Should I Tell My Therapist Everything?

person on the couch talking to their therapist

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Going to therapy is no easy feat. It takes courage to be willing to share your deepest feelings with a mental health professional.

In therapy, it is completely normal to experience fears of judgment or hesitation to share intimate details of your life. In turn, you may feel uneasy at the thought of telling your therapist everything or may wonder how much information is too much information.

This article will explain if you should tell your therapist everything and why.

Should I Tell My Therapist Everything?

In short, yes, you should tell your therapist everything. Transparency in therapy can support you in meeting your clinical goals. After all, therapy is a large investment of money and time.

Verywell Mind's recent survey found that the average cost of a therapy session is $178. So, if you're investing money into therapy, it's best to be transparent that way you can get a treatment plan that's tailored to your needs.

Additionally, treatment can often be a long-term process lasting longer than six months. So, with the cost and time investment in mind, it pays to be honest with your therapist in order to make sure the therapeutic process is worth your while.

Despite the Benefits of Being Honest, Many Clients Lie to Their Therapist

A recent study found that 93% of people have lied to their therapist, about 73% of which were directly related to the therapy itself. Sometimes the lies were about liking a therapist’s comments or stating they feel psychotherapy has been effective, with respondents admitting they lied to be polite or protect their therapist’s feelings.

However, a lie about agreeing with the therapist or stating the therapy feels effective when it actually doesn’t isn’t useful in furthering the progress of therapy. Instead, being honest about how you feel in therapy can help the therapist provide you with the best care possible. 

Research indicates that the relationship between the client and therapist is incredibly important when it comes to achieving therapeutic goals.

A strong relationship with a client can often lead to great breakthroughs in the therapeutic room. However, when a client isn’t honest with a therapist, it is hard to build an authentic relationship with one another. In turn, the therapist may not be providing the most effective treatment because they are not receiving honest feedback. 

Think About Why You May Be Hesitant to Open Up to Your Therapist

If you've lied in therapy or realized you didn't tell the whole truth, it's important to consider why you lied or why you feel reluctant to be vulnerable.

Consider Your Feelings

Simply stating you should tell your therapist everything may not be enough to sway you towards doing so immediately. However, thinking about the reasons that cause you to lie or not open up can be helpful:

  • Shame: Feeling shame can lead to withdrawing psychologically and even physically. If you find yourself feeling shame about details in your life, parts of your past, or even how you feel in therapy, you may find yourself detaching from the clinical relationship or even contemplating ending treatment
  • Reluctance: It's normal to feel hesitation when sharing details about your life with someone that you don't know that well. Keep in mind that therapy is a safe space that should be kept void of judgment. Consider sharing with your therapist that you’re hesitant to share everything, even if you’re not ready to share the details you’ve been omitting. Your therapist may provide you with some skills that can help you open up more. Or they might ask you what you need to feel more inclined to be open.
  • Embarrassment: Maybe you overreacted to something in your personal life and you feel embarrassed to share that with your therapist. You might fear that your therapist will judge you or laugh at you, but that's not the case. Therapists are there to help you gain an understanding of your reactions, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Anger: Maybe you are upset about something your therapist said and want to tell them how you feel. Even just mentioning that you do feel bothered can create a dialogue so that you can work through that together.
  • Fear: It's also possible that you're scared to share things about your life. Maybe you've experienced trauma or relationship issues and you fear what their reaction will be. Understand that therapists are not there to judge you and they're trained to listen to and understand topics that may be difficult to talk about.

Remember that all of your emotions are valid and it can be healthy for you to share them with your therapist.

What If I Do Feel Shamed or Judged?

If you ever feel judged or shamed by your therapist, scary as it may be, it is important to tell them this. Should they have a response that is anything other than professional and compassionate, consider finding a new therapist.

Understanding the Limits to Confidentiality

While therapists are required to keep your personal matters confidential, it is important to remember that there are times when your therapist must break confidentiality for legal and ethical reasons and tell a third party about content shared in your session.

Let's take a look at when a therapist might do this.

Reasons That a Therapist Breaks Confidentiality

A therapist will break confidentiality only under emergency circumstances such as the following:

  • You have an intent to harm yourself or others
  • You share information about current child, elder abuse, or abuse of disabled people
  • Your therapist receives a court order (this occurs in instances where the patient is involved in a legal case and their mental health needs to be evaluated)

If You've Been a Victim of Previous Abuse

If you disclose that you have personally experienced abuse in the past, a therapist will typically not be required to report that information. However, ask your therapist about confidentiality so you have a better understanding of what may be reported.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What to Do If You Don’t Trust Your Therapist

It can feel uncomfortable to be fully transparent with a therapist if you don’t trust them. Feeling distrust in the therapeutic relationship can stem from multiple sources.

Perhaps they had a reaction to a deeply intimate issue you expressed that felt harmful. Maybe they come from a different cultural background and you feel they can’t understand your experience. Or it could be that trust is already challenging for you, and you’re not ready to let your therapist in. 

Letting your therapist know how you’re feeling can be very helpful in discerning if you and your provider are a good match. Sometimes we are grappling with our own challenges around trust, which a therapist can help you through if you’re honest with them.

Other times, it's possible that you and your therapist are not a good match.

Remember that therapists are trained mental health professionals. They are there to help you sort through the uncomfortable stuff, even if that means supporting you in your choice to work with another provider.

How to Find a New Therapist

If you find yourself realizing that you cannot be candid with your therapist because it isn’t a good match, you may be wondering how you can find a new therapist.

First, take a moment to pause and honor how important it is that you are prioritizing your needs. Taking charge of your care and advocating for yourself to receive the best support possible is a huge step. 

Notice how you feel talking to them in the initial consultation call. You may be surprised to find that there is a provider who you instantly feel comfortable with. Then, you can move forward with them if you choose to do so.

A Word From Verywell

It can take time to find a therapist that is a good fit and get comfortable in the therapeutic relationship. While navigating your healing journey, honesty with yourself and your therapist is key.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. American Psychological Association. Protecting Your Privacy: Understanding Confidentiality.

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.