Managing Complaints as a Therapist in Private Practice
Resource - Copy our Complaints procedure
Unfortunately, as a therapist in private practice, encountering complaints is an inevitable part of the job. We simply cannot be the right person for every client. Humans are tricky and we are working with people at difficult times in their lives. People can feel vulnerable with therapists or annoyed if they’ve not had the experience they hoped for. Given all this, conflicts or disagreements can occur.
This might seem daunting, especially when you’re working directly with self-funding clients and there is no referral company to act as a middleman. Managing complaints effectively is crucial for maintaining your professional integrity and fostering a deeper understanding of your clients and your practice. As challenging as they are, complaints and feedback are also good opportunities to learn and develop your service. Handled correctly, they can enhance your practice and lead to growth.
How to Handle Complaints Constructively
In my experience, effectively handling and managing complaints requires four key things: quick resolution, documentation, support and a commitment to learning from the experience. Let’s explore these things together…
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Always Aim for a Quick Resolution
It’s important to address complaints swiftly. A timely response can prevent escalation and maintain client trust. Work on getting as much clarity as possible as quickly as possible, ensuring you understand the key points of the complaint.
Most therapists and health care professionals are attached to a professional body like the BABCP, BPS or BACP. As such, we must adhere to ethical guidelines and professional standards, demonstrating a commitment to our client’s well-being. When you receive a complaint, you should engage with your regulatory body and use their Standards of Conduct, Performance, and Ethics as a guide during the complaint management process.
Make sure you clearly document the complaint and any interactions related to it. For context and evidence, you may want to review client files and notes made during sessions. Based on this, write a detailed, chronological account of events related to the complaint. If applicable, consider speaking with any witnesses who may have observed your interactions with the client and ask them to provide a written account of what they saw.
When someone is being negative towards you, it can be tricky to hear the feedback and digest it accurately. This is why having support is important. For an unbiased perspective, take your concerns to a supervisor or mentor. To help you understand the situation better and decide your next steps.
In some cases, you may need to inform your professional liability insurance provider about the complaint. They may arrange for you to consult with a legal professional who specialises in professional discipline. Seeking early advice can save time and money and make a favourable outcome more likely.
Learn from the Experience
Take time to review the event in supervision which will promote professional growth and general practice methods. It can also help you maintain composure and stay calm if you find yourself dealing with a similar complaint in the future.
As well as spending time reflecting, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Handling complaints can cause stress and anxiety, so you may find you need a little extra TLC once the situation has been resolved.
Preventing Future Complaints
Clear, consistent communication can go a long way when it comes to preventing complaints. Be as straightforward and transparent as possible, especially regarding therapy processes, expectations and any changes in your practice.
Establishing and maintaining professional boundaries is the key to preventing misunderstandings and ensuring a safe therapeutic environment. Keep expectations as clear as possible and use therapy agreements to define the scope of your services, session protocols, payment policies and your approach to confidentiality.
Regularly check in with your clients about their therapy goals and the progress they feel they’re making. This will help you align expectations and address any concerns early on.
Paid subscribers can continue reading and download the complaints procedure template for your private practice. Find below