TestimonialsAn unusual marketing dilemma for Marriage & Family Therapists
Ethical Standard 10.6 from the Code of Ethics established by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists prohibits the solicitation of testimonials from clients.
Speaking generally, I have had clients profess that their relationships were saved by their work with me, often against seemingly tremendous odds. Others have told me that they wouldn't have gotten or stayed married if it weren't for our work together. Though I am almost machine-like in helping couples find solutions and stay together whenever possible, when it is one or both clients' will to part ways, I have helped them to do so more clearly and amicably.
Clients who are parents frequently feel relief, more patient, self-compassion, understanding, ease and even enthusiasm about their role as parents, about their kids, and about their relationships with their children thanks to our conversations.
I have helped clients find permission to be themselves, whether that meant changing careers, opening relationships, or allowing themselves to be just as and where they are, to trust (and follow) their instincts without being crippled by self-doubt or suffocated by regret, the agenda of others, or shame.
I have been told by experienced clients that I was the most compassionate, on-target, and helpful therapist they've had. Usually the benefit is subtle, a fate shifted in a more satisfying and happier direction, a newfound acceptance of and appreciation for the other in an intimate relationship, less easily triggered, more empowered to make a difference in their own lives and relationships.
I aspire for our sessions to be enlightening, effective, respectful, and usually even somewhat enjoyable for clients. My respect and care for you is demonstrated by a vigilant attention to boundaries that protect and support client safety and well-being, including adherence to established ethical guidelines such as the one to abstain from explicitly or implicitly soliciting client testimonials for my own gain.
In determining if I am the right person to help your relationship and you, I encourage you to trust your instincts as you review my website.
There are therapists whom I respect who use client testimonials on their websites. There may be legitimate work-arounds of which I am unaware or not fully convinced myself. My own understanding of this guideline is that it is the therapist's responsibility to predict, forsee, and educate clients about problems that might arise. In the spirit of this, I have the following concerns for clients:
A client might feel awkward declining to provide a testimonial when a therapist solicits one, or the client may feel implicitly pressured to produce one when they see client testimonials on the therapist's website.
Due to the nature of therapeutic work, the relationship, and the therapists all-too-often-denied but very real authority, clients frequently want to be seen as good and to be well - or even especially liked by their therapists.
Many clients struggle with boundaries, recognizing them, having them violated, or maintaining them. To post such personal material is subtly aggressive and inappropriate. This is so even without the client's name (and what credibility is there in anonymous praise?). Meanwhile, to include the client's name violates confidentiality.
A client may wonder what is wrong with them for not having that amazing experience that someone else did. The testimonial/s can therefor be misleading and demoralizing, generating a sense of comparison that doesn't belong in the process.
The client is oddly locked into their experience in therapy rather than allowing what arose and unfolded in their therapy (and since) to be fluid and personally evolving.
A client may feel differently over time about agreeing to have their experience posted for all to see. To delete or change the testimonial, the client would be forced to contact the therapist again down the road, an act many if not most might be disinclined and uncomfortable and therefor not do.
The contract therapists have with their clients is that the client pays the therapist in money (bartering violates yet another ethical code). After that, clients should not be asked or owe or feel that they owe a therapist anything more.
Testimonials promote a therapist's businesses rather than the best interest of the client. Testimonials use a client's personal experience to promote the therapist publicly. Tempting as they may be, client testimonials are therefor exploitive and unethical.