Why Clients Lie to their Therapists


In the realm of therapy, trust and honesty serve as pillars for personal growth and healing. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to engage in dishonesty during therapy sessions. In this blog post, we will delve into the motivations behind dishonesty in therapy and explore the impact it can have on the therapeutic process.

Types of Dishonesty in Therapy

Dishonesty in therapy can manifest in various ways, including:


Omission occurs when individuals intentionally withhold important information or selectively choose which details to share during therapy sessions. They may feel hesitant or uncomfortable divulging certain aspects of their lives or experiences, fearing judgment or vulnerability. By omitting key information, clients may believe they can maintain control over their narratives or protect themselves from potential negative consequences. 


Minimization involves downplaying the severity or impact of certain experiences or emotions. Clients may understate the significance of their struggles or present them as less distressing than they actually are. This can stem from a desire to maintain a sense of strength or self-sufficiency, or due to a fear of burdening others with their problems. 


Fabrication involves creating false narratives or stories that deviate from the truth. Clients may feel compelled to present themselves in a more favorable light or to elicit a particular response from their therapist. This can stem from a desire for validation, seeking sympathy, or attempting to project an image that aligns with societal expectations. 


Exaggeration refers to the act of amplifying aspects of one’s life or experiences. Clients may feel the need to emphasize certain struggles or difficulties to gain validation, support, or empathy from their therapist. They may believe that highlighting the intensity of their experiences will lead to a greater understanding of their pain or a stronger therapeutic alliance. 

Reasons for Dishonesty in Therapy

There are several underlying motivations that drive individuals to be dishonest in therapy. Fear of judgment and rejection is a common reason, as clients may worry about being negatively evaluated or dismissed by their therapists. Self-protection and the preservation of self-image play a role, as individuals may try to shield themselves from shame, embarrassment, or vulnerability. Perceived stigma and societal pressures contribute to dishonesty, as clients may fear the repercussions of disclosing sensitive or stigmatized information. The resistance to change and the fear of confronting difficult emotions can also lead individuals to be dishonest, as they may find it challenging to face uncomfortable truths about themselves. Understanding these motivations is vital for therapists to create a supportive environment that encourages honesty and fosters growth.

Consequences of Dishonesty in Therapy

Dishonesty in therapy can have significant consequences for the therapeutic process. It hinders therapeutic progress and accurate assessment, as therapists rely on truthful information to fully understand clients’ challenges and develop appropriate treatment plans. The impaired treatment planning resulting from dishonesty may lead to misdiagnosis or ineffective interventions. Dishonesty can reinforce maladaptive patterns and behaviors by preventing individuals from exploring and addressing the root causes of their struggles. It strains the therapist-client relationship, eroding trust and impeding collaboration. Dishonesty can also delay healing and prolong emotional distress, as without accurate information, therapists may struggle to provide appropriate support and interventions.

Navigating Dishonesty in Therapy: Therapist’s Role

Therapists play a crucial role in addressing and navigating dishonesty in therapy. They must establish a safe and non-judgmental therapeutic environment where clients feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions openly. Building trust and fostering open communication are essential in encouraging clients to be honest. Therapists need to be skilled in detecting deception and addressing discrepancies gently, providing a supportive space for clients to reflect on their motivations for dishonesty. Collaboratively working with clients, therapists can help identify alternative coping mechanisms and promote a gradual shift towards honesty and self-discovery.

Navigating Dishonesty in Therapy: Client’s Responsibility

Clients also have a responsibility in navigating and overcoming dishonesty in therapy. They should recognize the impact that dishonesty has on their personal growth and healing. Cultivating self-awareness and identifying underlying fears or insecurities can help clients understand their motivations for being dishonest. Embracing vulnerability and acknowledging the discomfort of truth are essential steps towards fostering honesty. Taking ownership of their actions and being accountable contribute to personal growth and positive change. Clients should commit to open and honest communication, actively engaging in the therapeutic process with transparency and authenticity.

Strategies for Cultivating Honesty in Therapy

To cultivate honesty in therapy, specific strategies can be employed. Establishing clear expectations regarding honesty and confidentiality from the beginning sets the tone for open communication. Normalizing the experience of dishonesty and addressing shame can help clients recognize that their struggles with honesty are not unique. Exploring the consequences and potential benefits of honesty helps clients understand the importance of truthfulness. Gradual disclosure and pacing based on client comfort allow for a gradual shift towards honesty. Therapists can also incorporate evidence-based interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or motivational interviewing, to address and challenge lying tendencies.

The Therapeutic Journey towards Honesty and Healing

The therapeutic journey towards honesty and healing is an iterative and evolving process. It requires patience, self-compassion, and commitment. Celebrating small steps towards honesty and self-discovery is crucial, as it acknowledges and reinforces progress. Nurturing self-compassion and patience throughout the process allows clients to navigate the challenges of honesty with kindness towards themselves. Recognizing the transformative power of authenticity and vulnerability helps individuals understand that embracing truthfulness can lead to profound personal growth and emotional well-being. It is essential to encourage clients to carry the lessons learned in therapy beyond the therapeutic setting, fostering continued growth in their daily lives.


Dishonesty in therapy is a multifaceted phenomenon, influenced by various motivations and fears. Recognizing and understanding the types of dishonesty, reasons behind it, and its consequences are crucial for therapists and clients to navigate the therapeutic process effectively. By creating a safe and non-judgmental environment, fostering open communication, and embracing vulnerability, individuals can embark on a transformative journey towards honesty and healing. Through honesty, personal growth, and lasting change become attainable, leading to a more fulfilling and authentic life.