Online therapy referral company that used deceptive marketing practices is no longer in business
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is happy to report that as of February 1 CareDash, the health care referral and review website which had engaged in a potentially deceptive marketing practice impacting social workers nationwide, is no longer in business. Thanks to our members, NASW was alerted to this practice last July. We immediately developed a nationwide legal strategy to combat this practice.
CareDash had been posting the profiles of thousands of social workers and other mental health care providers, without their consent or knowledge, in order to drive their prospective clients to provider networks that partner with CareDash, including BetterHelp (which, as a result our advocacy, ended its relationship with CareDash). In essence, prospective clients reviewing the profiles of social workers whom they wanted to see, upon attempting to make an online appointment with that practitioner, were redirected to those other providers.
This practice amounted to a misappropriation of social workers’ names and reputations for commercial gain – causing direct harm to social workers’ practices by diverting their prospective clients to other providers. And the practice potentially harmed consumers as well, who could easily have been referred to providers who are unable to meet their needs. Moreover, many of the profiles contained erroneous or outdated information that could mislead potential clients and implicate social workers’ ethical duties.
To combat this practice, beginning in July 2022 NASW met with CareDash’s president, demanding the practice stop immediately; filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission; provided our chapters with guidance on how to engage members to file their own state and federal consumer protection agency complaints; and shared information and strategized with our sister therapist associations to increase our impact. Subsequently, many hundreds of our members followed through with their own complaints and a number of agencies began investigations, putting pressure on CareDash to stop the practice.
Soon afterwards, CareDash eliminated the most egregious aspects of its practice, and just this month, the company decided to shut its doors. It appears that NASW’s efforts, along with our members’ invaluable support (combined later with added pressure from other organizations) ultimately led to this result.
We are grateful to our members for bringing this practice to our attention - and helping us to advocate for its elimination. Our members’ engagement is critical to our work.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.