Requesting testimonials are a standard business practice, and increasingly important in today's world that values what is called social proof. Yet asking for them and displaying them has been tainted in the therapeutic world unlike no other profession as some kind of unethical behavior.
As you may expect, I have a different view on this.
Testimonials should say more about the client than the clinician. They are a statement of their own achievement, hard earned as it may be with your help.
A statement that succinctly summarizes where the client started in terms of their emotional or psychological distress, and where they ended by they have finished with therapy, can be an act of self-empowerment for clients. With such a statement they stand in their authentic truth and fully claim their personal transformation.
It's not a coincidence that testimonials can contribute a lot to helping eliminate the archaic stigma on getting help for mental health issues that -- in my opinion -- the prohibition on testimonials only serves to keep in place.
So if we can get past the old school prohibition about asking for testimonials for a second, the way to think about a client's change-centered statement is that it is a declaration of their success as much or more than it is about yours.
Although it would seem that a testimonial would naturally be focused on you, your personality, and your skills, that's not really what makes the most persuasive feedback for marketing your practice. It's counter-intuitive, but what you want instead are a few lines in which your former client speaks to what they were struggling with before they worked with you, and how they changed because of working with you.
What A Good Testimonial Includes
Problem Specifics means the mention of the one or two word issue that brought the client to you. These should be associated with the keywords others might use to search for your services. These problem specifics set the frame or context for the testimonial. Some examples of this would be:
I hated arguing and feeling so negative.
I felt depressed [or hopeless/ sad/ scared/ angry/ anxious].
When I realized my cravings were controlling my life, I knew I really needed help.
More detail that the above is not needed. There is enough specificity in the keywords used -- arguing, negative, depressed, cravings -- to make a strong connection with readers having similar issues.
Objection Overcome is a way to help readers understand how your services are different from your competition, but it's framed from the client's perspective. In other words, it's about saying something about why they chose you over your colleagues. Some examples of this would be:
I didn't want to take pills, and I liked that Jane knew a lot about alternative approaches for anxiety.
After a month we switched to phone sessions on my lunch hour so I wasn't stressed out about just getting to therapy, and that's when things really started to change.
Money was tight for me, but Jane's technique worked quickly so it was totally affordable.
Some clients won't have had objections to starting therapy, or won't be able to articulate why they chose you over the therapist down the street. That's okay. This part of the testimonial could be omitted without losing much of its value.
Outcome Specifics means that the client mentions the goal they had at the start of therapy. Usually it will be to end, start, increase, reduce, or change the initial problem. A good testimonial will be specific about the desired goal. Some examples of this might be:
For the sake of my marriage and my job, I needed to stop being so angry all the time.
I didn't want to continue feeling so scared about everything.
I hoped that if I could believe in myself, I could end these bad habits.
Mentioning the main initial goal is essential for the reader to understand how well therapy made the difference.
Benefit Achieved will hopefully be even greater than the desired outcome. Since it is typical in the therapy process that clients get more out of it than they originally realize they could, it's not usually too hard to write about such benefits. And in the testimonial this is where they make you look really good. This piece might be two or three sentences long. Some examples are:
Not only did my relationship with my spouse improve, so did the relationship with a difficult person at work. The skills Jane taught me completely transfer to other part of my life that I didn't even talk about in therapy.
With Jane's help, my insomnia ended, and I stopped having panic attacks. Now I feel up for the challenges I face instead of freaked out.
Now I know how to maintain healthy habits and detect unhealthy ways of coping before they become a problem, and I owe it all to Jane.
Taking one example from each of the four categories, and putting them together with a little tweaking, you can see how much more powerful such a testimonial is, compared to the lackluster: I highly recommend Jane, she's great, and easy to talk to.
Example: I felt anxious and scared in new situations, which I was in a lot. But I didn't want to take pills, and I liked that Jane knew a lot about alternative approaches for anxiety. I didn't want to continue feeling so scared about everything, so I had to try counseling. With Jane's help, my insomnia ended, and I stopped having panic attacks. Now I feel up for the challenges I face instead of freaked out.
I suggest that you make a brief fill in the blank form with prompts for the 4 parts of a testimonial, and give it to your clients at your last session -- or email it to them a month later as a follow up. Let them know their brief statement could be used in your marketing to help others decide to get help. Most clients will be happy to do that.