A group of psychologists led by Barry Farber, a professor of psychology at Columbia University College of Education, has long been working on patient openness in psychology and psychotherapy. They conducted some studies and surveys which have confirmed that patients keep secrets, avoid painful topics, and often just lie:
The most common “unpleasant” topics are:
Patients named the following reasons why they prefer to hide the truth or tell only a part of it:
Much depends on the personal limit of an individual’s frankness, the perception of a psychologist and the reliability of psychological contact. Seventy percent of patients who hid thoughts of suicide were guided by a fear of undesirable consequences of their frankness, for example, forced hospitalization. Lying and being secretive about sex is mostly due to shame and embarrassment. People lie about their sexual lives, the presence of sexually transmitted diseases in the past and the present, fantasies and desires, dysfunctions, masturbation and infidelity. Some fear that candor will change the subjective attitude of the psychologist. In sexual minorities, the discussion of sensitive topics can awaken a feeling of their own “wrongness” and an inconsistency with generally accepted norms.
Of 798 patients, 65% answered that they do not discuss the topic of sexual activity with the psychologist and 80% do not talk about their fantasies or desires.
One lie stimulates another. Insincerity destroys the much-needed atmosphere of trust and slows down the process of solving psychological problems. Sometimes an individual chooses which topics to talk about and which to remain silent. The time of communication with a psychologist is often limited, and due to unnecessary secrecy, it is possible to miss important details or disrupt the therapy process. Frankness helps to find answers to questions of relationships, emotional state and health.
How to help the patient to open up?
Sometimes it is difficult to open up to a psychologist at a personal appointment, because first of all we see not just a specialist, but a person. In such cases, technical progress helps and remote anonymous psychological assistance is now widely available. Remember that you can always choose the most suitable format for psychological therapy.