I’ve been thinking a bit about testimonials recently. They’re not something you often see in relation to therapy or counselling practices. Many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of asking for them, or displaying them. I don’t have a strong view about them one way or the other. I use them in relation to workshops and EFT work, but have never felt drawn to asking therapy clients.
Lately though, I’ve been thinking about their usefulness in a different way.
In her book, “Flourishing,” Maureen Gaffney argues (with lots of scientific backup to support her) that we need five positive experiences to balance each negative one, and if we want to flourish, that ratio expands to 7 to 1! Apparently the ratio holds true for many areas of life, having been examined independently in many pieces of research.
Our primitive monkey brains, it transpires, are hard-wired to pay more attention to negatives than positives, since those times when we needed to do that in order to survive. We red-flag potentially dangerous events to help us to avoid similar threats in future. When we see a red flag, we react as if our lives depended on it. And we continue to do this, even when there may be no real danger at all.
In today’s world, we still pay more attention to negatives than positives. Did you hear that “Self-praise is no praise,” or that “Pride comes before a fall”? How many of us brush off compliments or appreciation without even letting them land with us, but can focus intently on a slight or a negative comment? We can hold on to them for years, and perhaps even believe that they are true. The upshot of all this, is that most of us have a pretty poor opinion of ourselves at some level. And while we can convince ourselves, while sitting in front of a client, that our work has real value, at other times we often find it hard to own it.
For example, do you ever celebrate your client successes when you go to supervision, or do focus solely on the struggles?
So what’s the relevance of all this when growing your practice? In my opinion, it’s hugely relevant.
Being hard wired to focus on the negative, and needing a ratio of seven positives to each negative, we need to actively make positivity a goal in order to flourish. And when it comes to asking for work, we need to be able to speak with confidence and conviction of the value of what we do. Our inability to celebrate our successes leaves us with little muscle when it comes to selling ourselves, be that through referrals, or through our promotional material or website.
Celebrating successes, getting used to acknowledging the progress and shifts that happen when the work has gone well, leave us better equipped to articulate what we have to offer.
So I have been thinking about testimonials as a way of building some of that muscle. I’m not necessarily suggesting you ask your clients for them, I was thinking more of writing yourself a testimonial. So here’s an exercise for you to try:
- First get out a pen and paper, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and start by taking 3 deep cleansing breaths.
- Thinking about the last week, (or if you weren’t working last week, the last week you were working) and focus a client session that went really well.
- What was it about the session that told you that it went well? Was it a shift the client made? Or the energy between you? Was it something that changed for you, perhaps an insight or shift about your own process?
- Remember how you felt, during and after the session. What words would you use to describe that feeling?
- Now imagine you are your client. If your client were to describe how you interacted with them during the session, what words would they use?
- Write down everything that comes to mind. Try not to judge it, or to put fancy language on it. This is not a test, and it’s for you only!
- Then write yourself a mock-testimonial. If you’re stuck, try starting with the words:
“I strongly recommend (your name) as a counsellor / therapist. I have had the honour of being her client, and have found her to be…
During our work together I have learnt…
She has helped me by being…”
And finish up with something like “I couldn’t have done this without her support.”
- Read what you’ve written out loud, slowly. Notice your reactions, and what emotions emerge for you. Can you allow yourself to let in the words at all? Be gentle with yourself. If you aren’t used to seeing the good in yourself, this may be hard. And persevere. After all, you’re the one who needs to be convinced here!
- A variation on this exercise is to ask a friend to do it with you. Take turns at being therapist for the other for, say, 15 mins. Afterwards, each complete the exercise for the other.
If you struggle with owning the value of the work you do for clients, I’d love to help. Leave your comment or question in the box below, or email me for your free 20 minute consultation.