One topic CRPO’s Practice Advisory Service receives questions about is testimonials. A testimonial is a statement from another person about the quality of a registrant’s services. The statement could be in words or simply an online ‘star’ rating. It is professional misconduct to use a testimonial by a client, former client or other person in the advertising of the member or his or her practice. CRPO's Standard on advertising explains that testimonials are unreliable and "may also lead to concerns that clients have been pressured into providing them".
The Standard goes on to clarify that the rules do not prevent clients or others from writing reviews about registrants (e.g., on third party Internet sites for rating professionals), provided the registrant does not request them to do so, and provided the registrant does not influence which reviews are published. Note that if a registrant linked their advertising directly to a third-party rating or review site, this could be considered inappropriately using a testimonial.
People have asked about several grey areas. For example, what about a program funding application that asks clients to share their experiences? As this is not advertising, it would not be covered by the prohibition on testimonials. However, program evaluation would need to be done in a voluntary and objective way, so clients are not pressured to comment.
Another question we received was about a quotation promoting a registrant’s book. While in the broadest sense this could be considered a testimonial, there are factors that could mitigate concern. These include if the review focused on the content of the book rather than the registrant’s psychotherapy practice. Also, there would be less concern if a colleague wrote the review versus someone in a power imbalance like a client or former client.
Finally, can a registrant use testimonials for their non-psychotherapy practice, for example as a parenting coordinator? Caution would be advised if the field is related to psychotherapy and potential psychotherapy clients might rely on the testimonials.
The following are questions to help consider whether a statement is a problematic testimonial:
- Is the registrant using the statement in advertising?
- Does the registrant have a power imbalance with the person making the statement?
- Does the statement make claims about the registrant’s practice?