The idea of the mystery shopper is fairly prevalent within the world of retail; paid professionals wander stores, seek employee assistance, and go through the motions of making a purchase, all with the intent of scoring the performance of the store involved and filing a report which can help the store to find new ways to improve. Those who are “tested” by mystery shoppers tend to be of mixed in their reaction to the idea; some see it as an honest opportunity to find potential problems, while others feel that it is an infringement on their trust and is a poor way to assess performance. Whether you’re for or against this method, if you’re a mental health professional, you may be hearing about it a lot more often.
The idea of the mystery shopper is being transferred to the platform of mental health treatments, wherein “fake” clients would be staged in care facilities and other treatment settings for the purpose of investigating the quality of care and the professionalism of those involved. The idea, strongly supported by Arthur Lazarus, an important figure within the psychiatry community, has been discussed in the journal Psychiatric Services, and may gain momentum in coming months as more and more therapists and mental health clinics seek to improve their offerings, both on the basis of integrity and under the increasing competition for clients.
Those who oppose the idea have suggested that the practice could present ethical problems within the sphere of psychotherapy and mental health treatment, including the possible issue of mystery clients using resources that those genuinely seeking help could otherwise use. As the debate heats up, it’s clear that the motion to start incorporating mystery clients isn’t final quite yet, but either way, this discussion may yield valuable insight into the ethics of sessions as well as the quest for strengthening professional skill.
Medical News Today. (2009, June 30). Psychiatric facilities encouraged to use “mystery-patients” to improve services. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/155819.php
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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