design mistakes for therapistsWhen you were studying psychotherapy, you covered the intricacies of the brain, the complexities of emotion, and the depth of the subconscious. You surveyed the history of psychology, from Jung to Freud to the latest advancements driven by neuroimaging and genetics.

You learned to treat clients with compassion and understanding. And you learned to apply techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, or psychoanalysis to help them overcome their most troubling mental health issues.

But through all that, you and your instructors overlooked one crucial topic: how to design a website for your therapy practice.

Of course, no one gets into psychotherapy because they’re interested in web design. But marketing your private practice online is a necessity if you want to attract clients. Some therapists even find they enjoy this aspect of the job.

You’re not an expert on web design, but you don’t have to be to put together an attractive, professional site for your practice.

Recently, we reviewed the four most popular website platforms for therapy practices. As we noted, each platform features pre-built templates and an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for customizing the look and feel of your site.

As you get to work on your therapy practice website, be sure to avoid these common mistakes — which can confuse visitors and drive them away from your site and your practice.

 Are you looking for a more comprehensive guide on marketing for therapists? Then click here to view our 6,000+ word web guide. It's free!

Mistake #1: Having a ‘Retro’ Look

We’ll start with the least specific, but possibly most important piece of advice: Your website shouldn’t feel like stepping into a time machine.

As we approach the end of the 2010s, almost all of your potential clients — regardless of age — have significant experience viewing and interacting with websites. Everyone lives online nowadays and, whether they can articulate it or not, they have a sense of what a website should look like.

If your site looks like a throwback to the 2000s or even the 1990s, your visitors may (consciously or subconsciously) question your professionalism and your judgment. That means:

  • No animations or music.
  • No cartoon clip art.
  • No tiny, low-res photos.
  • No funky fonts.

Modern web design is about clean usability. Websites use the same color scheme from page to page and consistent fonts for each design element (the same font for every headline, the same font for every chunk of text, etc.). Navigation menus are easy to find and use.

Fortunately, you don’t have to stay ahead of modern design trends to have a good-looking site. If you use one of the four web platforms we recommended in our previous article, you will have plenty of up-to-date templates to choose from.

Mistake #2: Not Optimizing for Mobile Devices

Are you reading this blog post on your phone? If the statistics are correct, over half of you are.

If you use smartphones and tablets to browse the web, so do potential clients. If they happen upon a site that is difficult to read and navigate on a phone’s smaller screen, many of them may move on.

Web platforms like Squarespace and Weebly will adjust your site automatically to fit smaller screens and mobile devices. But they’re not always perfect, especially if you’ve made a lot of changes to your template. It’s always a good idea to test your site on all the devices you can get your hands on.

Mistake #3: Making Your Visitors Hunt for Contact Information

Therapy website design expert Daniel Wendler says, “Your website should get clients to book their first session with you.” Everything else, he says, is secondary.

In other words, your website isn’t there just to look pretty. It’s there to help you find new clients and to help new clients find you.

According to one study, 68 percent of small business websites fail to include an email address on their homepage, and 87 percent fail to make their “contact us” option stand out. These businesses are missing countless opportunities.

Make sure it is clear from every page of your website how to get in touch with you and schedule a session. Only include contact methods you want your clients to use. For example, if you don’t want them emailing you, don’t publish an email address.

Also be sure to include your physical address so clients can find their way to your office.

Mistake #4: Showing Off a Bad Photo of Yourself

First impressions count in therapy. You wouldn’t show up at your office for a day of sessions in rumpled clothes, with an overflowing garbage can and crumbs around your desk. You want your clients to trust you. A warm, professional appearance is a must.

The same goes for the photos you post on your website. Yes, you definitely should post a photo of yourself. You are what you’re selling, and clients want to get a look at you.

But don’t slack on the photo quality. Blurry photos featuring awkward poses, random backgrounds, and weird cropping will be red flags to potential clients.

With the right web platform, you can do most of your web design yourself. But it might be worth springing for a professional photographer.

Mistake #5: Rambling On an On...and On

You have a lot to say about psychotherapy and an interesting story to tell about yourself. But consider whether your website is the best place to say it all. Website visitors have a notoriously short attention span and can get impatient with wordiness.

Most visitors to your website are looking for basic information that will help differentiate your practice from others in your area. They want to know:

  • Who are you? What makes you unique?
  • What services do you offer? What treatment methods do you offer? What challenges do you help with?
  • How can they schedule an appointment?
  • How much do you charge? And do you accept insurance?
  • Where are you located?

Make sure all this critical information is easily accessible on your website. Resist the temptation to include much more.

To make your site even more appealing to those of us with short attention spans, write in short sentences and use frequent paragraph breaks. Long blocky paragraphs can look intimidating on a digital screen.

If you do want to have your say and tell your story online, consider adding a blog to your website. Attracting visitors with helpful articles is a legitimate — and winning — online marketing strategy. It’s called content marketing.

Learn all about content marketing and other modern marketing techniques in our exhaustive guide for psychotherapists, “Marketing for Therapists”.