Using client feedback to enhance your therapy practice
As a therapist, it can be useful, and informative, to get feedback from your clients. Simply asking “What do you like about the way I work, and what could be different?” can be very helpful for both client and therapist. Having the confidence in yourself as a practitioner to ask for feedback can communicate to the client that not only are you secure within yourself, but that you are open to input and to change.
Whatever feedback you receive is information about how others experience you as a therapist, delivering a professional service. At times, however, you may receive inaccurate opinions, ill-founded comments about your behaviour, tactless words about your approach and even biased judgements, but do remember, your clients are unlikely to have your communication skills and are more likely to be personal and subjective, rather than objective. However, whatever they do say, and how they say it, offers another element of insight into their thoughts.
When receiving feedback, do listen closely and actively, and seek clarification of any points which are unclear. Remember, you do not need to justify your work. If the feedback was unpleasant, you may want to give yourself time to reflect on it and evaluate it for relevance. Remember, feedback is offered for consideration, but you do not need to accept it as truth! By seeking feedback, you are expanding your self-awareness, offering yourself opportunities to explore your own strengths and areas for development.
Getting feedback: Do it right…
Whilst it can be highly beneficial to seek and gain feedback, it is important to do so at the right time and in the right way. For example, by getting feedback at the start of the next session (or if only one session, at a later date) rather than at the end of the therapy session, you avoid giving the client an opportunity to ‘unpick’ the work. This also allows some time for the client to consider the key points they wish to provide. Face-to-face feedback is often a more constructive conversation than the ‘flatter’ forms such as email or text.
Do consider your body language, both when seeking and receiving information. Where feedback is provided in other ways (rather than in person), do be particularly aware of your choice of words, to avoid misunderstanding. Also, be aware that if feedback is passed from one person to another, it may lose some aspects in its translation. This can be more common in feedback situations that are not two-way communications, such as questionnaires, feedback forms and emails. In addition, both Skype / internet and telephone interviews miss out on possibly vital body language.
Consider what you would like to achieve from gaining feedback and how you will use it. Ask for specific examples, their views and ideas with open questions, such as: “How do you feel the session went?” and “How could we have worked on this differently?”
During the actual receiving of feedback, it can be helpful to consider there are several ‘stages’ for receiving feedback. A useful way of remembering this is with the acronym ‘ROAR’:
Be aware of your immediate reaction; avoid defending
Organise your thoughts ready for the next stage
Assess your own performance with consideration of the feedback received
Thank the person for feedback, respectfully disagree where appropriate (an appropriately), and indicate where you agree, keeping focused on what can be achieved in the future. Also, during the receiving of feedback, you may also wish to consider your level of engagement…
Level One: Personal listening:
Focused on own, internal voice and thoughts, including what we think about what they are saying
Level Two: Considered listening:
Focused on what we think or feel about what the client is saying to us
Level Three: Engaged / Active listening:
Completely focused on what the client is saying, and using active listening approaches to gain facts, considered meaning and evaluate intention
Level Four: Connected listening:
Completely focused on verbal and non-verbal communications, including identification of surface and deeper meanings and feelings
Some topics you can seek feedback on, include how the client felt about:
- How the session was commenced
(such as introduction, limits of the work, confidentiality, expectations and information)
- How the therapist helped to identify their areas of concern
(such as the use of open and Socratic questioning, avoidance of judgements or prescription)
- How both the hypnosis and therapy within the hypnotherapy session met or did not meet their expectations
- The therapist’s interpersonal skills (verbal and non-verbal)
- Whether the therapist listened to them actively
- Understanding things from their point of view
- Accepting what is said without judgement
- Displaying warmth and empathy in in safe environment
- How the session was conducted
- Whether you challenged them
- Overall level of satisfaction with the experience
- General feedback relating to their experience of the therapeutic process
Personal vs. professional feedback
When you receive feedback, do ensure that you separate technical / professional feedback from personal feedback, and avoid justifying or defending matters raised. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the client thinks of you as a person, the important thing is what they think of you as a therapist and what they thought of the session. Also, do remember, you have control over your attitude (open and interested, rather than defensive and closed.
When seeking feedback, it can be useful to clients to give them a model to help structure balanced (negative and/or positive) feedback. The ‘SEOR’ system works well for this:
Describe, who, what, where, when e.g. “Last week, when we worked on my fear of mice…”
Explain what was expected e.g. “I thought we would look at where my fear came from…”
What happened and how it related to expectations e.g. “Because you worked on my reactions both now and those that might occur in the future, it surprised me and wasn’t what I expected…”
The outcome’s impact e.g. “I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to go back into past memories, and yet I am now much more confident around mice.”
We hope this blog has been helpful, and it is important, because working with feedback can generate greater mutual understanding and enhance the effects of therapeutic engagement… but if you have any more questions on how to effectively get feedback from your clients (or anything else for that matter) do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks