Lying in Psychotherapy: Results of an Exploratory Study
Type of DegreeDissertation
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Although the topic of lying in psychotherapy has been addressed in philosophical and theoretical discussion, it has received scant attention in research endeavors. In order to gather data on lying in psychotherapy, the Lying in Psychotherapy Survey was developed. A link to this survey and three additional surveys (designed to measure the quality of the therapeutic relationship, clients’ satisfaction with their therapists, and social desirability) was sent to graduate students in psychology and related programs via the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students listserv. Participants were graduate students in psychology and related fields who reported that they currently were or previously had been clients in psychotherapy. It was hypothesized that individuals having less positive perceptions of their therapeutic alliances would be more likely to report that they had previously lied to their therapists than individuals having more positive perceptions of their therapeutic alliances. It was also expected that individuals who lied to their therapists would report being less satisfied with treatment outcome than individuals who did not lie. Data were collected for a total of 109 participants: 40 who indicated that they had previously lied to a therapist and 69 who indicated that they had never lied to a therapist. Results of a logistic regression analysis revealed support for the hypothesis that lower scores on the therapeutic relationship could predict lying in psychotherapy: individuals with lower scores on this instrument were more likely to report that they had lied to a therapist than individuals with higher scores on this instrument. Results of a t test revealed support for Hypothesis Two, which predicted that individuals who lied to their therapists would report being less satisfied with treatment outcome than individuals who did not lie to their therapists. It was concluded that lying in psychotherapy is a common phenomenon that may be influenced by clients’ perceptions of their therapists and the therapeutic alliance. Implications for psychotherapists, explanations for the obtained results, limitations, and recommendations for future studies are discussed.