Leveraging Testimonials Ethically: A Roadmap for Your Therapy Practice
Do you currently use testimonials on your site and social media platforms? If so, are you doing this correctly?
Or have you shied away because you fear putting a foot wrong? You may worry that sharing reviews could land you in HIPAA hot water.
It’s important to understand that while these concerns are valid, they should not deter you from ethically leveraging the authority of testimonials. Testimonials are powerfully persuasive; they play an essential role in therapy practice growth. Bypassing this step can have profoundly negative impacts on your success.
What exact role do testimonials play? And how can you harness their inherent power to build your private practice’s online reputation? While staying within the rules? That’s what this article is all about!
Let’s dive in…
Why Testimonials Are Important for Private Practice
You’ve probably made a decision based on reviews or “testimonials.” You intuitively know their impact. You might even seek others’ words out before committing to a purchase. Nowadays, this is normal behavior.
Ninety-two percent of American adults are now online. And they’re seeking answers to health problems. As you might expect, the ‘Net has become a favored way to acquire health-related information for many reasons. This technological resource provides:
- A vast and diverse array of information
- The ease of discovery
- The convenience of searches
- The cost-effectiveness of access
- The anonymity provided by the Internet
But as wonderful as the Internet is, online platforms (mainly) provide generic, impersonal answers. People still need health professionals. They will always seek out experts — just like you — to deal with challenging problems and feel and live better lives. Yet, cyberspace has changed how they find “the right” therapist. This is where testimonials storm into the frame.
As a collaborative consumer survey conducted by Reputation and YouGov showed. When looking for a healthcare facility or health professional:
- On average, 70% of searchers read patient reviews
- 80% of women reported reading reviews
- 80% required at least five reviews to consider a healthcare provider trustworthy
- 72% select doctors with ratings of four stars or more
Reviews — testimonials — then are crucial for your private practice. They build trust and credibility, supply potential clients with insights into your quality of care and experience, and influence their decision-making process. So, high ratings and positive feedback can elevate your practice’s reputation, attract new clients, and ultimately boost your success.
But with HIPAA restrictions in mind, how can you get the testimonials you need?
How to Collect Testimonials
HIPAA compliance must guide decisions in practice. Client confidentiality is and must remain of primary concern. A name and location — two elements expected in a persuasive testimonial — are obviously ways to identify a person. So, their revelation comes under this law even when they give this freely.
Our article, HIPAA Compliance for Therapists on Social Media: A Guide for Private Practices, states that sharing individually identifiable health information “even with their permission – could be considered a HIPAA violation and should be avoided to protect your client’s privacy.”
So, actively encouraging clients to leave reviews – like Google reviews – may be risky.
But, while the above statement seems to rule out testimonials, there are ethical ways to proceed — two in particular.
Testimonials from satisfied clients
Would you love to collect testimonials but need to figure out how?
Let’s refer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ advice. They state:
The HIPAA Privacy Rule gives individuals important controls over whether and how their protected health information is used and disclosed for marketing purposes. With limited exceptions, the Rule requires an individual’s written authorization before a use or disclosure of his or her protected health information can be made for marketing.
Yes, you must collect valid written authorization: Word-of-mouth or invalid authorization is not enough.
We recommend that you have appropriate policies and procedures for securing this permission. You should inform a client where you could use this information. For example, on your website, on your social media platforms, spoken in Podcasts, and so on. The client must be in control of what is shared, where, and up until when. Use plain language. After all, a lack of informed consent is no consent at all.
Client testimonials should also be collected judiciously. You know your clients best; their well-being must come first. Clients should feel under no pressure to comply; testimonials must be given freely. The provision of a recommendation should not compromise their trust or treatment. If a client reverses their decision, this should be respected and acted upon.
There is also a second option.
Testimonials from colleagues
Have you read bestselling health books? Did you notice that many contain positive statements from other health professionals — fellow experts in the field? Did you feel the authoritative pull they engender?
You can wield this power.
It is impactful when potential clients see that you’re an expert trusted by other experts.
When asking for testimonials from colleagues, stress the importance of authenticity and directness. They should speak specifically to your strengths: what makes you a credible, effective expert.
What benefits may a client gain from consulting with you?
In what areas is your expertise outstanding?
Have clients they’ve referred received exceptional care, results, or compassion?
A testimonial should clearly endorse your services. It aims to assure potential clients of your therapeutic proficiency and efficacy.
How to Display Testimonials on Your Website to Boost Credibility
Your website is the centerpiece of your digital presence. It’s the place that’ll likely generate the most traffic and eyeballs. So, placing testimonials here is vital.
But many people mistakenly add a testimonials page, load the comments, and leave it at that. This is a mistake.
Think about how visitors arrive at your site. They’re looking for something, right? An answer to a question. A balm to soothe a specific pain. Or maybe they’re specifically seeking a local therapist. They (likely) haven’t typed in a term related to testimonials.
They’ll land on and look at pages like your homepage, contact us, about us, FAQs page, or a blog post about the query they’ve typed into the search engine. These pages are where your testimonials should be.
At BrighterVision, we craft beautiful, effective, and affordable websites. We share testimonials on the Websites For Therapists page that speaks to this. We offer a cutting-edge social media tool called Social Genie. So, you guessed it, we place testimonials here too.
As well as on appropriate website pages, we recommend hosting testimonials in your blog’s sidebar.
To confirm: Share testimonials where your visitors will see them.
Using Testimonials in Your Social Media and Email Marketing Efforts
Social media and email campaigns are impactful ways to connect with potential (and current) clients. When done authentically and well, they increase awareness, education and build trust with your following. Trust that converts into consultations.
They are also avenues to share authorized testimonials.
To share testimonials on your social media platforms, you could create a graphic for Facebook and Instagram, a highlight story for Instagram or Snapchat, and a kinetic typography video for TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube.
There are various ways to include testimonials in your emails. You might write about a particular topic and add their words (or the graphic) inside. Set up an autoresponder for new clients and include the recommendation there. Or place it in your regular newsletter.
Tip: Email marketing is an important skill. Improving your messaging mastery is well worth the effort.
Common Pitfalls and Ethical Considerations when Using Testimonials
When we’re honing our digital marketing skills chops — therapy practice owners included — we can push too hard. We are humans and can make mistakes. Keep this front of mind when it comes to testimonials. Pitfalls are possible.
Testimonials fall under HIPAA’s privacy laws, so tread legally and ethically.
Before you share a client testimonial, ensure you have obtained explicit valid written authorization. Always. Never exaggerate or otherwise change the wording, as this may misrepresent the testimonial, mislead potential clients, damage your reputation, or raise legal concerns.
Bear in mind that we’re all unique; results vary between people. Sharing testimonials that represent your typical client experience can maintain authenticity and trustworthiness. (Searchers are savvy, their nonsense detectors are always on)
If you are uncertain about asking a specific client to share their story, don’t. Trust your clinical gut.
Remember, you can ask colleagues for honest recommendations.
For example, a testimonial like this on your sidebar or homepage would likely be impactful.
“Dr. Jane Smith is a remarkable healthcare provider, combining deep knowledge with compassion. I’ve collaborated with her on several cases, and her dedication to client well-being and positive outcomes is impressive. Her commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest research ensures that her clients receive top-notch treatment. I highly recommend Dr. Smith for her exceptional client care and expertise.”
Your digital presence matters to your practice’s success. Authentic testimonials are a critical piece of the success puzzle. Use them. Just remember, as a therapist, you understandably have an ethical obligation to meet higher standards than other businesses require. In particular, concerning client privacy.
So, dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and ask your association, board, or a suitably qualified lawyer if you have any questions. It’s worth the effort.
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