"Fear Free" is a methodology developed by well-known veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker in 2016. Its approach to administering medical treatment and parenting of pets is totally pet-centered.
Fear Free is new in name, but not in philosophy and not in practice. Many vets adopted fear free practices long before it became a certifiable practice. If vets want their clinics to be certified as "Fear Free," their staff needs to pass a "Veterinary Professional Certification Program" and their offices need to be inspected by the Fear Free organization to insure that certain physical aspects of the offices are conducive to making dogs and cats feel comfortable... fear free.
To make the physical environment fear-free, a vet's office should have separate sections in waiting areas for dogs and cats, exam rooms should have a cozy atmosphere with toys, treats, and cushions for dogs, and shelves, condominiums, and scratching posts for cats to jump around. (Feline veterinarians have their own certification process approved by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM))
I regularly take my pets to a great veterinarian, who just knows how to talk to cats and dogs and to make them feel comfortable. He leaves my cat in his crate while he pets and examines him. My dog gets to sit on a loveseat with me while the vet talks to him and gently checks him out. When you enter the front door of the office, staff greets you and your pet with enthusiasm and treats and they talk sweetly to them before guiding them to an examination/"play" room
As far as I know, our vet is not a certified "Fear Free vet"; I've not seen it advertised at his office. But I did once take my dog to a certified "Fear Free" vet and, boy, was I disappointed. There were no physical accommodations for dogs or cats. Examining rooms were bare and sterile looking. Exam tables had no comfy mats for pets to lie on, as recommended by Fear Free. The vet did not try to connect with my dog - or me, for that matter. All I could think was How did this office get a certificate as a Fear Free vet?
After all the experience I've had with vets, I've come to the conclusion that some vets "have it" and some don't. You can read vet reviews on Yelp or Google, but pet parents are usually pressured by vets for good reviews, so I don't take those reviews too seriously. I would rely on the advice of friends, first asking them specific questions about the physical set-up as well as the veterinarian. And, you can always visit a vet's office by yourself just to test the waters. The attitude of the front office staff usually reflects the ethos of the veterinarian's practice. Ask if you can see an exam room. See if you can meet the vet. Try to sneak a short conversation with another pet parent.
Our former "country vet" didn't need a "Fear Free" certification; he just had it. Don't give up on finding an office that you and your pet are comfortable with. If you can't do that easily enough, find a vet that makes house calls, so your pets will at least feel at home.