Therapist Reputation Management: Yelp! Or Yikes?

We all know that the mind, body, and spirit are indivisible: we can’t treat any one aspect of a person without the whole being affected. That being said, each therapeutic discipline has its domain, and way of healing. Somatic therapists generally provide therapy in a physical way, whether it’s hands-on or through the senses. Psychotherapists, on the other hand, care for the emotional, spiritual and social aspects of a person, and the medium is the relationship.

In the world of psychotherapy, ‘good’ or ‘effective’ therapy is often in the eye of the beholder. The playing field tends to be relatively level given that most people practicing privately have similar credentials, and are practicing ethically. However, the variety of temperament, style, and approach that practitioners use is wide: the ‘tone’ or ‘flavor’ of a therapist is generally as individual as his or her personality.

After the basics are met, it becomes about the ability to connect with and assist your clients in a way that they appreciate and value. The question is, how do we communicate that ability to potential clients when, legally and ethically psychotherapists aren’t allowed to request testimonials, or to post responses when they are reviewed online? A therapist’s office is like the rest of the world: some people are really going to connect with what you have to offer, and some people won’t.

While you may understand that a bad or neutral review may simply mean that there wasn’t much connection or shared vision of treatment, your average bear looking for a practitioner may not. And that makes the prospect of client reviews on websites like Yelp potentially scary.

How to Protect Your Reputation Online

  • In your first meeting with clients, explain the importance of ‘fit’. Talk about your particular approach and areas of expertise, and explain that not every approach works for every person.
     
  • If you see your practice on Yelp, go on and unlock your business profile.
     
  • Make sure there’s a picture of you on your Yelp business profile; this ensures that reviewers metaphorically ‘look you in the eye’ when they post a review. A reminder that there’s a real person involved encourages people to be more considerate and balanced.
     
  • Once you're on Yelp, add a short notice in the ‘About This Business’ tab explaining that while you are legally and ethically prohibited from responding to comments on the site, you do read and consider all posts and appreciate the feedback.


What would be really great is if Yelp had a disclaimer for all services that stated providers are bound by HIPPA laws around confidentiality and therefore unable to respond to client reviews. Potential clients likely have no idea why practitioners are not responding to their neutral or negative posts; they may assume that the silence is either due to a lack of respect for a client’s opinion, or worse, that the review is accurate.

Hmmmm…..maybe we’ll contact Yelp and ask them to post a more prominent Healthcare communication notice/disclaimer for their HIPPA regulated categories?

But what if you're already suffering from misrepresentation?

Assuming you're an ethical therapist with unearned bad reputation, you may want to look into employing the services of a reputation management company. The New York Times recently examined the booming online reputation management industry, take a look and see what you think.

Now to you: What are your thoughts on therapist reviews? How would you write a short client friendly healthcare notice for a review site. What would you include?

Update: Here is a link to a site, Doctored Reviews, which talks about medical anti-review contracts. I'm thinking this is not the way to go about it. People want reviews - the issue is, how do we make review sites fair and reliable?
 

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Comments

Another opportunity to learn what's out there in cyberspace! I didn't know about Yelp - where does the "average bear" find these sites anyway? First, I think it is important to recognize the distinction between an "online" reputation - which is arguably quite important, and a personal (real world, to some) reputation. I would imagine that the recommendation of a friend, colleague, or acquaintance would trump the online reviews almost every time when a potential client in need of HIPPA-regulated services goes looking for a practitioner. It sure does for me; not that I don't START a search online - or even consider all the options presented online. However, if someone I know has had a particularly good (or unfortunately bad) experience with a potential provider - they often DO (HIPPA be d***ed) tell me exactly why that it was so for them - and that information is invaluable to my own decision-making process. Because the article's author is absolutely correct; it is all about "the fit". What works for one, does not for another. Chocolate and Vanilla, etc.

So, if I were to write a review - what would I say? I would give facts (were they ready for me at my appointed time, and if not - did they have a good enough excuse?; was their office/meeting space physically comfortable - temperature, furniture, location, etc.) first. Then I'd give a brief description of their personality - AS I EXPERIENCED IT FOR THAT SESSION - AND SAY SO (Were they warm and friendly, or more professional and business-like? Were they open to questions, or did they just want to dispense advice/medicine? Did they maintain eye contact with me when I "shared" something important? Chatty or quiet? Then I might say - in as general terms as possible - why this did or did not work for me, and what I was looking for and if iI felt I found it with this individual. I might make a suggestion or two - if I thought the practitioner was one) going to read my review at all in the first place; and two) actually open to suggestions to improving their relationships with clients - me or others. Even if I was generally disappointed, unless there was gross negligence on the therapist's part, I would find at least one positive thing to say - if I said anything at all. I probably would not write a review on a practitioner that I felt was truly dangerous or incompetent; I would report them to the appropriate overseeing board - which is much more effective at addressing REAL problems than just dissing someone in cyberspace so I can feel better. Which leads me to the question: Isn't that what every potential client/patient should be doing? If you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all - at least online. And for just the reason the author stated. There can be no real discussion about it; and therefore no resolution, due to the privacy policies. So take your complaint where it belongs - but sing the praises of those you wish to promote.

I totally agree that people should report negligence/danger to the relevant governing bodies; I can't count the number of times I've heard people describe things that are unethical and damaging, like therapists having sexual relationships with clients, etc., but with an unwillingness to report it. And yet there seems to be such relative ease in attacking someone's character in a comments section online. I guess I get that people feel more comfortable with anonymity (and a total lack of consequences), but I agree with Denise that the best place for serious complaints is with someone who can actually do something about it.

leigh's picture

Very true Heather - I've been studying therapist behavior online and it's quite interesting. So many therapists are tied in knots about how to "be social" and or ignore the web all together because they are scared pant-less by the possibilities!

The sad thing is that real live human beings want to know what other real live human beings think of their providers. That information is not readily available - it's just beginning to come on online. I think Angies List might be good, but you would have to pay to see those reviews.

I can't speak for others, but when I go "surfing" the Web, I am turned-off by sites that make you pay before you get the chance to try them out. Now, I am not an online business, either, so I am sure there are many valid reasons for this practice. I have only ever paid for an online review/information one time - to get information on the surgeon who was to operate (and did) on my mother in a multi-facedted complicated procedure. For that - I paid. For reviews of what strangers think of therapists who may or may not even be in my area or affordable to me - doubtful (never say never) without some really good additional incentive. The therapists I know - both psychotherapists and bodyworkers who are the best - they do like Leigh said - they avoid the Web (as pertains to their work) altogether, and for the reason she gave. And they are otherwise quite progressive as individuals and professionals. And yet; the other point Leigh made is quite valid - real live humans DO want to know what other real live humans think of their providers. And if not online; where else are you going to go to get that information? Not everyone wants to share with their friends, co-workers, boss?, spouse?, that they are looking for help - of any kind. Though of course, we all know that nothing is every truly confidential once it's posted to cyberspace, either. So, they may as well "ask around" - and look online, too. I don't know Angie's List that well (it took some significant time/digging to find out how much membership would cost (and the cost is based on your broad geographical market) though; and for me, that's a deterrent. But for others - especially city-dwellers, it could be just the ticket. Again with the individualization - so much the key to successful relationships; online and off; everywhere.

leigh's picture

Indeed, as a consumer I wouldn't pay for therapist reviews, or restaurant reviews or anything like that. I think people to turn to Angie's List when there is both a high risk and high cost -- so getting it exactly right the first time is vital -- like picking an oncologist or a home builder -- then you might shell out for a membership.

Reviews, Reviews...
Well, I went looking for a back/spine doctor, and the ones associated with the Summa Health Care System, have a list of doctors for each location. Also, there is a place to rate the doctor/office visits, like with the number of stars, (ala restaurant or movies). People could also explain the reasoning behind the number of stars. They might rate it 2 out of 4 because they had to wait an hour to see their doctor. Or they might rate 3 out of 4 because the doctor was only moderately helpful. Another question on the 5-part questionnaire was "would you visit this doctor again?" Then the patient could say yes, no, or maybe, and even offer an explanation as to why.

I think that doctors and providers could answer back in a general way, without mentioning any names or violating anyone's privacy. They could mention that they are sorry that sometimes there is a wait but emergencies do happen, and they will try to eliminate this by phoning patients to come an hour later or to re-schedule, and take $20 off their bill on the next visit, etc.

And address other issues that come up a lot, such as price, or side effects of some medicines that need to be prescribed.
Like in my case, a doctor could write up: "When patients take Lyrica, they can expect to increase their weight quickly, get blurry vision, dry mouth and constipation, and feel very tired and lethargic. These are side effects in the package insert of your prescription. Patients who are bothered by these effects can use eye drops, stool softeners and laxatives, NoDoz, and do exercise like Yoga or Zumba. If it's the only pain medicine that works, then a patient has to consider the trade-offs, and we doctors know that it can seem depressing at times."
This way, typical critiques by clients can be addressed as a whole, without any blame or finger pointing.

PS What was not particularly addressed at the Compassionate Friends meetings I used to attend when our first daughter drowned (this was years ago so I'm not sad anymore) was that couples or people who mentored the group were not specialists in grief or councilors, but were regular people who had lost a child maybe 5-10 ago, and therefore, were mostly over their grief process. They would tell us of their experience, (gory - like stabbing to death, or being run over, etc) but that over time, the horrible feelings of anger and sadness had slowly dissipated for them, and would also happen to us. We were desperate to hear that, but in such agony, it was like someone telling you that a very painful tourniquet will be loosened in 2 years' time!! Yikes and Yelps on that one! We were living hour to hour, day by day, couldn't even think past the next 24 horrible hours without our child...
So it would have been helpful for this National Organization to have real grief councilors on hand for the newly bereaved. My husband refused to accompany me after 3 tearful sessions, telling me I was crazy to keep on going, even though others told us we should go for a year, not only for ourselves, but to encourage others as we progressed through this fiery trial. So I went by myself, leaving my other infant daughter in his care. It was a long and dark drive to this Highway Patrol meeting room they rented, but I went until I could go 4 hours without crying, maybe for 8 months. After a dark depression lightened, and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe 18 months later, I could speak to other parents elsewhere without breaking down, though I could palpably feel their pain, and prayed fervently with them and afterwards, that the Lord of all mercy would envelop and comfort them, like he had done with me.
Somehow everyone survives, and it would have been helpful to not hear that 8 in 10 marriages break up after the death of a child. But I said No, I would not let this happen, for the sake of my one remaining child. I could not have anymore, or was afraid to, since I was in my 40's, had hard pregnancies, Csections, and feared mental retardation in a child, or so I heard would happen. It was a hard year: a move to a farm from the city, a birth, a death, and turning 40 all at one time. But I'm here to say I made it, and am a happy person, knowing that one day I shall see my precious Lisa standing at heaven's gate welcoming me home! Until then, I'll share any knowledge I've garnered over these many years, and hope it will help someone in some small way, sometime, down the line.

As Miss Leigh says,
Cheers!
DD

leigh's picture

Oh Drea! I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story here. There is certainly a place for "regular people" to help each other out therapeutically.

Thank you, Miss Leigh...
Each time someone asks me to relate that whole drowning story and how it came to pass (my Mom sent her to the pool but forgot to put on her water wings) it somehow removes me from the horrid occurrence one step farther.
Like when you give birth to a child and the process was a complicated one, it helps to tell and retell it to others to finally get a grip on it, and finally let it go. I must admit I retold the (happy) story of Lisa's birth at least 30 times, since it involved a 34-hour labor and then an emergency Csection, and my own doctor wasn't even there, and my husband was so tired he could hardly stand or emotionally/physically support me, and no one else I knew was with me. So after I got home from the hospital, I was on the phone with each friend recounting my ordeal, until I finally let out all my angst over it. Then 2-1/2 years later, she goes and drowns! That was too much and made me wonder why it was all such an ordeal with her1? Why did I even have her?
But with our second daughter, an Italian beauty, a much easier birth, although also a Csection and still not my doctor but it was the earlier one at least, and she is lucky in the physical sense, very rarely getting hurt, sick or depressed. She's led the "life of Reilly" (whoever that was) with everything always going her way, and not having to share or argue with siblings. 1,400 friends on facebook type of person, summa cum laude out of Kent State U and a cushy advertising job with lots of perks. Must be nice. And lives at home enjoying the bounty and my gourmet cooking... she says Heaven can't be much better! Glad someone around here is so happy all the time! Sometimes I get a jealous feeling, since her life has been smooth, plentiful, grief-free, steady and pleasant, and she's already 24 years old. Complete with the studly 28 year old Italian boyfriend who adores her, and caters to her every whim. But it's been great to raise a godly girl who is going on a missions trip to Costa Rica in 8 weeks, to help out at Roble Alto orphan home, although she'll be eating rice and beans for 10 days! She'll be seeing how others live for once and have an even greater appreciation for home upon her return. Pray for Gina, everyone!!
Thanks,
Dr Drea

Dr. Drea - prayers have their place; but it is also my hope that the Whereapy site is able to offer EVERYONE (including those who don't share our belief systems) the help they need in finding the proper care for them, as individuals. We all walk different paths, whether we know it or not, and we will all "get there" some day. It's the journey - this thing we call "Life" that takes so much effort and emotion from us, which causes us to seek therapy - whether for the body, mind, or spirit (or all three!) - in the first place. And we ALL have that in common. There will always be someone who has/had it worse; and there will always be someone who has/had it better. We can only do the best we can, with what we've got, where and when we are. I think that is what this site is aiming for - education for clients/patients as well as being a directory for providers, too. The articles get us to thinking, in our own way, about the subject matter - and that enhances our critical thinking skills which, unfortunately today, are not much stressed in school or in society at large. But which are SO important. We need to take back the responsibility for participating in our own recovery - from whatever issues we are having - and I find that this site helps me to do just that. I hope others have similar feelings about the site, too.

Denise~
That was very well said, and it will be understood by the majority of readers here, as they are seeking souls and firm believers in recovery.
I am interested in EFT and was wondering if I could direct the ones near Philly to join in the discussions, and list themselves in the directory.
I bought the set of DVDs, as I wanted to become an EFT therapist provider.
It works for most everything, especially emotional trials. Did you know that 70% of disease is caused by emotional traumas? Yep, and that figure is not from the EFT site either! You can see all the issues it can heal here at their website, which is eftuniverse.com. It was also known as emofree.com, standing for emotional freedom technique. But they changed it to the eft universe name last year. You can find a therapist near your city in most cases, maybe not out west in less populated areas. But they do consult with you over the phone, in case distance is an issue. I'm going to call one of them near Cleveland soon, to see if my back issues can be resolved. I've gone through everything else, except surgery, because I've heard negative things about that route. I may go to a laser place as a last resort, because it costs about $30K for an hour's work! Oy! And it's an outpatient procedure.
So I think my best shot is EFT, because even though it's spinal stenosis (like bone spurs pressing against the nerves) perhaps freeing me from past traumas will slowly resolve and dissolve them.
So, back to my question, could I advise Philly ones to look at this website and offer their services in the directory? They hail from all over the Nation and in other countries, so maybe just the website needs to go in the directory, rather than a couple of local practitioners in the Philadelphia area.
Maybe just mentioning it here will help someone, I'm not sure. Just wanted to get the word out on EFT, since it works for so many things.
I have to listen and practice to 81 DVDs and then take tests to get certified.
Maybe I'll just be able to practice on myself and get rid of my problem!
That's my dream anyhow!
Have a wonderful weekend Denise. We will be meeting my daughter's fiancés parents tomorrow afternoon so that ought to be interesting!

DD

leigh's picture

Hey DD - we accept a wide variety modalities and practices, so sure EFT practitioners are welcome. And anyone (apart from spammers and trolls) may comment on the posts :)

It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on reputation management.
Thanks
John Moor
"Doctor Reputation"

John - with all that is currently going on in the headlines now - "reputation management" for service providers/public figures is going to be even more important than ever before. And, more difficult. Again with the double-edged sword of "instant media", and a culture of impulsive behaviors with little discretion, it's difficult, at best, to be sure that every thing we ever say or do always is taken in the proper context and received by the appropriate audience. That's one of the more tangible benefits of the Whereapy blog; getting useful information and timely messages out to the right people; so that ALL may benefit. Thanks for your appreciation! Denise

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