember to be gentle and gracious with yourself. You’re doing the best you can. I see you.


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