On Psychotherapy

How to Choose a Therapist

Testimonials, On Line Reviews, Client Satisfaction Surveys, and Effectiveness Data!

Testimonials: The Centers for Family Change does not use testimonials. A number of professional organizations specifically prohibit and/or recommend against the use of testimonials. Seeking testimonials is seen as potentially unethical in that clients may feel pressured to provide positive statements about their therapist. For example, the Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association, section 5.05, states that “Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.” Similarly, the National Association of Social Workers (section 4.07.b of the NASW ethics code) and the American Counselors Association (section C.3.b of the ACA ethics code) have deemed seeking testimonials from current and former patients as unethical. Given these concerns we do not ask for testimonials from our clients and do not use testimonials in promoting our practice.

On-line reviews: The Centers for Family Change does not recommend on line reviews as a means for seeking information on therapists.  On-line reviews are not a valid source of information. Such reviews often consist of the opinions of a few people while most experienced therapists work with hundreds if not thousands of clients over their careers. Moreover, not every therapist is a good fit for every client. Therefore, one person’s experience does not reflect a good indicator of how a therapist will work for you or your family. Recent research (see the work of Michael Lambert, PhD, Scott Miller, PhD, and John Norcross, PhD) has emphasized the importance of the client-therapist relationship and have noted that not every therapist will fit for all clients.

Professional Testimonials: We also are skeptical of “testimonials” from other professional that therapists may post on their website. There are a number of self-identified experts who advocate this as a work around to avoid the ethical issues of seeking client testimonials.  Such testimonials more likely reflect a therapist’s motivation to market their services rather than a true indicator of their effectiveness.

Satisfaction Surveys: These surveys are starting to be recommended to therapists as a way to market their services, often by the same experts who recommend professional testimonials. While these surveys seem to offer more solid data on client satisfaction it is important to remember that these surveys are not valid or reliable rating scales and they most likely are not being administered to or completed by all clients. Thus, they are not really a reliable source of information.

How to select a therapist: We recommend that you seek information from trusted others including family physicians, school personnel, employee assistance personnel (if your company offers an EAP), and even family and friends. In addition, some practices (including ours) collect and analyze data on their effectiveness (using well-established, valid and reliable rating scales, administered to all clients). This provides offering real evidence on therapists’ effectiveness. An excellent example of this is The Colorado Center, in Denver.