Eliciting Client Feedback – It’s Meaningless if not Used to Improve Services

The article in the link below is a very honest depiction of some of the problems we encounter when we ask clients for feedback on our services.  Usually when we give our clients a feedback tool for them to complete one of two things happens.  If we have them complete the form in a session they will usually tell us what they think we want to hear.  If we send it to them in the mail they will usually ignore it completely unless they were really dissatisfied and angry about our services.  In these cases the client has usually already left services and we have no opportunity to use the feedback constructively. We often use the negative feedback to pathologize the client or to justify that he or she wasn’t ready or wasn’t open to what we had to give.  This leaves therapists without a good sense of what they are doing well and what they ought to change.

The therapist who wrote this article took a courageous stance in probing more deeply with the client for her true feelings and then backing out of his interpretations of the negative feedback.  He recognized his tendency to blame the client for her dissatisfaction, took an objective look at his practices and made changes in the way he worked with his client that ultimately led to her improved satisfaction and significant progress in addressing her problems. As he started using feedback consciously with all of his clients his dropout rate decreased from 37% to 18%.

The implications of using client feedback in this way are enormous.  It’s not just about improving satisfaction with services and reducing dropouts.  Listening consciously to clients and using their feedback constructively is incredibly empowering for the client.  Every time we do it, it sends the message to them that they are heard, that how they feel matters, and that feelings of being misunderstood in therapy are not all their fault!


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