Have you been stung by negative reviews on
customer websites? Here’s how to handle your critics.
BY JAMIE CHAMBERLIN • Monitor staff
Mental health-care law attorney Bruce Hillowe, JD, PhD, gets at least three calls a month from distraught
psychologists and other therapists with the same
crisis — a negative review about their services or
practice from a patient on a Consumer Reports-
style rating website such as ZocDoc.com,
Yelp.com or HealthGrades.com.
Feeling powerless, they want to find out how
to remove the comments before they scare off new
or existing clients.
Psychologist and attorney Eric A. Harris, EdD,
JD, of the Trust, a firm that insures psychologists,
gets similar nervous calls from psychologists who
also desperately want to tell their side of the story.
“Some psychologists really want to respond,” says
Harris. “They really feel furious and betrayed. I
understand it perfectly.”
The concerns are so widespread that San
Francisco psychologist Keely Kolmes, PsyD, who
researches how psychology practice and social
media intersect, has been asked to launch a support
group for clinicians struggling with their negative
online reviews. Lately, online review anxiety is
the No. 1 reason psychology colleagues seek her
expertise. “Psychologists are not used to having our
private work discussed so publicly,” she says.
But when it is, there are steps psychologists
can take to preserve their professional reputation
once the initial shock has passed, she and others
say. One way to do that is to collect patient-satisfaction data from clients as they complete
their treatment to post on your professional
website to promote a positive online presence. It’s
also wise to reach out to colleagues who can help
you process the emotional ambush. They might
have been there, too.
Cease or persist?
Most of the time, there’s no quick legal fix for
a bad review, however unfair or nonsensical it
is. Yelp, for one, won’t remove a review unless
it’s required to do so by a judge or if the review
violates its terms of service or content guidelines
— such as by including hate speech or threats. A
defamation lawsuit is only worth pursuing if the
review reaches a certain level of maliciousness or
deceit, says Hillowe, who has only had one client
whose case qualified.
But there are other ways to handle a negative
public review. Here’s what experts recommend:
• Step away from the keyboard. Feeling