One of the most difficult parts of marketing a private practice is our inability to request client reviews or testimonials. Most businesses thrive on having their consumers write positive reviews online and tell others publicly of their experience. We’ve all seen requests from restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores petitioning the buyer to “Let Us Know How We Did“ or “Write us a review and receive 10% off.” We often seek reviews to help our decision making when seeking a new product or location. So easy for most businesses, very problematic for those in the mental health service field.
Did you know that it is unethical, inappropriate, and unprofessional to ask a client to write a review about the counseling services they received with you? The ACA is very clear that counselors must not solicit testimonials from current, former, or any other person who received counseling services from that provider. Mental health professionals who do so are in direct violation of our counseling code of ethics. Even anonymous reviews are discouraged.
So why is this such a big deal? In short, it exerts undue influence and manipulates the power differential that may exist between counselors and clients. Requesting, or worse yet, requiring, a client to create a review of their counseling experience, even if it’s been positive or beneficial, is unethical.
As professional mental health providers we are required to adhere to strict standards of maintaining confidentiality of private health information. By suggesting a client divulge any portion of their private health information is inappropriate. Client have rights to have their experience and other details of their counseling record protected- this includes if they attended counseling, who their clinician was, how long they attended, when they attended, etc.
So what about the clients who post their reviews without the counselor or anyone from the agency suggesting they do so? For the most part, counselors are in the clear IF there is no response back. As much as you would like to thank the client for their review, are suggest ways to mend any problems they experienced, this is NOT ok to comment publicly about. Any communication with the client, confirms you know them. So don’t respond back online, as much as you want to. Rather, wait until your next appointment if possible, to speak directly to them OR perhaps give them a call during business hours.
As mental health professionals, we are not only held to a high standard, we must also hold ourselves to an even higher one. Marketing efforts are key to a thriving business, but compromising the protection of clients by petitioning for reviews is a non-negotiable. Reviews are indeed helpful with marketing pursuits, very much the same way we use them to vet in or out any new place we want to try out. But don’t do it- don’t request, don’t recommend, don’t petition or don’t suggest in any way a client leaves you a public review. If they do it on their own accord, we must refrain from engaging back. No if’s, and’s or but’s. Your license is not worth a review- even a good one.