Everything You Need To Know About Color For Your Psychotherapy Website

When we encounter a color there can be a change in our mood, emotions, and also in our behavior.

Color choices on our websites then, is not something to be taken lightly. Color influences a website visitor’s emotions and perceptions around who you are and the services that you provide. What we know about the effects of color can be applied to the successful design of psychotherapy websites.

The study of color and how it affects us has lead us to many discoveries. One discovery was that buyers will form an opinion about a product in 90 seconds with 62-90% of that interaction being determined by the color of the product alone.

Another discovery was how color is “85% of the reason you purchased a specific product” – Neil Patel.

When we are faced with the important task of serving website visitors who are suffering with emotional and mental distress, it is vital we consider the way color will affect them. Will the colors you use on your website guide them towards having hope in your solutions or drive them away?

Two Things To Consider When You Are Choosing Color In Psychotherapy Website Design

1. Choose Color Congruent With Your Services

The color of your website and branding materials should be the appropriate emotional tone for representing your services.

For instance, a grief therapist would not use a rainbow color palate, as rainbows are usually associated with playfulness, joy, and happiness. Unless a grief therapists’ philosophy is to manage grief through denial, rainbows would be a poor fit.

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Furthermore, challenging the way your website visitors think, feel, and perceive colors is not the role of your marketing. Trying to redefine a color for yourself could be distracting from the actual job of your marketing: to communicate how you help. Sticking to convention is not a bad thing as doing so may be the key to communicating with your website visitor.

2. Choose Color With Empathy For Your Ideal Client

The emotional state of your website visitor when they are in need of your services should also be taken into consideration when considering colors for a psychotherapy website. So color is both the services you provide as well as speaking to the client’s needs.

What does the client need? Where are they now and where do they want to be? Colors should hear your website visitor in terms of both the current pains they are struggling with and in terms of the gains that they want to make.

A great way to empathetically meet your website visitors where they are is considering their lifestyle. What do your clients do on the weekends? Where do they hang out? What comforts them? What does their self care look like?

Someone who finds comfort in a cup of tea and a book will respond differently to color than someone who finds comfort in a long hike with friends. Thinking about the colors that color their experiences and the associations they have with those experiences can also guide decisions around colors to consider.

Kat Love’s Stimulation – Relaxation Color Scale for Psychotherapy Website Design

One way to think of colors is in terms of where they fall within a stimulation and relaxation scale. On one side of the scale you have the most stimulating a color can be: warm hue and highly saturated. On the other end of the scale you have the most relaxing a color can be: cool hue and a tint, tone, or shade.

Warm colors, like red, yellow, and orange are stimulating colors whereas colors like green, blue, and purple are relaxing colors.

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The purity, or closeness to hue, of the color will also affect how stimulating or relaxing a color is. Highly saturated colors that are hues unmixed with white, gray, or black are more stimulating then colors that are tints, tones, or shades (which are mixed with white, gray, or black respectively) for instance.

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Warm Colors: Red, Yellow, Orange

Red, orange, and yellow are stimulating colors. These colors are often used for marketing food for that reason. They increase appetite, arousal, and can even influence someone into a spontaneous purchase.

The color red

However, warm colors can also lead to a reduction in analytical thinking. Red, for example, influences humans to react more quickly and with more force. The reaction is short-lived and not based on rational thinking. Red is also the color associated with lust, power, excitement, and love.

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Orange is a representation of comfort and warmth. Like a campfire, it’s warm. It’s known as one of the more motivating and positive colors. It is often associated with fun, positivity, and enthusiasm which is why you often see it used in sports.

The color yellow

Yellow is probably one of the most controversial colors. It’s said to be associated with anything from joy and playfulness to warning signs and nausea. Yellow stimulates the brain’s excitement center and for some this may mean a heightened emotional responsiveness that is then interpreted as excitement.

Warm colors reflect more light than cool colors. For that reason, warm colors are used for warnings like red stop lights and yellow street signs. In terms of web design, because of their reflectivity, you should consider that they can be tiring to look at for a long time particularly saturated versions of warm colors.

Warm colors are a good match for your psychotherapy website when:

  • You are offering a service that is intended to excite
  • Your solution includes a lot of motivational messages
  • Your ideal clients yearn for more stimulation and excitement
  • You serve high functioning, non-crisis clients that don’t need analytical thinking to form a decision
  • Your ideal client is feeling emotionally cool (unenthusiastic, listless, lack of motivation) and will be attracted to the idea of adding warm energy in their life.

Cool Colors: Green, Blue, Purple

While warm colors stimulate, cool colors, like green, blue, and purple relax.

There is actually some biology behind the relaxing effects of green and blue. Blue is said to decrease respiration and lower blood pressure. And green is less straining for eye muscles because the eye focuses the color green directly into the retina.

The Color Green

Green is the color of nature and the color of growth. Green is associated with health, life, rest, and peace but can also be associated with negatives like materialism and envy.

The color blue

Blue is probably the safest color for psychotherapy websites as it is a well-liked color for all ages, genders, and cultures. It is also the most trustworthy, reliable, and responsible color and often used for building trust and instilling peace.

But blue isn’t perfect either, despite being well loved, certain blues can come across as cold or mechanical. In psychotherapy website design, you may want to apply this color with awareness around how it is also a popular color for hospitals. Depending on your ideal clients, an association with medicine could be good or bad.

The color purple

The color purple can be both warm and cool. Depending on the hue, it can be slightly stimulating or it can be towards peaceful and serene but on the scale of most stimulating to most relaxing, it still lands on the relaxing side.

Purple also has associations with authority, royalty, sophistication, and power. Some of that is the stimulating influence of red tones. For psychotherapy websites, purple that comes across as authority could be a good or bad thing, depending on the desired client.

Cool colors are a good match for your psychotherapy website when:

  • Your solution includes guidance towards increasing a sense of peace
  • You are offering a service that helps clients gain serenity
  • Your ideal clients desire more calm
  • You serve high or low functioning clients
  • Your ideal client might be running emotionally hot (overwhelm, anxiety, high stress) and feel drawn to the idea of cooling down

Pure Colors

Pure colors, primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, are fully saturated colors. These colors are not mixed with white, black, or a third color.

Pure colors are intense and are therefore on the stimulating side of the stimulation scale. Because they are bright and cheery, these colors are often used for bright and cheery things: toy stores, daycare, children’s cartoons, all utilize pure colors.

Pure colors are also associated with things like summer and being carefree. Some brands use multiple pure colors to signify playfulness.

When and How to Use Color in a Pure form your psychotherapy website:

  • For stimulating design elements only, for example, pure colors could be used for a website’s active elements like buttons and  links
  • Pure colors may also work as design accents: bullet points for a unordered list or a horizontal line to separate sections
  • Because of their brightness, usually it’s wise to avoid pure colors as a background color over a large area.
  • For children’s therapy websites, pure colors may be useful to demonstrate playfulness but keep in mind your real client is the parent, not the child.

Tints, Tones, And Shades

When you add white, gray, or black to a pure color, the result is a tint, tone, or shade.

Tints can span from a slightly whiter version of a pure color to almost being white. Tints can help with bringing a subtle influence of a color without being overpowering.

Tones and shades can also help with setting the color message. Moving away from high saturation and into tones and shades can reduce the stimulation factor of bright or light colors tints or pure colors.

When to Use Tints, Tones, and Shades for your psychotherapy website:

  • Tints, tones, and shades cover a wide variety of possibilities and thus can be adjusted to fit their use
  • Tints, tones, and shades can be used for relaxing elements
  • Tints, tones, and shades can work as background colors as long as it provides enough contrast with the text

There’s More To Color

This article shares some of the considerations to make when choosing color for a psychotherapy website or for an entire psychotherapy practice brand. It focuses mostly on stimulation factor and trying to fit warm, cool, pure, and tints, tones, and shades into this scale.

However, what is covered in this article is just one approach. It leaves out a lot of further questions are still worth exploring. Questions like:

  • The effect of color combinations
  • How color can emphasize font
  • What color can do for composition
  • Creating balanced color palettes
  • The use of black, white, and neutrals like warm and cold grays
  • Color use within negative space
  • How culture, age, gender identity influences the perception of color
  • And more…

Use Colors With Empathy On Your Website

When you are putting colors on your website, business cards, brochures, and choosing colors for your brand, are you using the right colors?

Knowing a bit about who your ideal client is can help you base color decisions to speak directly to them through their perception of color.

The most important question to answer: how do you want a website visitor to feel on your website?

If you can answer that question, you will be able to easier identify the colors that may work in your case.

Understanding the color psychology, the perceptions and feelings of color and how they impact behavior, is a vital step to help you communicate and connect with your clients.

Thinking of color on a scale of stimulating to relaxing and then considering what your solutions are and who you are serving can help guide us towards colors that create the most empathetic environment possible for your website visitor.

What did you think of this post? Do you feel more informed about colors as they might be used for psychotherapy website design? Are you reconsidering any color decisions that were made for you?

I love hearing from you. Feel free to reach out or tweet me anytime and keep the conversation going.

Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! I'm the founder and lead designer here at Empathysites. Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse so now I help therapists with creating their websites. I write on topics like website design, strategy, and turning website visitors into clients. Reach out anytime if you'd like to say hi. Pronouns: they/them/their