Social Network Reviews of Psychological Services

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Yelp Inc. Yelp, Yelp logo, Yelp burst and related marks are registered trademarks of Yelp.

Each consumer has the right to post a review of a service or product that they purchase. There are many online resources for persons to publish reviews. However, consumers, when researching a business, need to recognize the accuracy and reliability of these evaluations, realizing that there are specific problems and inherent limitations related to online reviews of psychological treatment centers.

PCH Treatment Center encourages each of our clients to provide feedback during their time in treatment. At the end of treatment, we require that every client submit a lengthy review of our staff, our program, our facilities and that client’s experience at PCH Treatment Center. This information is used for quality control, so that we can provide the most effective clinical experience possible. Our website contains an extensive list of testimonials taken (with permission) from client reviews at http://www.pchtreatment.com/testimonials-treatment-center/.

The difficulties presented in reviewing psychological services are manifold. First, persons undergoing psychiatric or psychological treatment, even when happy with the outcome, are unlikely to post a positive review. Satisfied clients are not emotionally driven to provide an evaluation and they may be concerned about confidentiality issues. Second, the people most likely to post online reviews are those that were unhappy with their treatment experience. Examples include persons that may have violated policies, persons who did not choose to be in the program but attended at the behest of a family member, or persons who made other clients and/or staff feel unsafe. These clients, when faced with strong limit-setting (being asked to conform to program rules or to leave the program) often respond with anger and vitriol which finds its way into online reviews. At PCH Treatment Center, we work specifically with clients who have personality issues, emotional dysregulation and anger and impulse control problems which result in high conflict behavior and impulsivity. For these few, an online review site offers an opportunity to further act out against the limit setting they experienced in our program.

Third, The American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code states that it is unethical for psychologists to solicit testimonials.

Principle 5.05 “Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.”

Fourth, unlike other business owners who may respond to their Yelp reviews, as a psychological treatment center bound by the APA Code of Ethics, we must provide confidentiality to our clients. Thus, we are restricted from responding to negative online reviews. This is particularly difficult, as negative reviews from disgruntled clients usually contain distortions and are often outright inaccurate.

Online review websites also allow factitious reviews to be published. A high conflict former client may create multiple accounts or use someone else’s account to publish false reviews.

PCH Treatment Center, as with many other treatment centers, has a few negative reviews on Yelp. The ones that are legitimate contain gross inaccuracies, which we are unable to discuss or debate in a public forum. Additionally, Yelp uses a filtering process, which has hidden the majority of our legitimate positive reviews, presenting our overall ranking as being very average. This “filter” has been a flashpoint for Yelp among many small business owners (1). There are claims that Yelp is extorting small businesses by moving negative reviews to the top of the review page, and filtering out positive reviews (2, 3). A class action lawsuit is under appeal regarding this issue, as well (4).

At PCH Treatment Center, we strive to provide the best clinical care for psychological problems in the country, at the most reasonable price. We take great pride in the quality of our clinicians and our programs. As discussed, we are constantly working to improve our effectiveness using client reviews as our centerpiece. Thus, it is particularly disheartening to have a few former clients paint a negative picture of our center, when over 90% of our clients are satisfied with our clinical services and feel that PCH Treatment Center has helped them to improve their quality of life.

References

  1. http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2018837016_yelp03.html
  2. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/yelp-and-the-business-of-extortion-20/Content?oid=1176635&storyPage=1
  3. http://blog.socialmediahq.com/the-dark-side-of-yelp/
  4. http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/05/21/another-day-in-court-for-yelp/
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