Lying and Hiding

Press the button. But is it that easy?

Recently, I read an article in Psychology Today, “Why You Lie to Your Therapist” (June 2019). The article is similar to an earlier article by Ryan Howes, PhD, “Why People Lie to Their Therapists” (Oct. 2018), but in interview form with Matt Blanchard, one of the researchers behind, “The Lying Lab” where studies have been conducted. With his colleague Melanie Love, Blanchard has authored a book called Lies and Secrets in Psychotherapy. 

Apparently, lying (and hiding, for that matter), is a thing.

Even during therapy sessions, and even when there is a trusting, warm connection between client and therapist, lying happens often enough to warrant an entire arena of dedicated study. And according to the Lying Lab studies involving 547 patients, 93 percent of them recalled specific instances where they identified lying to to their therapists.

You can read about the reasons why clients lie to their therapists in the first article. My bet is that just about anyone who has ever been in therapy can relate to the primary reasons why people lie to their therapists:

  1. To avoid shame
  2. To control the focus of what is talked about (i.e. an external problem rather than an internal or threatening flaw)
  3. To avoid repercussions (particularly negative and painful ones)
  4. Lack of trust with the therapist

In this blog post, rather than covering the topic of lying again (the articles are well summarized, so why reinvent the wheel), I thought I’d write about what comes after either the client or therapist recognizes that a lie has been told.

“Um, I Wasn’t Exactly Honest”

As I client, you’re in an uncomfortable situation. You’re paying someone to listen to you talk about what is or has been going on in your thoughts and actions. You’re investing your time and money, and you’re engaging another person to enter into your reasons for doing so. They were important enough to call a therapist, make an appointment, and build a relationship.

So the moment you catch yourself suppressing, withholding, or embellishing the truth, or your therapist notices something about the way you just did one of the above, the last thing that any good therapist is going to do is to try to nail you with shame.

Instead, the research seems to indicate just the opposite. The research supports clients wanting their therapists to not only catch them, but to acknowledge not only the difficulty in being honest, but actually ask about what they just saw and heard in the client’s story.

When a client says, “Um, I wasn’t exactly honest when I told you about…”, just acknowledging how difficult that must have been to admit, and to have a discussion around what that was like holding onto that lie, can help address the underlying fear about what it would mean to tell the truth.

Just Ask

Because I understand that people have their reasons for lying, I’m not offended. Instead, I can ask directly, “I’m wondering what would make it easier for you to tell me what’s truly on your mind.” This is a more gentle way for me to say, “I think you just lied to me.” My thoughts are to fostering the next step into a client owning a dishonest moment and then choosing to change the direction into an honest one.

When I acknowledge the fear that I am seeing in my client’s expression and body language, I have a lot of empathy. It can be pretty scary to see your own crap for what it is. Worse, it can feel overwhelming to take the next step into doing something about your crap.

My approach involves asking you directly. “What do you think may happen if you told me what was really going on?” Often times, that’s just enough of a prompt to get the truth, “on the table” where we can look at it together. Underlying fears can be addressed. Concerns about what happens next can be talked about, and the client can name the actions, thoughts, and feelings to be sorted through.

More than identifying with a client’s culture, class, or by applying more skills to the moment, the Lying Lab findings all point to the therapist asking directly about the subject. Here are a few examples:

“Did you struggle with drinking last night? Did you drink one glass, or was it the whole bottle?”

“If you are feeling out of control and you aren’t sure if you can control those thoughts about hurting yourself, can we talk about what you think might happen if you tell me you’re feeling suicidal?”

“Did you think that thought, or did you actually say that aloud to your husband?”  

Are these scary conversations? Hell yes! Are they helpful ones? Yes, they are if your reason to be in therapy was to get into the “what” and the “why” of YOU, and to allow you the opportunity to be the author of your “how” into something better.

Help Me Help You

The Lying Lab studies also revealed that a little over 72% of the respondents of the study reported lying about the psychotherapy itself, such as liking the feedback more than they did, or saying that the sessions are more helpful than they are.

Most therapists want to do a good job at the thing they love: helping others. When you are afraid to tell your therapist what you really feel about a session, it doesn’t honor your story, even if you are concerned you might hurt the therapist’s feelings.

I like to ask my clients a question at the end of a session, such as, “Was this what you thought this session would feel like? Was this helpful? What would you like more or less of next time?” And I ask them to write that feedback down — and watch them do it — as well as add the feedback in my client note.

Your Turn

If you’ve been thinking about trying therapy or returning to therapy to get deeper into resolving your personal issues, I hope you can hear that we understand that it’s not always easy to face those issues with honesty and transparency, even if when a strong connection is formed with a therapist. We get it, and we’re prepared.

I would not blame you if your first reaction to hearing that people lie to their therapists is, “Well, I would never do that.” Again, we understand that you are investing time, money, and effort in your own personal development and insight. We also just acknowledge that we’re all human. Lying and hiding happens in therapy. A good therapist knows how to ask and to seek when sensing that a subject is difficult to talk about.

Together, we’ll find you.

Props in Movement: Scarves Are More Than Just Fashion

Props in Movement: Scarves Are More Than Just For Fashion
by Allie Bulliman

I had an open house at the office here in Pioneer Square over a month ago as an opportunity for people to get a more in depth explanation and demonstration of “what I do.” Dance movement therapists do just what any other therapist does: listen. We create a safe space. We work with you to create your best life. I like to say I am just a regular therapist/counselor/psychotherapist (whatever you prefer) with an extra tool in my toolbox. Continue reading “Props in Movement: Scarves Are More Than Just Fashion”

Why Microsoft Purchase of Skype is Good For Business

As Skype was headed towards IPO (initial public offering), Microsoft stunned its investors last week with an $8.5M acquisition of the mostly IM (instant message) and voice calls company that has swept its competitors out of the way. Here’s why I think Microsoft’s purchase of Skype is good for business, and particularly why it’s good for you if you’re thinking of purchasing counseling or coaching services.

Already, you’ve seen Skype at work if you’ve watched your local TV station for news, Oprah, or other interview-style shows such as Ellen. Whey you view a PIP (picture in picture) shot, or a side-by-side view of several people being interviewed at one time, don’t be surprised if you see the Skype logo at the bottom of some of those windows. Skype is available to anyone with an internet connection, a computer, the free program, and a connected camera. It works better if the connection speed and camera resolution are good enough to support clean and smooth voice transmission and stutter-free motion.

Since Microsoft purchased Skype, would you use it for professional services?

Why It’s Good

1. Microsoft is good at plumbing. With the exception of Xbox and Kinnect, Microsoft has been razzed for being a software company of the past rather than the future. When it had a chance to bury Apple before the Mac OS 10 released, the world moaned and writhed if they were stuck with the buggy Vista. I swear, some people are still in recovery over Vista, even as they happily galavanted about with Windows 7. [BTW, I do like Windows 7 much better, and I never knowing used Vista before switching to all Apple products. I actually see myself using both OS’s, and in the future, envision a world where more than two OS’s thrive and co-exist competitively but not antagonistically].

But what we learned is this: Microsoft is good at plumbing. They are great with taking something that “is”, and repairing it, marketing, hyping, and launching. Purchasing Skype was not only a good move for Skype, but a good one for Microsoft, as it is within its scope to improve and relaunch as an even better product for business applications with high potential for profit. Just don’t ask MS to destroy Skype and make it over from scratch.

Personally, I am hoping that Skype’s redo will inspire Apple to add even more features to Facetime and give it a run for our money. Super woot.

2. Skype needs a makeover. Sure, we like the puffy cloud with the super “S” logo. But since its rise to popularity, it really hasn’t had much of an overhaul. For people like myself who use it for business purposes, I’m interested to see how Microsoft might develop two sides of this communication platform: social/personal, and business. With video becoming the more dominant aspect of Skype above phone calls, there is also a huge piece in entertainment to develop as well. I’m hearing rumors of how the software giant wants to make Skype more compatible with Social Media. And, will we see Skype in places like healthcare and educational settings? I certainly hope so! If so, I give it the big Imei #WOOT.

3. Microsoft’s purchase of Skype means better service to you if you’re purchasing counseling and coaching services. Skype and video chat therapy is the future, and very soon, it won’t be; it will the present, the NOW. I and a few others are already using Skype and similar platforms to conduct web-enhanced therapy to keep pace with technology, innovation, and the growing complexity of the modern lifestyle. By making Skype a division of Microsoft, Skype will get the attention that it needs to usher in professional services to your home, office, or travel schedule for working people and families.

While we will never replace human interaction, video chatting assists professionals like myself to “meet” individuals and families in need of counseling and coaching with whom meeting IRL (in real life) on a regular basis is either difficult, inconvenient and/or damaging to a family or work schedule, expensive, and/or impossible because of location. People can get the service they want with little or no compromise.

A better platform that works smoothly and looks professional will only serve my clients better and build more confidence on the part of users. Right now, Skype “works”, but it doesn’t have the professional aesthetic I would prefer. I hope Microsoft hosts discussions with developers and business professionals to offer choices to those who wish to use Skype for business, but even if they don’t, I have a good feeling that even developers and insiders cannot deny the business potential for Skype services.

Is there a possibility that Skype won’t be free? Not likely. What I do see is the strong possibility that for better service (i.e. premium services for companies, for example), Skype will offer additional packages for voice, video conferencing, and multiple-screen group conferencing (like Watchitoo), and press into the one area no one has done: allow for video chatting to be recorded by the host as a legal record.

What do you think? If you’ve never met over the phone or video chatting for professional services like counseling and coaching, what do you think Skype can do for you that would persuade you to try it? And what do you think about those who already use it this way, and yet live in the same city of the professional they have hired? Can you think of some situations where the above scenario makes perfect sense?