Confession and Why It Works for Atheists

Alcoholic SecretConfession. Its common definition outside of the law is an admission of sins or unrighteousness--often in order to gain absolution and forgiveness for breaking the laws or ideals of a deity. But since there is no deity, why should it ever apply to Atheists?

What is confession for atheists?

I'd like to re-brand confession for the secular audience. If it isn't about sin and disappointing a god, then what is it and why should we adopt a seemingly religious word? I'd like to suggest the following definition:
Confession is an acknowledgment of something personal that perhaps needs improvement, is troubling or difficult, or opens one up to the inclusion of another person into the private parts of someone's life. Confession may be an admission of wrongdoing, a kept secret, a story of emotional trial, or even a cry for help.
Do you know PostSecret? Then you get an idea of what secular confession is all about. I grew up in a vibrant, passionate intentional community filled mostly with Catholics. The sacrament of confession is one of the most "holy" and beloved practices in that tradition. One of my closest friends attends a weekly confession with her priest. She meets with him in his office and talks to him about the struggles and frustrations in her life as she tries to become a better person full of love, mercy, and righteousness. I admire her for working so hard at improving who she is on the inside. If confiding in her religious authority brings her closer to what she truly feels is right, then good for her. She's a gentle and loving friend, and I know she wants to be honest and real with me. But why should a non-theist use a concept like confession if there is no sin or god to punish and shame us? One reason is because it works. When confession is used to better onesself and one's community, it helps people open up to one another about the realities and struggles in their lives. Love and care is shared, and the community becomes stronger. The Christian system in particular is certainly a flawed system based on unrealistic expectations and needless guilt and fear, but when the "crime and punishment" aspect of confession is removed, it becomes more like therapy, honest intimacy, and consultation rather than an admission of wrongdoing. This portion of confession is what I desire in my own life. Confession isn't about feeling shame or fessing up because you have to. As an adult, no one is forcing you to admit anything. We still have free choice to tell one another about our secrets and our darker moments.

Why confess to another person?