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Monday, 14 May 2018

Do your clients tell you lies?

The simple answer is that yes, some of them do. Maybe even most of them, although, of course, there's no real way to tell. Or is there? 
 
A study of 547 clients done by Blanchard et al [1] showed that around 93% of them had lied to their therapists, on issues ranging from minimising the extent of their distress, exaggerating how well they thought the therapy was going, and hiding information even if they were asked a direct question about it. Martin [2] found that of  109 psychology students undertaking therapy, 37% admitted to lying.

I suppose the real questions is why that might happen, when you're in a place to offer them help, and lies, half-truths and omissions might get in the way.
 
 

Ten reasons that clients might tell lies to therapists

 
  1. To avoid confrontation or upsetting the therapist - for example, saying you think the therapy isn’t helping can be difficult
        
  2. Editing - to simplify or streamline their story: it can seem easier just to say 'no', especially if they believe the information is irrelevant to the presenting issue
        
  3. Denial - admitting the true extent of their alcohol intake, for example, would impact on their self esteem or self-worth, or mean admitting that their drinking is out of control
        
  4. Lying may be a self-protective or attention-seeking strategy they have used for years, and they find it difficult to stop
        
  5. To protect or avoid criticism of someone else, for example saying their partner is supportive, when they are actually disapproving / unaware of the changes the client wants to make
        
  6. To avoid the consequences of the truth - fearing that the therapist might judge them, or even refuse to work with them if they reveal something shameful or embarrassing
        
  7. Lack of trust - the relationship with the therapist doesn’t (yet) allow them to feel safe enough to reveal the truth, although they may do so later on
     
  8. They are afraid the therapist will go to the authorities instead of keeping the information confidential. This can happen in some cases under the Duty of Care provision, of course, although it’s relatively rare
        
  9. They’re afraid of the therapist putting pressure on them to have additional sessions
       
  10. They're giving the answers they think you want to hear
 
 

 How to help your client share anything
 

  • Offer unconditional positive regard, no matter what your client says, feels or has done; make your sessions a safe place to be vulnerable
          
  • Accept that sometimes it takes a while for the client to feel safe enough to reveal certain truths
       
  • Don’t become upset or judgemental if it becomes obvious your client has lied: if you feel you need to point it out, explore with them why they might have done so
       
  • Help them to develop more positive coping strategies
         
  • Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions, even about things you think the client may find difficult
     
  • Help them to face the truth if they are ready, accept that sometimes they’re not
       
  • Offer other ways of sharing information than simply talking to you - for example writing things down, or drawing them
       
  • Ensure they are aware of exactly when you are required to break confidentiality (under the Duty of Care) and when you are not
       
  • Never put undue pressure on your client, or unnecessarily extend the number of sessions they need
     
  • Use clean language and never suggest that there's a 'right' or 'expected' answer to your questions
 


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Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
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References for this article:

 

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