The dirty little secrets are not what the sacrament is about. The sacrament is a reconciliation with God. Sin separates us from God and Confession/Reconciliation/Penance (different names for the same sacrament) bring (reconcile) us back to God. This is why the confessors say, "It's humbling, liberating, a great grace."
The confessor sees how the penitent is sincerely trying to live a moral life. They don't like what they've done, or how they are, and want to start over. The confessor sees the desire to be a better person, to get closer to God, to be what God them to be. The confessor is humbled to be an instrument that God uses to be the means to speak in persona Christi. The confessor sees how much people love their spouses, and children, and parents, and others. These people truly are God's children and want to live that way. They want their relationship with God to be better and that's why they're there--in confession. No wonder priests call it humbling and a great grace.
And we Catholics are blessed to be the recipients of that grace. We Catholics get to experience God's mercy. Yes, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the way to get closer to God. Receiving the Eucharist is as personal a relationship anyone can get; we become One with God. And the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the means to the Eucharist.
This topic was inspired by my reading of a 3-month-old newspaper article. "Confession is about the mind-boggling mercy of God," by Fr. Dennis Baker, in the National Catholic Reporter, November 20-December 3, 2015, Vol. 52, No. 3, columns 23.