The High Cost of Keeping Secrets: How Family Get it Terribly Wrong

By Brad Lamm, CIP & Kathleen Murphy, LMFT
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The High Cost of Keeping Secrets

The call or text arrives, and the person on the other end of the line is in crisis. Imagine a sort of 911 call that centers on a crisis rooted in a mental health moment running the gamut from afflicted, addicted, or affected as reported from the other end of the line.

Making the call or text is an act of power, of courage. It is a shift from holding a secret to expanding the circle to include an outsider. This place often holds ground as a red line in the minds of those who love those who suffer.


You know how it goes since you’ve lived it. At what cost? We spin in silence as the one we love swirls down the drain. We confuse the nature of secrecy that insulates mental health illness from help with something sacred.

Sacred is a baseline connection to the holy, of knowing and loving. The secret is by nature a withholding, a burden shared by few, that carries a high cost, according to clinical research.

Accessing help need not be secret. There is no shame, blame, or guilt in needing support from a professional. When a loved one who suffers confuses secretly with sacred, silence rushes in to feed the illness and suffering rather than help reduce it. We see those costs more easily outside our windows than in our homes. Award-winning creator Shonda Rhimes regularly features a secretive fork in the road as a pivot point for her storytelling power on her hits like Queen Charlotte, Bridgerton, and Scandal.

The costs of secret silence are extraordinary. The value of blowing secrecy up is equally profound. The booooom begins with picking up the phone or tapping out a text.

These calls never bother me; never an intrusion. They don’t distress or distract. Answering them is my calling.

Breaking secrecy is the first step in accessing help, breaking the cycle of stillness and isolative do-nothing. Believe this — when someone says NO in any way to help, you are qualified to intervene.

As an interventionist, I create a safe and supportive environment for families to share their thoughts, what I call their Eyewitness Accounts. Just the truth explaining:

  • What have you seen?
  • What are your fears?
  • What is your hope?

If you know anything about me, you know I am an invitational interventionist. That is, I advocate using only as much pressure as needed and beginning with initiating the identified loved one to meet with the group, where we prioritize the safety of all in the room.


Brad Lamm, CIP || America’s interventionist & author of How to Help Someone You Love: A New Way to Intervene: Brad founded the residential trauma program Breathe Life Healing Center in West Hollywood, CA, in 2013. Brad’s other books include Quit Vaping, JUST 10 LBS, On Breathing: A Recovery Meditation, and Crystal Clear & Sexually Recovered, the clinical guide supporting recovery from sexualized drug use. Breathe Life Healing Centers is a certified minority-owned & operated business (LGBTQIA+) that has treated more than 4000 patients since opening its doors while providing more than $4M in scholarship care for those in need.

Kathleen Murphy, LMFT || Kathleen is Breathe Life Healing Center’s founding Executive Clinical Director. Her career is built on more than 30 years of experience working with people suffering from substance use issues complicated by relational trauma. Kathleen has used Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, IFS, AEDP, Interpersonal Neurobiology, polemics, and didactics. Her focus on psycho-education, experiential group processes heavily influenced by attachment theory, and psychodrama techniques assist clients in reframing and reclaiming the self as a being in a relationship.

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