Truth.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Telling the truth.

Truth.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Truth.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

― Mark Twain

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

― Mark Twain

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

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What is Genuineness?

By David Joel Miller.

Being genuine means being honestly who you are.

To be genuine means to be truthful and to be the real thing.  Genuine people are exactly what they represent themselves to be.  Genuine people are never fake.  What you see is what you get.  Genuine people are never copies or imitations of others.

Being genuine makes your life better.

Genuine people

What is Genuine these days?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Being genuine can be hard. You have to put yourself out there and risk being disliked. What you may discover is that the opposite of genuine is being fake. People who are fake get found out. If you try too hard to please others, you may end up not even pleasing yourself.  This been a lot written recently about living an authentic life.  An authentic life begins first with getting honest with yourself and becoming a genuine person.

While being genuine can be scary sometimes and you need to be cautious just how much and what parts of yourself you show to whom, people who develop genuineness as a part of their character end up likening themselves a whole lot more. Below are some simple advantages to becoming more genuine.

You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not.

Genuine people stop having to pretend.  If you have ever felt you had to pretend to be something you’re not in order to have people like you, what happened was you probably lost a lot of yourself in the process.

The most important person you have to stop pretending to is yourself.  If in your life you only get honest with one person, that one person needs to be you.  Once you’ve developed that self-honesty it becomes much easier, to be honest with others.

People who don’t like you the way you are, don’t really like you.  Hang out with people like that and what you find is that people who like the fake you are fake friends.  Real friends know the real you can still like you.

You get to say what you mean and people accept it.

Genuine people say what they mean and mean what they say.  Start acting genuine and people either accept you the way you are or they quickly exit your life.  You shouldn’t have to hide your thoughts and feelings from others to win their approval.

Being genuine doesn’t mean that you have to blurt out every criticism that comes to mind.  When you’re genuine your friends don’t have to wonder if what you’re telling them is the truth.  Genuine people are very valued for their honesty.

You get to live your life, not someone else’s.

Genuine people get to live their own authentic lives.  Trying to pretend you’re something you know you are not, results in your living a life someone else wants not the life you want.  Genuine people get to live their lives their way.  When you live a genuine life you do not have to have regrets.

You don’t have to avoid responsibility.

Genuine people take responsibility for what they do.  They understand that it’s OK to try things and fail.  Since they are really being themselves, they can also admit when they are less than perfect.  Being genuine means it’s OK to make mistakes and be less than perfect.

People who are afraid to be genuine, the fake person kind, spend a great deal of time hiding their mistakes.  When you live in a genuine way, it is easier to live up to your responsibilities.

It is easier to accept compliments.

Phony people have trouble accepting compliments.  Genuine people have no difficulty in accepting compliments when they have done something well.  Genuine, authentic people are able to accept praise for things done well because they are also able to give themselves that credit.

You can recognize and compliment others. No need for jealousy.

Since genuine people accept themselves exactly as they are, they can give others the space to be themselves.  There’s no need for a genuine person to be jealous. Complementing someone else doesn’t diminish you when you feel good about yourself. Genuine people find it easy to recognize when others have done something well and are able to complement them on it.

You become more secure.

People who live a genuine, authentic life get to lose the insecurities.  The more genuine you are the more secure you can be because you accept yourself just the way you are.  Genuineness breeds security.  Since you are not trying to be fake, you don’t have to hide parts of yourself and you don’t worry about being found out.

You are not threatened by others successes.

People who are genuinely themselves are not in a competition with others to be something they are not.  And they can be fully themselves and still allow others to be who they are.  Genuine people can feel honestly good about other people’s successes.  Genuine people get to enjoy watching their friends and colleagues achieve great things.

You can admit when you are wrong.

Genuine people can admit when they are wrong.  There is no need to cover up or hide any of their imperfections.

You don’t worry about being a fraud. Your words and actions match.

Dishonest people are always afraid of being found out, they believe they are frauds.  When you live a genuine life you don’t have to worry about being found out.  Genuine people allow their words to match their actions and their actions to match their words.

You don’t need stuff to feel good about yourself.

Genuine people feel good about themselves and don’t need to accumulate a lot of stuff in order to validate themselves.  If you’re living the life you genuinely want, there’s no need to keep up with these Joneses.  Genuine people buy things because they want them not because they need to pretend.

How genuine a life are you living?

Now might be a great time to take another look at your life and see if your living the kind of life you really want.  Can you see how being genuine can have advantages for your mental health?  Work on being genuine and honest with yourself and see if you don’t feel a whole lot better about who you are.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Being verbally blunt can be a good or a bad thing.

By David Joel Miller

Saying what you think can get you liked or it can get you hated.

Telling the Truth

Telling the Truth
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are you one of those people who find they can’t help saying what they think? This can be a blessing or a curse. If you have this trait and it has gotten you in trouble or damaged relationships read on for some tips on how to make this characteristic work to your advantage.

Some people who are blunt, speak their mind, are perceived as rude and irritating. Others get the reputation of being frank and honest. Telling the truth, being extremely straightforward, comes with risks. Holding back on information makes people question your honesty.

It is hard to trust people who won’t give you a straight answer.

Being too cautious about what you say can lead to never really giving anyone an answer to their questions. Those folks who do not respond to others statements may think they are avoiding conflict. What they accomplish is to leave everyone wondering what they really think and can they be trusted.

People who change their opinion when they move from person to person do not get trusted. Get clear on what you think and want, then find ways to convey your positions in a consistent manner if you want to be trusted.

Being straightforward about your feelings and beliefs can get you the reputation for honesty if – and only if – you do it correctly.

It is not what you say but how you say it.

Think of this like cleaning the dirt off a fine old wood table. You can use a clean, soft, polishing cloth that contains some cleaner specifically made for that special wood furniture. Or you can use some steel wool. Both will get the dirt off. One leaves it healthy and restored and the other will leave scars in the finish.

If you dislike something, explaining why in calm gentle language, makes your position easier to listen to. If you express yourself in statements laced with profanity or attacks on others you turn your listeners away. Cruel words hurt regardless of the truth of your statements.

Learning to slow down what you are saying so that it comes out the way you mean it is an important skill. You need to learn to prevent collateral damage from the way others may interpret what you said. Much of the poor communication people talk about is the direct result of ambiguous statements that get interpreted in ways the speaker never intended.

There is a right way and a wrong way to convey bad news.

Saying things in a blunt way when it is done in a hurtful manner can result in lasting damage to the relationship. When expressing something that may be hard to hear, concentrate on the other person and how they feel. How would you want someone to tell you that they disagreed with you?

Work on putting yourself in the other person’s place, not on discharging your negative emotions. One technique for expressing disagreements without destroying relationships is called the Sandwich technique. Take a look at the past post describing how this can be an effective way of delivering bad news without harming the other person.

Become comfortable with others disagreeing with you.

Think very carefully about what you believe and why. Become open to other points of view. The people who create the most wreckage with their bluntness are often those who are insecure in their own beliefs.

If you start feeling threatened when others have a different view then there is a possibility that you are shaky in what you believe. If others not agreeing with you is threatening, then work on yourself, not on forcing others to agree with you by yelling louder and attacking their thoughts.

Learn to disagree without attacking the other person.

When you disagree with someone learn to think of this as someone who has a different opinion not someone who is “ignorant” or “stupid.”  Calling people names impedes communication. Someone who makes a mistake is not any of the global characteristics people may call them.

One error does not make them “stupid.” Very intelligent people make mistakes. In fact the more you learn and think about the more likely you are to make a mistake. Calling people names or personally attacking them does not make you right or improve your situation.

You and others have the right to be wrong sometimes.

Sometimes you will believe something and later find out that you were wrong. You have the right to be wrong. We all do. Allow that in disagreements others have the right to make mistakes and be wrong from time to time. It is not helpful to believe that someone who is incorrect about something is a “liar.” Allow others to be wrong when they are and let things that are not all that important go.

There is little value in spotting someone else’s errors and pointing them all out. Rather than this being helpful, this can permanently damage a relationship.

People, who grew up in a non-affirming environment, where they were never told they were OK, grow up to be low in “self-esteem.” You do not need to destroy someone else’s self-esteem by pointing out all their flaws. Finding others errors will not do much to elevate your self-esteem. Let it go.

For more on the topic of bluntness and honesty and when it may damage relationships you might also want to look at a past post: Just being honest

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

So how is your bluntness working for you?

Criticizing, complaining and asking for change.

By David Joel Miller.

Criticizing, complaining and asking for change.

Communication skills part 3.

Communication Problems

Communication Problems
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Ed Yourdon)

When something bugs us what should we do? When we are unhappy we are likely to react in one of a very few ways. Will you say nothing, become angry or take a middle road and try to talk about the issue?

Some people say nothing and suffer in silence. For those people, we recommend assertiveness training. If you do nothing about a problem then you become part of the mechanism perpetuation the problem not part of the solution.

Some people react to annoyances by becoming angry and acting out. Even if the violent approach works in the short run it is likely to result in long-term undesirable consequences. An excessive response to a problem may wind up in you having to do an Anger Management class, going to jail or permanently damaging the relationship.

In between is the “let’s talk about it” approach. Some ways of talking with the other person are more effective than others.

Criticizing is not communication.

Criticizing is the method most often used and least likely to be helpful. This method attacks the other person. You call them names for not doing what you think they should. Statements get made like “you don’t respect me, you are a slob or other personal attacks.

Criticizing does not make any friends. When we are criticized we are likely to become defensive and reply with our list of all the things the other has done. Criticize someone too often and they may stop listening altogether.

Criticizing cuts off communication rather than improving it or getting things to change.

Complaining does not help communication.

Complaining involves talking about how the issue is affecting you.  While a slight improvement over criticizing it rarely gets anything to change.

This is a recurring behavior in work settings where people complain about how they have to too much to do and saying other do not help and so on. It can become the standard operating procedure in some settings.

People who work as professionals in a complaint department know, or should know, the importance of listening to the customer’s complaint. Until the person feels their complaint has been heard nothing much is likely to happen to resolve that complaint. But eventually, the process needs to move beyond complaining.

Some relationship skill building programs suggest combining the complaining behavior with the next step, problem-solving or asking for change. While complaining may be a way to tell the other person what is upsetting you, moving to the next step and stating the specifics you want to change is most likely to improve the situation.

Asking for change improves communication.

Of all the ways of dealing with problems, this is the most likely to improve the situation despite seeming to be the hardest thing to do.

Use good problem-solving skills. Ask for change and stay on the problem and how to solve it. The greatest chance for an improvement is to find a solution in which both parties win rather than a win-lose situation. There needs to be genuine two-way communication, hearing and being heard.

Making things better.

Make sure that when you have a problem with another person that you avoid the name calling and the personal attacks.

Clearly, state the problem as you see it. Ask for specific changes such as not interrupting you when you speak rather than global things like being nicer.

Listen while the other person describes how they see the problem. Work towards understanding their point of view. Look for a solution that meets both of your needs.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest        

Criticism, complaining, asking for change.

How are your communication skills? Are you criticizing, complaining or asking for change?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Just being honest – 5 times telling the truth is a bad thing

By David Joel Miller.

Not all “truth” is created equal – Communication Skills part 2.

As children most of us were taught we should always tell the truth, even when we knew the adults around us were not being truthful. In relationship counseling, we spend a lot of time on communications but improving communication does not always improve the relationship.

People who say they are “just telling the truth” find that their relationships suffer. Truth and honesty can build trust in a relationship but there are times when telling the truth can be both harmful and misleading.

Some people can say the most hurtful things, only to excuse what they have said by reporting “I am just being truthful.” People who use the truth defense are usually not so very receptive to having their partner reply with similar truths.

While telling the truth is a very desirable characteristic here are sometimes when the truth may damage relationships and may not be the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

When your version of truth is an exaggeration.

Common statements, especially during arguments are “You always – You never, you are totally.”

Categorical statements are rarely, if ever, true. This way of saying things is meant to put the other person down and is criticism for criticism’s sake.

Criticism is a way of being hurtful and may cause permanent damage to the relationship. You don’t get to do this and then play the “I was only being truthful” card.

When you say it out of anger the truth is you are angry.

Things said out of anger are meant to hurt. Even if you avoid the exaggeration trap you are likely to say things laced with sarcasm and personal attacks. “Truths” said in anger, are going to damage not improve the relationship.

Having hurt the other person they have no incentive to work on changing anything. When you are saying things in anger you are lashing out not looking for constructive resolution. Even if the statements were true, when you are full of anger, this is not the time to have that frank talk.

The truth telling was all about you.

Sometimes “being honest” is about pointing out all the possible flaws in the other person in order to make yourself feel better about you.

Being honest is one thing, but there is no reason to blurt out every single defect you see in the other person. No one needs or wants that much honesty all at once. Think about the purpose behind telling someone the things you see wrong with them.

Is your honesty really about helping them improve or is it coming from a place of selfishness on your part. Honesty like meals needs to be spaced out over time as the need arises.

If you really want to be helpful talk only about as much of the person’s faults as they are ready to hear. Be sure you are not just doing these things to make yourself feel superior.

If the Honesty talk is all about the other person’s faults and you are not ready to own any of the faults this is not real honesty.

You can’t sleep at night or have an emotional hangover after truth telling.

If after a binge of “ruthless honesty” you find you are unable to sleep at night. If you are emotionally drained for a while after the conversation then you might be experiencing an emotional hangover.

Telling someone off, like drinking too much, may feel good at the time but it is likely to come with the cost of an emotional hangover.

If you find you regret what you have said after an episode of “being honest” You know that the reason is the damage that what you said has caused to the relationship.

Excess of negative emotions, especially anger and fear will lead you to do things while emotional that you may regret afterward.

“It was true” may be a defense in a court of law but it will not make for happy relationships.

The other person is not ready to hear it – you need to use compassion.

Yelling at the deaf and showing pictures to the blind don’t aid communication. Telling someone more truth than they are ready to hear is only going to harm your relationship.

If you really want to end the relationship you don’t need to catalog the other person’s faults to justify your decision.

Remember to practice your compassion skill first and the honesty will have a place to grow when needed.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest        

Criticism, complaining, asking for change

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.

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Communication is not what you think

By David Joel Miller.

Why communication is not getting you anywhere.

Communication Problems

Communication Problems
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Ed Yourdon)

Ever feel like “We just can communicate?” Ever say that? The old standby in counseling, especially relationship counseling, is to teach people to be better communicators. Usually, the clients are disappointed with the results.

Everyone communicates all the time. If someone gives you the cold shoulder you know what that means, right? The stone wall and the icy silence speak more than words could ever say.

Fact is, it really is impossible to not communicate. Most of us are pretty good at communicating angry, hurtful messages. It is the happy, helpful messages that get lost between people.

The problem lies in what people mean when they say they can’t communicate.

Most of the time people who say they can’t communicate mean one or more of the following things, sometimes all of them.

The other person does not do what you want them to.

Good communication does not mean the other person will give in and do what you want. Improving your communications skills will not suddenly have you winning all the arguments. What it might do is increase the chances you could have a discussion with the other person and you could find a solution to a problem that works for both of you.

If there are fundamental differences in what you want or believe, better communication is not likely to change one of you. What it will do is to help you understand why the other person thinks and feels the way they do. But after all that understanding you two may still not find a way to agree.

Religious differences are a common example of this. You may think communication about your beliefs will change the other person. Occasionally it does. Most of the time this conversation highlights how we put off these conversations as long as possible and then get disappointed when the other person does not come around to our way of thinking.

They don’t like the message they are receiving.

Lots of communication is sabotaged by having so many negative messages included in the communication no one in their right mind would want to listen to this conversation.

Verbally beating your partner up and then excusing that behavior in the name of “communicating” is guaranteed to result in more problems down the line. Just being Honest is no excuse for deliberately hurting someone else and it is not a communication style that is likely to improve a relationship.

Communication is all about the way in which we send and the other person understands the message. If there is an underlying message of “you are no good” or some other negative evaluation, improving communication will likely lead to a realization that the real problem is not the communication but the feelings behind it.

There are immense differences between Criticism, complaining, asking for change. If what you are hearing about yourself from the other person is hurtful, it is hard to hear much else.

They never hear anything good.

We tell parents that they need to “catch their children doing something right.” The principle applies to adults also.

If the only messages we hear are negative, we tune out. The surest way to reduce communication is to only communicate when there is a negative message. A constant stream of negative messages makes the other person stop trying. There is such a thing as “learned helplessness.” When you begin to think that no matter what you do it will never be good enough you stop trying.

Good communication includes small talk.

Human relationships are built by time together, positive time. It is not in the huge weighty matters that relationships are built but in the small day-to-day conversations where you come to know the other person.

Small talk is not a waste of time. It is one way to make relationships closer and more intimate. We grow fond of others not because they are of the correct political party or have the correct view of the world but because we share common interests.

Take time to talk about the colors and textures of life. The best communication comes when you are able to open yourself up and talk about who you really are as a person way down inside.

Communicate to the other person that they are important enough for you to want to spend time with them. Try to do this without the distraction of other activities that need to be done. Make sure that your time together is not one where you divide your attention between the other person and the T. V. or a computer.

What do you think? As always comments are welcome. Look for more posts on communication and relationships skills in the near future.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest 

Criticism, complaining, asking for change

How are your relationships, how are your communication skills and for you are the two related?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

How much should you tell a therapist?

Photo from Burningwell

By David Joel Miller

Do you wonder how much you should tell your therapist? What is it ok to talk about and what should you keep to yourself? Here are some guidelines.

1. The more you are able to talk about with your therapist the more likely the process is to help you.

If you feel the need to hold back on something you need to ask yourself why. Consider if this is something that might really affect your life or is it just embarrassing. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk with your counselor. They have probably heard it all before so they are not likely to be surprised. Their goal is or should be, to be helpful. They can’t really help you if you won’t tell them things that are bothering you.

2. Ask them about confidentiality

When you first came to meet the counselor they should have covered the rules and the limits of confidentiality. Some things are confidential, meaning the therapist won’t tell anyone else, some things are not. When you meet your counselor for the first time there is so much on your mind that you may not have understood it all. If you signed a copy of a confidentiality policy you should have received a copy. This is a part of the “informed consent” they are supposed to do. If you have any doubts about this ask them.

There are certain things that counselors can’t keep secret. By law, most counselors are required to report child abuse and the abuse of elderly or disabled people. If you have done something like that or know about someone who was abused, the counselor can help you by working on the reasons you acted that way. They should try to help you change. They can help you with the process of admitting what happened and helping the victim get treatment. If you were the victim of abuse when you were a child most counselors will not have to report that unless the abuser is still around and might be abusing someone else.

My suggestion to you is to ask the counselor about their procedures before you tell them something you might regret. This will give them a chance to explain the rules of their profession and the laws in their jurisdiction. Consider that even if there are consequences to you for telling it still may be worth doing. They say we are only as sick as our secrets.

If you are suicidal counselors are supposed to report this. Not to hurt you or take away your will but to try to save your life. Most times the client will report afterwards that they were glad someone cared enough to prevent their suicide.

In most places, the relationship between a patient and their therapist is protected by law. So outside of specific things they must report, like child abuse, therapists are not supposed to disclose other things you talk about. They are not police investigators and they don’t have to report most crimes.

3. How much do you trust them?

The whole process of therapy depends on the trust between you and your counselor. Despite all the laws requiring therapists to keep things confidential, some people are not trustworthy. If you don’t feel you can trust your therapist– don’t tell them your secrets until you have resolved that issue. Now some of you have “trust issues.” You have trouble trusting anyone. Working with a counselor to learn to be more trusting should help that. So start by telling the counselor a small thing and see how that feels. You can work on the bigger things later on.

When I first started in this field I went to see a therapist. We are all supposed to have that experience if we want to understand how it feels for the client. The therapist should also work out their own issues in their own therapy, not in sessions with clients. I asked the therapist I was seeing if what we talked about was confidential. Their response was to ask me what I meant by confidential. They never did answer my question. So I avoided talking to that therapist about anything which might reflect on my future career. The lesson I learned was that if my therapist would not give me a straight answer about my questions I did not feel like trusting them. I make an effort to never do that to one of my clients.

P. S. I did eventually find someone I did trust to talk to about those issues and everything worked out just fine.

4. What is the consequence of this getting out?

If you might be embarrassed by a revelation say that you had a crush on some movie star when you were eight, even if the therapist did slip and tell your family you might be embarrassed, you might never trust that counselor again, but your life should not be ruined. If you cheated on your taxes or your wife and now feel guilty, having that revealed might be life changing. Think long about telling your therapist where you buried the body unless you need them to help you confess that to the police and clear your soul. While therapists are not supposed to violate confidentiality and tell about clients past crimes sometimes it happens. When this happens the therapist loses their license and the client gets to feel really happy about that the whole time they are in prison. Neither of those outcomes is what therapy is supposed to be about.

The point of requiring therapists to keep clients secrets and to tell them up front what will and won’t be kept secret is to make it possible for them to discuss their problems without fear of reading about their issues in the local paper. Without that level of trust, most therapy would not be helpful. This is similar to doctor-patient or lawyer-client privilege.

5. Who do they work for?

If you want your counselor to keep the secrets you tell them within legal limits, then you need to hire and pay them.
If you visit a court appointed therapist or one at the school or CPS they are working for the agency that referred you. They may have a duty to tell the court, CPS or the school what they think and what you said. They should be clear about this when you go to see them but if they are not – be careful and ask about confidentiality before you “spill the beans.”

6. Do they have a no secrets policy?

Some therapists, Marriage and Family Therapists and those working with children may have a no secrets policy. When I work with a couple I don’t want to be working on saving the marriage if I know that one of the parties is having an affair. I might tell both parties that I can’t keep secrets from the other partner if we are to work on improving the relationship.

This is a big issue when we work with children. Some parents want us to find out all the kids secrets. This does not work. After we tell the parent the first secret the child decides to never be honest again. This may require some balancing.

If an eight-year-old tells me they snuck a sip of dad’s beer or took some cigarette from a store and tried one, I don’t feel the need to tell the parent. I want to find out why the kid is doing this and work on that issue. What if the kid is injecting heroin in his arm? I think I should tell the parent that. So if it is life threatening I will tell the parent. I have covered this policy when I first start seeing the kid so he knows if it is life threatening or really scary stuff I plan to help him tell his parent but I can’t keep that secret. I do say that little stuff, the kind of stuff most kids do. That can stay just between us.

So there you have some guidelines for what to share with your counselor and when. Hope that was helpful.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.

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