Therapist Deception, Is It Ethical?




Curtis, Drew A.
Perez, Blake
Johnson, Jessica F.
Kelley, Leslie

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Southwestern Psychological Association


People lie frequently in various contexts (Vrij, 2008). Even therapists lie (Curtis & Hart 2015). The current project explored students’ and therapists’ beliefs about the ethics of therapist deception within psychotherapy. There were 245 students and 38 therapists recruited for the current study. All participants were provided with vignettes of therapists lying or being honest and subsequently rated the ethics of the vignette. The truthful vignette was rated as more ethical for therapists (M=99.53, SD=9.11) and students (M=98.19, SD=16.17) compared to the deception vignettes. One-sample t-tests for revealed that therapists and students deemed it unacceptable to lie to clients (p <.001). Overall, therapist deception is deemed less ethical than telling the truth. Lying to clients is viewed as unacceptable and unethical. This is not surprising, given that professional values and ethics code reflect honesty as a value within its 5 core principles (APA, 2002; 2010). It appears that both non-therapists and therapists deem deceptive practices as less ethical than being truthful. These results suggest that therapists may consider adding honesty and integrity as an ethical policy in the code of ethics, specifically for interactions in counseling and psychotherapy.



therapist, deception, ethics, lies