Is Everyone Out Here Lying To Their Therapist?

According to TikTok, I'm not alone in my tendency to hold back the truth.

Why do we lie to our therapists?

A few years ago I went through a phase where I was really into doing standup comedy. I’d walk up on stage, tap the mic, look into the bright lights, and try to land my five-minute bit. Today, my comedy sets are reserved for my therapist, whom I’ve come to view as an audience member instead of a health care professional.

My goal when we log onto Zoom is to be as funny and likable as possible — and that often means I don’t tell her the whole truth about what’s going on in my life. Why would I want to ruin the vibe of my 45-minute special when I could make her laugh with quippy observations and lighthearted commentary?

I consider my session a success not if we’ve had breakthroughs or a-ha moments, but if we giggled for a good portion of the time.

I also found out that I’m not alone with my silly little approach to therapy: On TikTok, the topic of lying to your therapist has over 600 million views, and there are countless stories just like my own. Whether you tell a white lie, a whole lie, or simply gloss over your bad day with a laugh, it seems fairly common to hold back.

We’re All Out Here Lying To Our Therapists

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In a perfect world, you’d peel open like an onion the moment your therapist asks how you’re feeling. But according to TikTok, it’s common to smile and say you feel great — even when you don’t.

Creator @makenzyksmith admitted that she replies to her therapist’s questions in a way that she hopes will paint her in the best light. Instead of being honest, she gives the “right” answer, despite knowing it isn’t the whole truth.

Then there’s @carlabezanson, who said her therapist thinks she’s thriving and doing great, but it’s only because she’s telling cheeky little lies. In reality, her therapist doesn’t know what’s going on in her life.

A peek at the comments section revealed that many folks do the same thing. One person agreed by saying, “I don’t want my therapist to judge me” while another wrote, “I’m a people pleaser. I want them to feel like they’re doing well at their job.”

Why We Lie

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According to Carrie Torn, LCSW, a licensed therapist in North Carolina, there are multiple reasons why people might lie to their therapist. “One is that once we say something out loud, it can feel more real and true,” she tells Bustle. In that case, it's easier to keep things light so you don’t have to face tough topics.

It’s also common to omit certain facts until you get comfortable with your therapist, Torn says. It can take a while to test the waters and make sure you’re in a safe space before you talk about your past or reveal dark secrets.

People pleasing is another big factor. According to Torn, you might feel some internal pressure to assure your therapist that you’re doing OK, and that often involves sticking to small talk. Instead of sharing how you truly feel, you might reply by saying that you’re “good” or “busy.”

If you’re like me, you may also try to make your therapist laugh rather than reveal what’s on your mind. “Humor is a great coping mechanism and a way to deflect from deeper feelings that may be uncomfortable,” she says.

How To Get Real

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It’s fine to turn to some of these tactics on occasion, but if you catch yourself performing standup week after week, Torn recommends asking your therapist to hold you accountable.

They can encourage you to open up, and they can make you liable when you start to give one-word answers. It’s also perfectly acceptable to say you aren’t quite ready to talk about a certain topic.

“Remember that the goals you have in therapy are your goals,” says Torn. “You can be honest with your therapist about the things you don't want to or aren't ready to work on just yet, and that's perfectly fine.” A good therapist will help you get there in your own time.

It could also help to say out loud whenever you feel the urge to lie. “After naming it, your therapist will be able to help you go deeper to explore this impulse and help you break this habit together,” says Torn.

In some cases, you might realize that you aren’t fully comfortable with your therapist, and that’s when you should feel free to move on and find someone else who will be easier to talk to. After all, the goal is to eventually let your guard down. You can always find an audience for your jokes elsewhere.


Carrie Torn, LCSW, licensed therapist in North Carolina