Can Therapists Solicit Client Reviews?
Does your practice have a raft of glowing online reviews? Or none?
Does it matter either way?
It’s easy to confirm this yourself. Jump onto your favorite search engine to find a health professional near you. Which listings pique your attention and why?
In our example below, we googled “therapist in Denver.” Thrive Counseling stands out with a 4.8-star average over 26 reviews. Compare this to “Denver Therapists,” who lack even the solitary review of the other two listings.
Spot the difference …
A high rating, many positive reviews, and complimentary comments create a solid first impression, instant rapport, and an attraction and sense of trust more likely to lead to a click. This is why reviews are crucial to any business.
What people say about you online — and the fact they took the time to say it — persuades and often determines what actions searchers take. Yes, including whether to consult with you or not.
You might question the veracity of this claim: do people really care about reviews?
Let’s take a look at the research.
BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2022 uncovered several significant findings. Three matter for your practice.
- Nearly everyone — yes, a staggering 98% — considers online reviews when evaluating local businesses.
- More than three-quarters of people “always” or “regularly” read online reviews when searching for information about local businesses.
- 82% of people say online reviews are either “important” or “very important” in deciding whether to use a healthcare business.
But here’s the thing: you can’t solicit reviews.
The American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics provides guidelines for ethical behavior by psychologists, including soliciting client reviews.
According to the code, “Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.”
That’s a hard no.
And while responding to a positive or negative review is, for other businesses, a helpful step in attracting clients, you cannot do this as a therapist. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects client privacy. While a client may disclose that they’ve consulted with you, you cannot confirm this. Refrain from responding to reviews.
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So, what can you do as a therapist to receive but never solicit reviews?
Reviews should come from a client’s wish to share their experience. And this is where the opportunity lies. Let me explain.
Let’s dive into BrightLocal’s research once more. We can see that almost three-quarters of consumers had left a review for local businesses in the past year. People naturally wish to share when they feel inspired in some way.
While a mix of people is open to leaving either a positive or a negative review, one in three will leave only a positive review. One in 15 will leave only a negative review. The odds of positive over negative fall in your favor.
Your job, then, is to inspire unsolicited positive reviews!
The Overview: Two Ways To Inspire, Not Solicit, Positive Reviews
The obvious first, be professional and place your clients at the center of your practice focus.
BrightLocal’s research showed that almost nine out of every ten consumers report being “likely” or “highly likely” to write a review when a business exceeds their expectations and provides an exceptional experience. In essence, when they “go the extra mile.”
But sometimes, things will go awry. Accept responsibility and fix the problem.
Because it’s good practice and can result in a positive review. Four in five consumers report being “likely” or “highly likely” to leave a review when an initially negative experience changed into an exceptional experience.
This brings us to the exceptional client experience we encourage therapists to focus on!
How Can You Exceed Client Expectations?
There are many ways to exceed client expectations. Often these involve systems that, once set up, become standard and effortless operating procedures. This bakes in likely success.
But before we talk about systems, let’s consider what not to do.
Research conducted by ProPublica found that clients are more likely to express dissatisfaction — to leave a negative review — because of lengthy wait times, trouble getting an appointment, incorrect billing, a practitioner’s impersonal manner, or unprofessional office staff behavior rather than for instances of inadequate care or inaccurate diagnoses.
Start by correcting these potential problems first.
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If you chronically have lengthy wait times and clients (and potential clients) find it challenging to schedule an appointment, ask yourself why and how you can find a remedy. Two examples could include the following:
- Is it time to expand? If so, dive into our New eCourse: How to Expand Your Solo Practice to a Group Practice.
- Do you need a better booking system? Yes, then check out our article, Online Appointment Scheduling Tools for Mental Health Professionals.
Next, ask yourself if your billing process is up to par. If not, read our article, The Best Billing Tools for Your Therapy Practice.
Be honest about how you currently care for your clients. For example, are you under excess stress and find it’s impacting your ability to connect with your clients? Explore, Walk The Talk: Prioritizing Your Own Mental Health.
Of course, ensure your team is well-trained, nurtured, and able to care for your clients professionally and compassionately.
Step It Up A Notch
Think about how to woo your clients. What would make the most significant difference for your specific clients?
Listen to what your clients say (including what they complain about) and take notes.
If you’re stuck for ideas about how to improve, ask. You can inquire in practice, via a free survey tool (like SurveyMonkey) or a social media quiz.
Ask colleagues what works for them, what fixes they’ve found, and what challenges they still face.
Solve what you can. Seek help for what you can’t.
Establish clear and concise communication, so clients understand what to expect from therapy, yourself, and your team. This will help to create a sense of transparency and build trust.
Set up an autoresponder email sequence so that every client (except those who opt out) receives rapport-building messages regularly from the first day they consult with you. These touch points are an easy, powerful way to help people feel important. They’re one of the systems you can bake in to change the game. We recommend reading The Top 5 Tips to Nail Email Marketing For Therapists.
Other ideas include:
- Provide a clean, comfortable, and warm environment
- Be timely and responsive in your interactions
- If you’re able, offer flexible scheduling
- Supply resources and tools like educational materials and worksheets. For example, comprehensive blog posts can be branded, printed, and shared when appropriate.
- Personalize therapy in a way that ensures your client feels cared for and in control
- Encourage feedback
By offering exceptional service, your clients will be more likely to leave wonderful reviews without any prompting.
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And remember, it’s not only your clients that can provide reviews.
Think Outside Of The Client Review Box
Ask for reviews from colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who can attest to your character, credentials, and expertise.
As you saw in our example earlier and learned from the research we shared, the difference reviews make is profound. Those positive stars matter!
While you cannot solicit client reviews, you can ask for reviews from colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. You can also up your game. You can — and should —make your service and clients’ experiences so amazing that they want to shout your virtues and value from the rooftops.
Yes, this will improve your review profile. It’ll also potentially explode your practice, impact, mind, and bottom line in the most ethical ways.
Go for it!
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