Honesty in Therapy

Those of us here in Ohio and even some of you around the country have probably heard more than your share about Ted Williams.  An addict who professes to be clean and ready to move forward.  Yeah, it didn’t take more than one interview for me to know the truth.  His 15 minutes of fame would be up soon.

In fact, he lied to Dr. Phil to get home to see his children (meaning – I need one more fix before I go to rehab).  He then skipped out of rehab – because he thinks he will make it big in Hollywood and doesn’t need therapy anymore.  Yeah because Hollywood always makes multi-million dollar deals with stories that end horribly and back to where they started.  Here in America we just love pathetic movies where there is absolutely no chance of a happy ending.

The bottom line is that therapy is no good for anyone unless they tell the truth.  Ted Williams could be a successful person IF he gets clean and sober.  This involves telling the truth to himself and the therapist and finding out what got him addicted in the first place (not the disease reason or it runs in the family).  I am talking about where he was when he first took the drink, what he was thinking, why he was thinking, the whole nasty mess.  If after a few years from now he continues to be clean and sober, builds a relationship with his children, takes responsibility by holding down a job – than maybe there is a movie there.  The truth has to come out and be dealt with first.

For the average person using may not be the problem at stake.  The truth might be cheating on your spouse, stealing from your employer, raising a child you have a hard time dealing with (as a parent), feeling harassed on the job, feeling defeated as a person, lots of things could be your truth.  Talking to a therapist about these things, means you don’t have to hold onto it all by yourself.  Someone else is holding the bag/the mess for you.

Once you begin to let go of some of the mess that is in your life, you are freed up to think more clearly about your choices.  Since I am not your family member, lover, or friend, I am not the one who will be in your life once you leave the session.

I don’t like working with dishonest people anymore than Dr. Phil does.  He gets humiliated on television for something he already knows is the truth before it is told.  I’ve been lied to by clients.  Sometimes I knew it was a lie, sometimes I didn’t.  What bothers me is that they did not respect me enough to tell me.  I wonder what I could have said differently.  There are occasions when I realize I am not the right therapist for the client.  But this isn’t about me as a therapist, it is about you the client.

If you are not being honest with yourself, than you are getting no benefit from therapy.  Walking in the room and talking to me the same way you speak to your spouse, you’ve just wasted my time and yours.  Only now you have spent money to do it.  You might as well throw a hundred-dollar bill in the trash can.

The way I am talking right now may seem very harsh and rude.  It may make you feel a little afraid to come into therapy.  I feel though that what I am saying is no different from what your conscience is saying.   There is a part of us that wants someone to help us get to the bottom of things.  Sometimes we even need a gentle push.  Telling a therapist the truth is not going to make anything happen at the moment (unless you say you are going to kill someone, yourself, or are beating your child – which are all reportable, non-confidential statements).  At the moment, it is really going to release some of the pain in your shoulders, chest, or wherever you’ve been holding it on your body.  Getting it out in the open, frees you up to discuss what you want to do next.   What are your options?  Telling the truth is half the problem.  The next step is taking action.  I will talk more about that another time.

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2 thoughts on “Honesty in Therapy

  1. you said:”Telling a therapist the truth is not going to make anything happen at the moment (unless you say you are going to kill someone, yourself, or are beating your child – which are all reportable, non-confidential statements).”

    This is a key issue for many people who decide not to go to therapy. What one tells a therapist is only idealistically “confidential” and at times could lead to legal trouble for the client.
    Not only that, but if by chance a client ends up having to report a therapist to a Licensing Board, that therapist is required to submit his/her psychotherapy notes….no they don’t have to submit their “personal notes” but many do….and there is no guarantee to a client that they are not altered prior to submittal. Of course we’d like to think all therapists are honest and wouldn’t alter a clients notes, but it has been within my personal experience. The therapist I’m speaking of rarely took notes in session, yet after obtaining my notes through an FOIA request I found sessions that were completely made up, quotes I never made (they weren’t things I’d say or in my “style” of speaking), as well as 6 to 12 page “rants” about this therapists allegedly “real thougfhts” about me…quite creepy! (it was his counter transference showing up!), and much misinterpreted and inaccurate information.
    Another way for confidential info to become known is if their was a malpractice case brought against the therapist.

    So while I do agree that it is imperative to be emotionally honest in therapy, a client must use discretion as to exactly which details they choose to reveal to a therapist as they can get used against them later, and can be made public through an Licensing Board investigation or malpractice case. Please feel free to read through my blog for more info.

  2. It sounds like you have had a bad situation with a therapist and I saw on your website that you have gathered evidence of a few more situations around the country. I daresay you could find the same evidence against doctors, lawyers, priests and other religious clergy, and bascially any professional field available. I am sorry to hear you have met with such a situation. There are stories of professionals who make mistakes all the time in every field. I’ve been lucky to have met some really good therapists in my personal experience. I think there are more good than bad. We have a licensing board who holds us up to standards of practice, as well as a professional association.

    What I can say though is that I don’t take notes in session either. Sometimes I might jot something down, to remind me of something but if I am busy writing, than I am not paying attention. I do write notes after the fact and I don’t put something in quotes unless I remember exactly what they said. I used to work in an office where they preferred that therapist type on a keyboard while the client was in session. I did not do that either. The clients I worked with there told me they did not appreciate someone banging away on a keyboard while they were talking. Some clients thought it was okay. So it really depends on the person.

    Though if a person is NOT coming to therapy because they are afraid of a court situation or because they are thinking of harming themselves, another, or have beaten a child/elder, well I should think that if they act on the latter situations it will come out one way or another – only it will be unfortunate and too late. Of all the professionals I know, court situations they have had to deal with are few and far between (if ever). Since I used to work with Childrens Protective Services as a social worker, all parties knew it would happen and it was expected. So I’ve had my share of court cases. I now choose not to work with clients who are involved in child custody disputes because I do not want to be involved with this and I am not allowed in my state to form an opinion, as per our licensing regulations.

    I will reiterate that therapy is a waste of time if you are not telling the therapist the truth. If I were seeing you in therapy, I would want to know up front that you had had these bad experiences with a therapist, so that I could deal with your concerns. I’ve dealt with clients who have had bad therapists and bad social workers. And “bad” is really subjective as it generally means they didn’t like them. Your situation sounds much different. My notes with a client are not going to be questioned by the licensing board unles you, the client, turn me in. I have integrity with myself and my profession and so I don’t forsee this happening with my clients. If I am subpoenaed in court because you, the client are on trial, yes, this would happen also. But notes are not randomly checked or questioned unless the client is involved with court or has approached the licensing board to file a complaint. If the client was involved with court, the client and I would discuss the notes and discuss their case. Nothing would be a surprise.

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