Why Yelp and Online Reviews Don’t Work for Choosing a Treatment Center
In today’s fast paced world, more and more consumers are choosing hotels, restaurants, electronics and other products and/or “services” by looking at online reviews. In fact, one recent study showed that 88% of consumers said they trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
This surprisingly high level of consumer trust is mostly due to the types of things that are customarily reviewed online, i.e. – food quality, hotel ambiance, customer service, electronics, random products, household items, etc.
For the most part, these could all be categorized as relatively “safe purchases.” There isn’t a lot of risk if they don’t get delivered on time or measure up to your expectations.
But when it comes to making health care decisions, nothing could be further from the truth.
Decisions regarding our health and welfare are among the most important we’ll make in our lives. And this very reason – along with some others I’ll outline here – is precisely why you shouldn’t rely heavily on online reviews when choosing a treatment center.
Before I go further, look at our rating on Yelp. We’re consistently between 4 and 5 stars. Don’t take my message here as an indication that I’m just another disgruntled business owner lamenting the realities of living in a Yelp reviewed world. 1 Method Center has exceptional reviews and high ratings. But I’m still going to explain why you shouldn’t let positive or negative reviews influence your decision to enroll in our program.
Here’s a short interview I recently did with Recovery X on this exact topic.
Why Online Reviews Don’t Measure Up
Reason One: Confidentiality
Ultimately, people don’t come to 1 Method Center because they’re at a high point in their life. Almost everyone that enrolls with us is in some sort of crisis. Most don’t want anyone to know what’s going on with them and they certainly don’t want their problems to be blasted out on social media, Yelp, or any other public forum. They want to address their problems privately, which is a primary reason they come to us in the first place.
At the very core of the decision to enroll at 1 Method Center is an inherent need for the treatment to be confidential. One of our primary tenants as a clinician-owned program, is to ensure that everyone’s process remains confidential before, during and after treatment. Without this assurance, people would struggle even more when planning to get help. And the last thing anyone needs when making a tough decision is a good reason not to make one in the first place.
Most of the people that complete our program have incredibly positive, life-changing experiences. In exit interviews, and during follow-up calls they offer high praise of the program, staff and our treatment philosophy. Their families are happy, they are happy, and we are happy.
But we can’t break their confidence, or put you in touch with them to get the “inside scoop.” We certainly don’t ask them to post a Yelp review. Nor do most people write reviews after having a positive experience because of their desire to maintain their own confidentiality. That’s completely understandable and 100% fine from our perspective. We just aren’t that type of a business.
Reason Two: The Personality Profile of Negative Reviewers
Periodically, we notice that someone leaves a review online (Yelp or elsewhere) that describes an absolutely catastrophic and utterly terrible experience with 1 Method Center.
These negative reviews are never simply unfavorable comments about the pool temperature, thread count, or the type of yogurt served on Thursday’s. Nor are they only slightly critical of the treatment. They’re always a tirade of extremely serious allegations accompanied by an utter scorching of the entire program. They usually describe financial scams, clinical incompetence, medical malpractice, or my personal favorite, the ever-delightful suggestion that we almost killed them or their loved one.
In all honestly, I generally get a kick out of reading these types of reviews. They’re almost always worth a smile, incredibly inventive and dripping with fantasy. At the very least one must be impressed with the level of pure vitriol. But the reality is I can afford to chuckle and brush it off because I’ve worked in the field for almost 20 years – and I know what these reviews are all about.
So, let me let you in on a little secret.
These types of reviews are almost always one of the following:
- It’s a troll
- It’s a fraudulent review
- It’s a review posted by a competitor
- It’s someone who is looking for “revenge”
- It’s a real person, but who’s making false claims
Let’s take a closer look at Item Four.
The problem is that most people don’t write reviews to help others. Far from it. Instead, Yelp is a forum where people try to find “collective closure” for “minor or perceived traumas,” according to a recent study from Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurasfsky. After analyzing nearly 900,000 restaurant reviews on Yelp, Jurasfsky found that 92% of people who wrote negative reviews did so with one of two objectives in mind; to cause the establishment harm or to retaliate against a perceived slight.
In nearly all the evaluated negative Yelp reviews, Jurasfsky found these two objectives were the primary motivators for the person posting the review. In fact, most people reported “feeling angry” while writing a negative review.
From the standpoint of understanding the psychological make-up of a negative Yelper, Jurasfsky also found that most shared similar emotional characteristics and beliefs. They all described having a history of anger/reactivity, blaming others, abandonment, feeling victimized often, and life-long sensations of inadequacy and powerlessness.
Because therapy is expensive, and Yelp is free, most one-star reviews are indicative of this classic personality type – the Victim. We all know these folks. Wherever they go, whatever happens, it’s always some else’s fault. And this group thinks it’s easier (so it seems) to blame others instead of looking at their part, determining what they can change, and moving forward in life in a healthier, happier, more personally empowered way.
Ultimately, treatment is about changing self-destructive attitudes and beliefs. When someone comes to us for help, an aspect of the process includes carefully identifying their problems and strengths.
At some point, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t report these findings to the client. And when that mirror is held up to them, if what they see is a Victim, they’ll be confronted with a choice; either let us help them forge the key to unlock their true potential as a human being – or return to dysfunction and follow the life-path of a negative Yelper.
Sometimes it really is this simple.
Reason Three: Confidentiality, Again
Look back at Item Five above. This is probably the most difficult type of negative review for consumers to ascertain when seeking information about a treatment center. Conversely, it’s the easiest for us to recognize – because we treated the person (hypothetically, of course).
In life, sometimes it just seems easier to attack and point fingers than it is to be honest with ourselves. We can all relate to feeling that way at some point. Everyone’s got a little bit of a negative Yelper down there somewhere. Most of us just have the tools to not let the gremlin out.
The stark reality is that we treat many difficult, psychologically complex and emotionally dysregulated clients. Family members are often also completely fragmented, overwhelmed and exhausted by the time they find us. No one is exactly functioning at their best when they come here. People enroll with us because this is our area of expertise. Most people complete our program, including family members, and do very well. Even in the most challenging cases our staff usually makes strong headway or gently encourages profound shifts in thinking and behavior for both our clients and their loved ones. However, on occasion we have had the unfortunate experience where former clients, or sometimes, their family members, have posted entirely falsified and distorted experiences on Yelp regarding 1 Method Center.
We can’t respond directly to these posts because of confidentiality laws. We are 100% bound by the Code of Federal Regulations, Public Health Section, Title 42, Part 2-2.67 and HIPAA. Anyone can post anything at any time, no matter how nonfactual or outlandish, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Actually, that’s not exactly true.
When folks post nonfactual reviews, we do have legal recourse. On a case by case basis, depending on how misleading the post is, we will sometimes take legal action. But that’s rare and it’s not something we do frivolously or publically. Confidentiality laws simply don’t allow us to respond in that way. I suppose, if we could, it would save everyone a lot of time and energy. But that’s a hope for another day.
Reason Three: Financial Benefits
As a final thought, let’s look at Items One, Two, and Three above. In case you don’t want to scroll up – here they are again:
- It’s a troll
- It’s a fraudulent review
- It’s a review posted by a competitor
These types of negative reviewers are fairly straightforward.
Trolls – Trolls are just trolls. They’re everywhere and there’s no point in entertaining them. Just recognize that when a treatment center review doesn’t make a lot of sense and is highly divisive or inflammatory, it’s just a troll on a mission. The only goal is to make your life difficult, create doubt, or get you to engage. Best practice with trolls – ignore.
Fraudulent Reviews – When it comes to fraudulent reviews, the goal is to get you disinterested in one program to advance your interest in another. Many reviews sites offer “unbiased” reviews of treatment centers. Their real goal is to get you to contact them so they can sell you on their program, or sell your call as a “lead” to a program. For example, most sites that offer reviews of 1 Method Center don’t provide our contact information. If they do, it’s incredibly hard to find. Instead, you’ll find some toll-free number in big, blaring font so that you’ll call them instead of us. You can learn more about that here. Look out for this bait-and-switch scheme. It’s prevalent in the online world right now.
Competitor Posts – The final item of note are reviews posted by competitors. These are usually easy to spot. Somewhere in their negative post, they will reference the quality or benefit of attending some other treatment center. Occasionally, they will have a link to another program in their post as well. The good news is that all you need to do is click on the link to know where not to go for help. Any program that engages that type of online behavior can’t be trusted with your life or your loved one’s life.
I truly hope you feel more educated now about treatment center reviews, not more frightened about choosing a program. Despite what I’ve talked about here, we do hope you’ll be a careful and educated consumer. Please gather as much information as possible to make the most informed health care decision you can.
As always, if you have any questions, I’m also available to talk.
Cassidy Cousens, CDAC-II
Founder – 1 Method Center