On Saturday, March 19, The New York Times published an Op-Ed I wrote on some of the concerns I have with consumer review sites when it comes to finding and rating mental health services. I appreciate those who took the time to kindly offer their comments on the piece both on the Times page and via email.
Those who only read the title The Wrong Kind of Talk Therapy or tag line (both written by the Times and not seen by me until the piece ran), may have gotten the false impression that I am against online reviews. I am not. But these sites do need a significant upgrade when it comes to reviewing health care services.
What struck me from the comments is the pain and frustration experienced by consumers of mental health care. Many expressed powerlessness and confusion when it comes both to finding good care and to understanding the process of psychotherapy. Such comments made it clear how important it is for mental health professionals to provide better information to demystify what it is that we do, how we work, and how we can help. It is also incumbent on mental health practitioners and organizations to let consumers know what they can do when they feel that something harmful has occurred in their treatment.
Most often, people simply struggle with a “poor match” when looking for a psychotherapist. It’s certainly hard to find someone who feels like the right fit. But when a clinician is impaired or is doing harm, licensing boards are a useful resource. Consumers can ask questions and make complaints to licensing boards. This is also the place to turn to when you want to verify that a clinician is licensed or if you want to see whether there are any disciplinary actions against a practicing professional. If you are seeking care anywhere, it is wise to choose a licensed professional partly because this means there is a governing body to turn to if something goes wrong.
In my office forms, I let my clients know that my presence on sites like Yelp is not a request for a testimonial, but I do remind them that they have the right to tell anyone about my services and how they feel about them whenever and wherever they wish. This right belongs to them.
For more on this topic, check out John Grohol’s Yelp and Therapist Reviews in which he makes some great points about the lack of reliability of the current rating sites and the problem of there being too many sites out there at this time for consumers to find meaningful data.