Tell the Truth

Tell the Truth

Letting Go of Our Inscrutable Facade

March/April 2002

There is a basic inequality built into the therapy contract--we ask clients to disclose their vulnerabilities, while we hide behind a facade of unflappability, presumably floating above ordinary human foibles, untouched by the jolts and discouragements of life. We're not supposed to discuss our personal problems, or even acknowledge having any. While preaching congruence, who among us has never pretended fondness for a client we actually disliked, didn't understand and didn't trust? But on at least two ticklish occasions, with a minimum of strategic deliberation, I opted to step out from behind my own well-cultivated facade of inscrutability to tell clients the unvarnished truth--with surprising results.

The first time came at the end of a particularly long and trying day that had started promisingly enough in the office of a colleague with whom I had spent almost two years working on a book. But that morning, he informed me that after rereading the first three chapters--the part I had considered finished--he had come to the conclusion that the material had to be completely reworked. What was worse, changes in these early sections would affect everything else in our draft. He was talking about another year's work--if it could be done at all. To make matters worse, I could see at once that he was absolutely correct. I was so stunned that once he had finished delivering his verdict, I got up without a word and stalked out of his office. All I could think of doing was…

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