Guide to Online Reviews for Therapists: Everything You Need to Know

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, safeguarding your online reputation is vital, especially for therapists. An individual’s online presence serves as a significant extension of their professional identity, shaping perceptions among clients, colleagues, and the broader community. While the digital realm presents opportunities, it also poses challenges, underscoring the importance for mental health professionals to implement strategic measures that ensure the protection and enhancement of their online reputation. This resources explores how to navigate reviews for therapists and how to protect your or your practice’s reputation online.

FAQs About Reviews for Therapists

Working with therapists over the years in my marketing company, here are some of the most common things I’ve heard:

  • “Do I need to respond to negative reviews?”
  • “How do I respond to negative reviews?”
  • “How can I get reviews ethically?”
  • “I’m too busy treating clients to monitor my online reputation. Is it really that important?”
  • “Should I publish reviews on my website?”
  • “Do I need to respond to negative reviews?”
  • “Can I ask clients for reviews?”

Keep reading, I will address these questions and more.

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Why Do Reviews Matter as a Mental Health Professional?

First of all, do reviews online matter as a mental health professional? The answer is a resounding YES! Reviews online say something about you or your private practice, whether true or not. According to a study by Zendesk, clients are more likely to share negative reviews than positive ones online. So it’s important to make efforts to protect your online reputation as much as possible. Here are some reasons reviews matter to you as a therapist or your private practice:

  • Prospective clients often consult therapist reviews before initiating contact.
  • The quality of a therapist or practice is commonly gauged through online reviews.
  • Diminished reviews can significantly decrease the volume of calls or messages received by your practice.
  • Google reviews are often more trusted than those on a website, as therapists have limited control over Google reviews.
  • A greater number of positive Google reviews can impact your practice’s visibility on Google Maps.

As a therapist or private practice (or any business really), reviews matter.

Should I Respond to Negative Reviews?

Having worked with many mental health professionals, another common question I get is “should I respond to negative reviews?” The Answer is YES! It’s important to respond to negative reviews in a professional and timely manner. Negative reviews often contain juicy details about a client’s experience with you. As a mental health professional, it’s important to respond correctly and in line with HIPAA. Here’s an example response:

“My ethical guidelines preclude me from providing a complete response to this post. However, I listen very carefully to every patient and endeavor to build a strong therapeutic relationship that makes my patients feel both comfortable and supported.”

When clients or patients provide reviews containing details about their medical conditions, treatments, sessions, or appointment-related information, it’s crucial to refrain from acknowledging such content. This rule remains consistent for both in-person and online therapy sessions, as patient confidentiality standards apply uniformly across therapeutic modalities. In adherence to HIPAA compliance, responding to specific details or confirming a client’s visit is prohibited. Employing a HIPAA-compliant message, such as expressing appreciation for the review, may appear impersonal but is essential for legal compliance, as violations may incur substantial fines. For a more personalized response, consider writing a private message through  a HIPAA-compliant email or messaging system.

It’s important to note that this information is not intended as legal advice, and individuals with inquiries about online reviews and compliance should seek guidance from a legal professional.

Can I Ask Clients for Reviews as a Therapist?

Asking a client for a review violates the ACA, APA, and NASW ethics codes:

Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from current clients nor former clients nor any other persons who may be vulnerable to undue influence.
– ACA Code of Ethics, 2014, C.3.b

Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.
– Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, 2010, 5.05

Social workers should not engage in solicitation of testimonial endorsements (including solicitation of consent to use a client’s prior statement as a testimonial endorsement) from current clients or from other people who, because of their particular circumstances, are vulnerable to undue influence.
– NASW Code of Ethics, 2017, 4.07.b

So the answer to “can I ask clients for reviews as a therapist?” is no you can’t. In the next section, I will review ways you can ethically get Google reviews as a therapist.

How to Ethically Get Google Reviews as a Therapist

So now that we reviewed why you can’t ask your clients for reviews, let’s answer the question “how can I ethically get Google reviews as a therapist?”

Professional Colleagues

I have advised mental health professionals to ask for character references via their Google Business link to: Professional colleagues, friends, peers, and vendors if appropriate.

Make It Easy for Clients to Leave Reviews

While you can’t directly ask clients to leave you reviews, you can provide a link to your Google Business on your website in prominent locations, such as in the header, footer, and home page. This makes it easy for clients or potential clients to view your real reviews and potentially get reviews.

Should I Publish Reviews on My Website?

Over the years, my marketing company has built many websites for therapists. A common question I get is “should I publish reviews on my website?” I typically give the same response that you should publish reviews, but not hand-picked 5 star reviews. Clients are wary of reviews therapists publish on their website, because these reviews are hand-picked to make a therapist look as great as possible. Instead, a therapist should connect their Google reviews to their website, so that the reviews are a true reflection of quality, which includes true and honest reviews that a therapist has no control over.

This is a double-edged sword for many therapists, especially those with negative reviews. Authenticity is so important when it comes to reviews. If you have great reviews on Google and other platforms, you’ll want to showcase these as much as possible. If you don’t have great reviews, then you need to work on protecting your reputation and get introspective about how you can fix some of the issues deemed as a negative in your public reviews, if possible.

How to Protect Your Online Reputation

Now that we’ve reviewed common questions regarding online reviews for therapists, I will highlight ways you can protect your online reputation:

  1. Follow all applicable HIPAA and ethical guidelines
  2. Respond to reviews in an ethical way, if possible
  3. Do great work with your clients and act professionally
  4. Monitor popular review sites regularly, such as Google
  5. Sign up for Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your name and/or practice
  6. Encourage colleagues to review your character and expertise

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Reviews for Therapists

Thank you for reading this resource on Guide to Online Reviews for Therapists: Everything You Need to Know. We hope that this was helpful in guiding you to understanding online reviews and how to protect your reputation. Many times online reviews, while not always fair, are a reflection of areas we can improve. If you do receive negative reviews, take these seriously and find ways you can avoid receiving them in the future with your clients.

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Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Anthony Bart is a huge mental health advocate. He has primarily positioned his marketing expertise to work with mental health professionals so that they can help as many patients as possible.

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