Why Your Website Matters: Online Brand Building for Therapists
When it comes to putting together a private practice website, therapists usually don’t know where to start because we were never taught about this key piece to building a psychotherapy practice during our training.
Therapists aren’t provided the skills and knowledge needed to present themselves online in an accessible, relatable way, so therapists and potential clients miss each other and the therapy search process remains arduous and unnecessarily challenging.
This is exactly why I design websites for private practice therapists; with a background in both art & design and psychotherapy, I help bridge the gap between the world of online marketing and the world of mental health. Through pre-designed therapy websites and custom design services, I help therapists connect with potential clients so that both the therapist-search process and practice building become easier.
In this post, I’m going to explain what your website is, what your website isn’t, and provide strategies for improving your online presence in order to attract more aligned clients to your practice.
What your private practice website is
Let’s start by establishing what purpose your private practice website is meant to serve. Your website is your practice’s online “home base,” and it’s there to connect with potential clients on your behalf, provide a positive experience, and bring in new clients to your practice. In short, your website should operate like an assistant; it’s there to connect with potential clients so that you don’t have to spend all of your spare time networking and manually building relationships with potential clients.
What your private practice website isn’t
Contrary to popular belief, your website is not a resumé or cover letter. Although it may feel like you have to pitch yourself to potential clients as you would when applying for a job; this is not what creates an effective private practice website. When someone is searching for a therapist, they’re likely hurting. They’re in a vulnerable place, and they just want to know if you can hold space for their specific experience. Listing your past clinical experience and credentials doesn’t help because most people don’t understand how that relates to their current life.
Secondly, your website isn’t something to set up and then forget about. Your website should be maintained with the same care and intention you provide to your physical office space. Leaving unfinished pages, neglecting to make sure your links work, and failing to update it with current information all leave visitors wondering, “Is this what therapy will be like with this person?”
Lastly, your website isn’t a place to follow the crowd. In the psychotherapy profession, there are areas where following norms, ethics, and protocol is necessary. However, your website is not the place to follow and blend in. Doing so will not only make it harder for you to stand out to potential clients, it’ll also perpetuate the difficulty of the therapy-search process for clients.
How to improve your online presence to attract more clients
To make your website work hard for you, it’s important for you to understand that your website can be one of your most powerful marketing tools and your most valuable asset as you build your practice – if it’s set up correctly.
Regardless of the stage of private practice you find yourself in, here are some strategies that I recommend to improve your online presence in order to attract more aligned clients to your practice:
Know your niche, mission, and vision
One of the most foundational elements to building a successful brand and website is knowing who you’re here to serve, why you’re doing the work that you’re doing, and how that plays out in your practice. This is the work of “brand strategy,” and it’s something that many therapists skip, thinking that branding isn’t something that applies to therapists.
Start by clarifying who you most want to help. Many therapists resist the idea of choosing a niche for fear of leaving people out, but the reality is: we can’t be everything to everyone. Clarify the driving mission behind the work that you do (often called “your why”) and evaluate how that manifests in your work.
Develop a visual language that communicates your brand
The colors, fonts, and images that you choose for your private practice website might not seem like that big of a deal, but as any fellow art therapist will attest: line, shape, and color are the language of emotions. And when you’re a therapist, connecting with people on an emotional level is the most important thing you can do.
The visual language you use on your website will connect with visitors faster than your words (website copy) will, so make sure you’re using colors, fonts, and imagery that not only captures your personality and therapeutic style, but also encapsulates how your clients want to feel.
A good place to start is by looking at your office decor and/or your wardrobe. What design decisions have you made already? How does your office decor make people feel? What does your clothing style say about you? Use your answers to inform your website design decisions.
Write clear, effective website copy
The words on your website have the power to attract or repel. Make sure they’re attracting the right people. On a therapy website, it’s about speaking directly to your website visitors and connecting with their vulnerable experience. Avoid jumping directly into talking about yourself and don’t use clinical jargon; these are two common copy mistakes I see over and over again on therapy websites.
Build a hardworking website
No matter your stage of private practice, it’s important to have a hardworking website that you own (meaning the domain name and hosting is in your name). Whether it’s a simple but straightforward landing page if you’re just starting out, or a fully custom-designed website if you’re more established, your website is your most valuable marketing asset.
Make sure your website has a clear path to booking with you, plenty of current pictures of you, and a straightforward structure so that it’s easy to navigate. Since most people are viewing websites on their smartphones, it’s also incredibly important to ensure your website looks and functions seamlessly on mobile devices.
A good website is non-negotiable
A hardworking website that you own is the best foundation on which to build a sustainable online marketing strategy. Make sure your website is the central “hub” for all of your online connections to ensure that you’ll continue to make connections, regardless of what algorithms do.
Start where you are and work within your budget. You don’t have to have a top-of-the-line, custom-designed website to build a successful practice; there are plenty of options out there – from DIY website builders like Squarespace, to pre-designed templates, to semi-custom or custom design. Just make sure to prioritize your website for smooth practice growth and easier therapy-seeking for all.
Guest post for Mental Health Match
— Monica Kovach
Monica is a former art therapist and counselor turned web designer for therapists. She’s passionate about making therapy more accessible by helping therapists present themselves in a more accessible way. She lives in Michigan with her two kitties, Bubbles and Pearl, and when she’s not designing websites, she can usually be found somewhere in nature.