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Being Honest & Transparent with your Medical / Mental Health Providers

Deciding to get a medical/mental health provider is the first step to becoming your best self. The next is being honest with them, which does not come easy for many people. Medical/mental health professionals who are legally bound (in most cases) to keep your information confidential. Health providers are one of the most important people to tell the truth to because if they’re not aware of the issue then how are they going to help, as well as to what the health provider thinks or does, the biggest factor is getting help. Doesn’t it make sense to be completely honest with them? Wouldn’t lying be a complete waste of your time and money? Yes but unfortunately people still lie so now we must ask ourselves “why.” To answer correctly we will stick with mental health providers. These findings were done in a study by Matt Blanchard, Barry Farber, and their “Lying Lab” at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Why People Lie To Their Mental Health Providers

547 therapy clients found 93 percent could recall specific topics about which they have lied to their therapist in the past. Most commonly, clients lie to avoid the shame and embarrassment they feel even in the confidential, protected space of the therapy room. Clients also report lying to avoid a distracting topic they believe will take the therapy off track. However, professionals find that motive varies dramatically by topic. For example, when clients lie about therapy, it’s generally to avoid upsetting the therapist. When they lie about suicidal thoughts, it is almost universally to avoid tangible repercussions, like being sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Why It’s Important Not To Lie

One of the biggest benefits of being honest about your situation is that the therapist, if you feel this person is trustworthy, can better help you. If pieces of the puzzle are missing, the counselor is limited in terms of their understanding of the issues at hand, or worse, may make suggestions that do not accurately reflect your situation. The counselor may also be confused, thinking that things don’t quite make sense, and feel unable to make any recommendations at all. Sometimes even the type, or method, of therapy that is provided may be completely unhelpful if it is based on an inaccurate picture of what you are actually struggling with.

Again, assuming that the counselor you are working with is trustworthy and non-judgmental, telling all relevant aspects of your story can be an opportunity to free yourself from emotional pain.  When we hide aspects of ourselves that need help, we may inadvertently be sowing the seeds of shame, as shame flourishes in a climate of secrecy. Not only that but if you have a mental health provider that judges you or doesn’t make a safe space for you then consider finding someone new. 

Now that we’ve covered all of the “whys” let’s move on to ways you can be more honest and transparent. Simply saying “don’t lie” won’t be effective because there is still a fear of judgment and shame so instead here are a few tips to being more open to your health providers.

1) Make a list of talking points.

Don’t just write short bullet points, add little notes to help yourself remember what you were feeling or how that impacted you. You can also add any questions you have to the list.

2) Share your concerns.

It’s important that you also share your concerns with your health provider. If you are worried about confidentiality or have questions about what they will do with any information you share with them, ask!

3) Tell them if you need help opening up. Additionally, do what you can to help them help you.

If you are not sure what to share, not sure of the words you want to use, unclear about what feelings or issues you are experiencing, let your health provider know.

4) Challenge yourself.

If you are someone who never talks about your issues, make it a goal to share one during each visit. See what it feels like to share, and if it is scary or hard, let your health provider know.

Source: “Tips for Being Open and Honest With Your Counselor” by ThriveWorks, “Why People Lie to Their Therapists” by Psychology Today, and “Truth Talking: The Role of Honesty in Counselling” by Willow Tree Counseling

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