The Online Review Conundrum


Written By Awareness Team

January 10, 2020

Introduction to Navigating the Ethical and Privacy Dilemma

Online reviews have become an integral part of our decision-making process in today’s digital age. From restaurants and hotels to psychotherapy centers, prospective clients turn to these reviews to gain insight into the experiences of others. While restaurants and hotels primarily deal with tangible products and services, psychological centers offer a deeply personal and sensitive service—mental health care. Clients who seek therapy for themselves or for their children, are often in vulnerable states, grappling with emotions, driven by personality traits, and struggling with psychological challenges. This sets psychological centers apart in terms of the delicacy and intricacy of the services they provide.

For example, if a therapist or a center received an online review stating specifics of one person’s experience, being an individual, a couple, or a parent to a child, it is unethical in this field of business for the therapist or the center to discuss or explain what happened even if it will clear their reputation, even if the review was fully false, and even if the reviewer was not even a client. Nevertheless, in this field of business, we open our doors for a private discussion to address the needs ethically, even if it will result in not giving the client what they seek. In this article, we shed light on the complex challenges faced by therapists and centers when confronted with such reviews and how they impact both the profession and the individuals seeking help.

The Power of Online Reviews

Online reviews wield considerable influence in shaping public opinion. They can help prospective clients make informed choices, offering glimpses into the quality of service and the overall client experience. In the realm of psychotherapy, where personal wellbeing and mental health are at stake, these reviews carry even more weight.

The Privacy Predicament

Psychotherapy is inherently private and confidential. Clients entrust therapists with their innermost thoughts, feelings, and struggles, often sharing their most vulnerable moments. The therapist-client relationship is built on trust, and privacy is a cornerstone of that trust. When a client leaves a review about their experience, being an individual, a couple, or a parent to a child, it raises questions about the sanctity of this privacy.

Ethical Considerations

Therapists are bound by strict ethical guidelines that prioritize client confidentiality and wellbeing. When confronted with a negative review, they face a dilemma. On one hand, they must respect the client’s right to express their opinion, but on the other, they must uphold the principles of confidentiality. Responding to the review could potentially breach this confidentiality.

In addition, ethical considerations extend beyond just maintaining client confidentiality. Therapists are held to a high standard of professionalism, which includes adhering to specific protocols when it comes to providing letters, reports, or memos related to a client’s treatment or condition. These aspects of ethical practice are vital in ensuring that the therapy process remains ethical and professional from start to finish.

The Fine Line Between Responding and Respect

Responding to an online review (despite the review being positive or not) is a delicate balancing act. Therapists must consider the ethical implications of acknowledging the client’s identity or their specific case. Even a well-intentioned response could inadvertently reveal confidential information. This dilemma underscores the unique challenges therapists face in the age of online reviews.

Client Empowerment and Ethical Boundaries

The client, being an individual, a couple, or a parent to a child, empowerment is an essential aspect of therapy. Therapists aim to empower clients to make choices and decisions about their mental health. However, when an online review surfaces, therapists must protect their clients’ privacy while also respecting their autonomy. Therefore, we always inform our clients to reach out to us to set a FOC session to discuss their satisfaction at Relationary. #ReachingOutIsAStrength

The Impact on the Profession

Beyond the individual therapist-client relationship, online reviews can have broader implications for the psychology profession. They can potentially deter individuals from seeking help, fearing that their private struggles may become public. This underscores the responsibility of therapists and psychology centers to safeguard the trust that underpins the therapeutic process.

The Path Forward: Balancing Accountability and Privacy

In the face of online reviews, therapists and psychology centers must find a path forward that balances accountability with privacy. While acknowledging the client’s feedback is essential, it must be done in a way that respects the principles of confidentiality. This often involves responding by emphasizing the commitment to client wellbeing and their privacy.

A Complex Ethical Tightrope

In summary, the online review dilemma presents therapists and psychology centers with a complex ethical tightrope to navigate. Striking the right balance between acknowledging client feedback and safeguarding confidentiality is not possible online. As prospective clients peruse these reviews, it’s essential for review readers to recognize the challenges therapists face and the ethical principles that guide their actions. In doing so, we can promote transparency and accountability while upholding the privacy and trust that are at the core of the therapist-client relationship.

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