“Truth begins with two.” ~ Nietzsche
Thank goodness! It has finally happened!
Yesterday a young man came into my office today and confirmed my worst suspicions!
After more than a decade in private practice, a patient finally admitted that finding a therapist in Los Angeles is similar to dating on Match.com.
I concur unequivocally.
And I believe that human beings – particularly of the male gender – are especially visual. So when regarding PsychologyToday.com to find a therapist, I imagine that most people first look at the photo of the potential psychotherapist and if that passes the muster of some equivocal and probably bizarre subconscious criteria, they then examine the potential therapist’s surname for ethnicity – yes, we are more likely to trust people we already know are members of our tribe. I mean, let’s be frank – we are all prejudiced in some way: would a person of Irish descent be more likely to choose to have a first session with someone named Liam Neeson or Moshe Goldblatt? Would a person of Chinese descent be more likely to choose to have a first session with someone named Jenny Chin or Bhavana Upanishads? Would a person of Italian descent be more likely to choose to have a first session with someone named Emanuele Pantoliano or Kwabena Mabankou? Would a person of Jewish descent be more likely to choose to have a first session with someone named Barry Lipschitz or Mohammad bid Laden?
After faces and surnames, patients probably look at potential psychotherapists’ specialities but in all likelihood the decision has already been made.
The point is that we are tribal in nature and prejudices exist because we feel safer around members of our own tribes.
OK, so how should you choose a therapist when researching on the Internet?
PsychologyToday.com resembles a dating service and Yelp is great for choosing a bowling alley, a hairdresser, a tattoo parlor or a pizza joint, but not someone to whom you are going to entrust your darkest secrets.
That leaves good ol’ Doctor Google, who will place advertisements for therapists anytime you search words such as “depression” “anxiety” “stress,” or anything that remotely resembles a symptom.
Google accounts for 76% of desktop and and 86% of mobile search traffic around the world so more and more therapists are moving to Google Business Listings.
But there are two huge problems that Google is not addressing:
1. Patients’ confidentiality is paramount and thus it is illegal for licensed psychotherapists and licensed counselors to ask for patients to reveal their identities by leaving a review using their real names.
2. As I previously stated, Google’s rating system is unregulated so anyone can leave a bogus review whether or not they have ever used a therapist’s services or not. Unlike Amazon’s rating system that states “Verified Purchase,” any impotent person suffering from from Borderline Personality Disorder can lash out at a therapist on Google, as has happened to yours truly.
All of this adds up to a terrible conundrum facing psychotherapists and counselors: potential patients want to know that they are choosing to visit a therapist that has been successful at treating other patients but it definitely would be narcissistic for therapists and counselors to tout their own successes, so we rely on former patients to leave honest reviews but asking them to do so would reveal their confidential identities which is illegal.
Well, one cool thing about my Google Business Listing is that it allows me to appeal directly to millennials who happen to make up the vast majority of my private practice. For some reason, millennials – many of whom have never experienced psychotherapy or counseling – have responded favorably to this part of my profile:
When you first come in you can expect me to ask what you are interested in working on.
Some typical answers are…
I think I’m depressed.
I have social anxiety.
I feel alone and unsupported – as if nobody really cares about me.
I think I may be getting high too often.
My relationship with my parents/kids/siblings is fucked.
It feels like I may be thinking about killing myself a little too frequently.
There is no intimacy in my life.
I think I have unprocessed trauma from my childhood that’s affecting my adult relationships.
I should have never become a (fill in the blank) – now what should I do?
I think my wife might be borderline (just like my mother was).
I think my husband may be a narcissist – oh yeah, my dad was a narcissist too.
Someone close to me recently died.
I think I may be a sex addict.
I have OCD.
I think my relationship with my partner is over.
I’m thinking about working with plant medicine.
I work way too much – my life is completely unbalanced – and I’m really stressed out.
Nonetheless, there has to be a better way for verified patients to honestly review psychotherapists without revealing their identities.
As of today my Google Business Listing has 130 Five Star reviews from people – not patients, or at least none solicited overtly or tacitly by me – and a single one star rating from a person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder who has been reported to the Santa Monica Police Department for stalking me. And I am quitting PsychologyToday.com because it resembles Match.com too closely and there is something weird about that to me (c.f. “the Halo Effect”).
Yes, I am very honored that 130 people appreciate the services that I provide and have reviewed me as one of the highest rated psychotherapists and counselors in Los Angeles, but I still believe that old fashioned “word-of-mouth” method is even more reliable. As Nietzsche said, “Truth begins with two.”