Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Therapy Watch: Lying on the Couch

Decoding deception in treatment. How therapists handle lying in therapy.

How do therapists know when their clients are lying, and how do they handle it? We asked the members of Psychology Today's Therapy Directory .

Pick a Canard

I have troubled teens split a deck of cards to represent the ratio of honesty in their stories. In almost every case they'll hang onto 6-8 cards of untruth. I then assist them in understanding what their thoughts are about these fibs—not what are the lies, but what are their fears about the truth. Quickly they bring out the Rest of the Story.— Rick Morris, Largo, Fla.

No Gotcha Games

I am very responsive to my clients' ambivalence, such as when they make some brave-on-the-face-of-it statement about how it was "really okay that he or she did that," but underneath they are hurt. Their cognitive dissonance comes across in subtle ways. It usually just takes a little push to elicit a fuller description of their feelings. When people have their defensive self-presentation sympathetically interpreted for them, they usually feel understood rather than "caught."— Susan Meindle, Montreal, Quebec

Know Your Audience

A client lied about an abortion, but her story didn't make sense. When I shared my confusion, she began to squirm. I simply said, "It is hard sometimes to share things when you don't know how the person will respond. Is there anything you need to know from me to feel safe to share your truth?" Then we progressed. — Heather Browne, Garden Grove, Calif.

Type your ZIP code into our Therapy Directory , and see who's near you.