Ethics Matter – No Client reviews and Transparency

Ethics Matter …No Client Reviews for Therapists & Why, and Transparency

Who do you believe? Interesting research shows the something like 80-90 % of persons searching (and that is the way many people find services they need in current times, right?) the internet for doctors and therapists, just like looking for home repair specialists, look at google reviews and other such site reviews. I get it, yes and for something like air conditioning repair it makes sense. However did you know it is considered “unethical” for therapists solicit and to put testimonials from clients on their websites and/or solicit google/yelp and etc.client reviews?

It is acceptable /ethical to have reviews from colleagues or mentors, but NOT CLIENTS. This may happen by accident in fairness to those therapists who do have google reviews from clients, however, the ethical practice is to discourage such since it may compromise their confidentiality and working relationship with the therapist as well in unforeseen ways.

Why? You may be asking. Well, for some very good reasons one of which is mentioned above.

I write to inform the general public so they can seek out ethical competent psychotherapists who match their particular need. I typically encourage friends and clients whom I have referred out to ask very specific questions they need to know to see if someone will be a good fit. While google reviews do help for such things as home repair when you choose a therapist, you are choosing a confident, and someone with whom you have no other conflicting issues with to concern yourself.

You may still disagree with the ethics boards of mental health professionals, but even if you do, Remember, ethics do matter. You may say you still wish you could see what other clients thought of this or that therapist before you see them. That is understandable, yet, remember, the information may not even be real, and it is considered unethical if it is genuine to list client reviews.  One additional reason is that such serves only the therapist and not the client.

This should concern you because if a therapist violates one ethical guideline to drive business to themselves, it does say something about their integrity and motivation in other areas.

Ethics matter quite a lot. While I have made every attempt to keep up with ethics and law, I also run it past my personal sense of conscience and integrity as well. So on my site I do not list any testimonials even though some clients are so kind to send thank you cards and call or email to leave their gratitude.  I deeply appreciate that.

So how do you judge among a sea of licensed therapists?  Well check out the therapist’s credentials first of all. Is it truthful, and are there certifications verifiable? Also do they provide answers to your questions before starting therapy and ask you if you have any. I give my clients a written statement of my practice guidelines and up front information on fees, hours and availability, confidentiality limits, email, cancellation policy and have done so for many years.

Therapists who are reluctant to tell you their fees up front, also might raise a red flag. I publish those openly on my website as do many others, but some I notice do not. This, while not unethical is certainly not in keeping with our psychotherapy practices in general of being as transparent as possible because people coming to counseling are likely in somewhat vulnerable positions and often under stress. We owe to them to be honest and as clear as possible.

You can also find out ethical guidelines on the Texas Licensed Psychologists, or Texas Licensed Professional Counselor or Texas Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist websites, or easily google in general mental health practitioner guidelines around things like client reviews.

I bring this specific issue up, because sadly I see many are now doing so and while others of us could, we will not. I would rather lose business than encourage a practice that misleads specifically for marketing purposes or puts clients or former clients at risk for losing confidentiality or causes a dual relationship.

Likewise be suspicious of therapists who tell you there is no issue they cannot deal with well and assure you no matter what your presenting problem, that they are the best therapist for you.  If they tell you  they are very experienced in a certain area, ask about their training in it, what specialty certifications do they have, etc?

Why?  Well, while we are trained to deal with many issues and varied client populations, all therapists have their limits and some are more specifically trained in one area than another. For example recently I was asked if I was experienced in Sex Addition therapy to which I honestly said, it is not my forte/focus, and educated the person that Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) exist and I have a short list of CSAT s that I refer out to so that the client gets the best possible care.  However, others in my area are now listed as competent in this area, who simply informed the person, that they were experienced in it…sad for those who may suffer the consequences.  So ask and research the area and specifically ask are you for example “Informed” in a certain area, and how?  Or are you certified and what did you do to obtain that certification? Is there a website I can check to see you are certified in that area?

In another area though I can honestly say for example, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, and have practiced certified it over the last 27 years and used the concepts before certified. 

However, you will find therapists who say they use Imago concepts, but they should be honest enough to say if they are only Imago informed (meaning maybe they read about it, etc?) and what that means, or if they have actually done the over one year and a half long training sent in their taped practice for review and are Certified. There is a notable difference.

So while I would like to think most of us are as honest as we can be, you as a prospective client have every right to ask many questions about approach, belief system, education, ongoing training, frequency of dealing with certain issues, etc.

At least now you know, while google reviews by colleagues and nonclients, are entirely permissible on therapists sites, client reviews are not and circumspect, if not completely unethical.

I do realize such reviews may occur without the therapist’s knowledge on sites like google but they should not be solicited and should be discouraged. Sadly I see many therapy websites listing client testimonials, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they do not know this is unethical, however, part of my mission(perhaps hailing from my ancient journalism training) is to be as honest and educate the general public as much as  possible.

Ultimately you are the judge of what works best for your situation, yet I strongly suggest you be informed about ethics before swallowing any therapist’s claim that they are proficient in certain areas.

Most important though remains the relationship between you and your prospective therapist. You should experience a genuine sense of respect and care for your concerns and a willingness to explain any methods or theories or processes they may suggest and why they might do so.

I advocate the same with physicians, though I do not believe ‘No Client Reviews’ is part of their ethical code, but you can look it up.

Bottom line, google customer reviews are likely OK for many other professions and trades, but discouraged for mental health practitioners. Again we need to be discerning consumers and especially when it comes to our healthcare, so I do not know how much I would trust a review on the web anyway. I love stuffed avocados recommended on google at a certain restaurant, but…hey I am quite sure I have different expectations and taste buds than someone else. And do not get me started about reviewing Italian restaurants- my Sicilian family taste buds make me way too discriminating for most anyone else. J

So just be informed, your therapist choice has a great deal to do with your specific need and goals and despite what you might be told, no one therapist is the best for every area.

Keeping you informed ….as best i can…next I will try to go over all the alphabet soup that follows our names…at least some of the more common ones and how this relates to turf issues:)

Hey I still look at google reviews for restaurants and such, so enjoy but I hope you now know to look deeper when it comes to choosing a therapist!  Remember we do not really know who is writing that google review.