Can Therapists Tell When You Are Lying?

When I was a child, my mother would have me lie down on the couch while she explained how things were going in her marriage. She knew I was lying to her, but she still did it. Later, when I became a teenager, my therapist asked me about the incidents in my childhood. I told her that she could not know what I was hiding because I only told her the truth.

Now, this is not to say that a therapist cannot notice something that you may be withholding. They should be able to pick up on subtle changes in your demeanor. However, if your therapist has a hard time gauging what you are trying to hide, you will probably not get the help you need. A therapist does not want to spend their time guessing what you are trying to hide.

As a matter of fact, most of the time, your therapist won’t even ask you questions about why you are lying. You may think that they are curious about it and that it is perfectly natural to ask such a question. You might also assume that your therapist will be sympathetic to your position and won’t make you feel guilty for being dishonest. Unfortunately, your therapist won’t be sympathetic because your goal is not to convince your therapist that lying is normal or beneficial.

How can you get your therapist to see that lying isn’t right and should not be encouraged? First, you need to decide whether your therapist should trust you or not. If your therapist makes you feel stupid or if you’re continually denied of your basic needs, then you may be viewed as unreliable. People with depression, substance abuse issues or other mental health disorders often cannot decide whether or not they are lying. Your therapist needs to see that you can be trusted to tell the truth.

Next, you need to prepare yourself for what might happen during the session. Your therapist may ask you questions like, “Were you aware that you were lying?” “Did you feel foolish while lying?” “Did you feel uncomfortable or guilty while lying?” “Did you experience any negative emotions after lying?” Your therapist’s questions are important; listen carefully to what he says, but don’t give any explanation or answer until he has explained what he is talking about clearly.

If you are worried about being seen as dishonest, then you may want to set the record straight before your session begins. Write down your truthfulness up front so that your therapist will be able to review the information later. Take an objective look at what you are saying and do, and think about how it may make you feel when your truthfulness is questioned. If your truthfulness is found to be in question, then it may be time to find another therapist.

Most lying questions center on whether or not the information you’ve provided is accurate. It’s your therapist’s job to verify the facts of what you say, and how much you say. If you are found to be giving untrue information, the therapist may find you should discuss what is being omitted or even ask other people for corroborating information.

When you’re lying, don’t try to lie too! You might think that the more you say the more likely you are to win. In actuality, the more you tell the more your truthfulness will be questioned. As with most areas of life, your therapist needs to find out the why behind what you’re doing. Ask honest and direct questions; don’t make emotional responses or avoid the questions altogether.