Finding therapy through Yelp, reading "testimonials", negative reviews for therapy - Part 1

It’s an unfortunate reality that we make our decisions based on the subjective opinion of other people, which actually robs us of having our own unique experience, and one of the worst ways this happens online is through sites like Yelp. The therapist was rad? Awesome! They might not help the next person AT ALL. Likewise, you were expecting your therapist to cure you of your lifelong issues in 2 sessions or less for free? Heck yeah, hotheaded negative reviews about your therapist’s life’s work is totes helpful, right? Nope. Therapy is meant to be confidential, and Yelp’s “review software” isn’t going to post reviews that seem inauthentic or spammy because the client doesn’t feel comfortable using their name. (Hello HIPPAA violations.) Which also means, if they decide to leave negative reviews, a therapist can’t respond to it in the same way a donut shop can, because we can’t even acknowledge if a client was actually a client or not- again, confidentiality. So therapists, in particular, but businesses in general, are at the mercy of Yelp encouraging this review culture.

Some therapists try to control the narrative by asking for testimonials or using sites like Zocdoc or the like to show off their glowing reviews about how they were the miracle worker in their clients’ lives- and while that may be, these therapists also know that “testimonials” are ethical gray areas for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, and the APA and NASW have come right out and said it is unethical for their members. Any reviews for any site, asked for or not, should ONLY be done after completely terminating with the client. Let them sit with the work you’ve done and see if counseling did what they hoped it would do- bring them some insight and be a catalyst for lasting change. Their review will be much more authentic than coercing them to review you while you’re actively engaged in therapy - do NOT do this. (And yet, check zocdoc or any other review site, and this very clearly happens.)

Therapy is a relationship, like any other in your life. And if you find yourself GOING to therapy to help you with the relationship issues YOU are having, it might not be so great to leave a bad review for the therapist who is trained to help you, when the success or failure in that therapeutic relationship is 50% your OWN responsibility.

Here are some testimonials for you about Yelp and bad reviews:

Fuck Yelp. - Jeb, Tattoo Artist, Manhattan - A studio I worked at had a review from someone who literally said “Great tattoo, but like OUCH” and gave a 2 star review.

I once read a review for Dunkin Donuts that said ‘The donuts are so sweet they make my teeth hurt.- Adrian, Developer, Brooklyn

There you have it, folks. relationships aren’t quick, easy, or review based. Read reviews, fine- you want to know that “sex therapist” is really a credentialed professional- but somehow there was life before knowing everyones’ subjective opinion on every single experience in their lives posted online. And sites like Yelp won’t let actual THERAPISTS review other therapists- no- that would make too much sense!

And what happens when the reviews aren’t reviews at all, but someone out to harass, troll, stalk, etc? I once had a troll post a full on naked photo of one of my trainees on my practice’s Yelp page. And when I called, the answer was “there is nothing we can do to remove user submitted details about your business, as this is in the public domain.” Really Yelp? Revenge porn? And you want me to spend advertising money or send people your way to find my business and add more content to your tyrannical site? No thank you. The photo was removed, and the clinician was not sex shamed, of course- but we’re therapists- people come to us when they’re not at their best, with all sorts of expectations and demands for us to meet, and not meeting your irrational demands is probably something to work on with us in session, not spread rumors about through sites that deal in getting reviews from you (which means you work for them for free, by the way). Let Yelp come and interview me and review my practice. Let’s not give people a way to weaponize their subjective experiences, which only leads to people NOT going to get the counseling they were looking for to begin with.

Are you a therapist with a bad review? Here is a link for some continuing education in managing review-based sites and content about your practice.

MyTherapist New York offers psychotherapy, relationship counseling and sex therapy in New York. Counseling NYC since 2003. (Before there was Yelp, by the way.) And though, you might have caught me on a bad day, or our personalities weren’t a match in session, here is who I am and what I have done as a therapist as a private practice therapist in New York.