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Do clients lie in psychotherapy?

The fairly obvious answer to this question is yes –  it happens all the time and it is very common. I think that, from time to time, all people feel that they need to lie. Some people are, of course, compulsive liars and, presumably, they fit into a separate category. Sometimes we lie in order to protect someone from the truth and we are creative about what we tell people – this is a form of lying in its self. Lying in the therapeutic situation is often a form of resistance. People know that whatever they say will be kept confidential; they are in a safe place to talk about whatever they need to talk about (Howes, 2019). However, some people will feel embarrassed about telling their psychotherapist or counsellor things that are personal to them and this is a form of resistance. Sometimes, people are not ready to talk about very personal topics – for example, stories about shame, embarrassment, guilt, and topics of a sexual nature. Sometimes clients will lie about the progress made in the psychotherapy: some may exaggerate treatment gains, while others may ignore any positive changes that have occurred during their time in psychotherapy. For example, a gambler might lie to his psychotherapist and tell him that he had not done any gambling whatsoever whereas, in fact, he had been going to the betting shop a number of times during the week.


Does lying have an effect on the psychotherapy? The answer to that is of course yes; however, the most important aspect of the psychotherapeutic relationship is the fact that the therapist has an unconditional positive regard for the client. And, whether the client lies or not, he knows that the psychotherapist has his best interests at heart. If the psychotherapist discovers that the client has lied during the session is important to discuss this in a non-judgemental fashion. This will not work if the psychotherapist has an accusatory tone; rather, is important to identify this and discuss its relevance. The lie may even offer a solution to the client’s problem as this particular time.


DAVID KRAFT is an experienced psychotherapist who has a clinic in Harley Street and in Enfield Town.


For counselling/psychotherapy appointments in Enfield call 07946 579645


David Kraft

Enfield Psychotherapy


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