How To Choose Images For Your Psychotherapy Practice's Website

Choosing Images for your Psychotherapy Website

Images are an important part of your psychotherapy website’s content. Images boost engagement and communicate with your visitors in a way that text alone cannot.

Images can demonstrate your empathy on a whole new level.

However, choosing images is not easy to do. Given an unlimited budget, you could simply hire a creative director and have them put together a team including a marketing expert, a professional photographer, and models to shoot all of your website’s image needs and craft the perfect visual story. But that’s simply not feasible for most private practices.

Most solo and small group psychotherapy practices will need to use either free or premium stock photography. Which is totally cool too.

But as such an important part of the website, there’s much to consider. Once you’re searching for an image, how do you decide which ones to use? Choosing images is not as simple as just filling gaps between paragraphs or finding the right colors or sizes. Randomly choosing any old image isn’t going to cut it. And for psychotherapy websites, it is of utmost importance that our website visitors feel understood and safe. Good, thoughtfully chosen images can help you accomplish this.

Images That You Shouldn’t Choose

It’s best to put some thought and strategy into the way you choose images. Before diving into what you should be doing, here are some common mistakes to avoid making when choosing images for your website:

1. Whatever comes up first in the search

First result for depression

This is the first image that came up in a search for “sad.” Using whatever comes up first in the search is a clear sign you are choosing without forethought to what your clients may be going through and what they might relate best to.

2. Emoticons or cartoons

Example of an image not to use

Website visitors won’t connect with this cartoon as well as they would with a photograph of someone. Most website visitors are going to relate to photography of real people in real situations, not cartoons.

3. Snapshots

Example of an image not to use

I know how awesome seeing that street performer in the tube station was on your last visit to London, but your website is not the place for sharing your snapshots. You are a professional therapist and your images need be professional quality too.

4. Over-the-top Dramatic Images

Example of an image not to use

Turning website visitor’s experience into dramatization may come across as insensitive. Images that are too dramatic, and not for the entertaining nor comedic effect, can make you appear less empathetic to the felt realities of your website visitor’s feelings. Too much drama can go into the territory of mockery.

7. Just pretty images

Example of an image not to use

This might be the prettiest image of a lotus flower you have seen in your entire life. But that doesn’t mean it is effective visual communication for your website. Images that are pretty are not always also the images that will communicate the best. Let’s try for images that are pretty but also for images that are relevant to the accompanying content and that speak directly to your clients too.

6. Images of text

Example of an image not to use

Is an image of a word an image? Images need to communicate visually to reach visitors on a different wavelength of communication besides text. If you use images of words, you are providing more text, not an alternative to text.

The Plan: 3 Types of Images to Choose for Your Psychotherapy Website

Instead of choosing images without a coherent strategy or choosing to use emoticons, cartoons, or iphone snaps from your last holiday, here are three categories of images that may help you conceptualize how to move forward with choosing the images that meet your website visitor where they are.

1. Images that Validate

Image that validates

What are the emotions that are being brought up in your ideal client’s life that motivated them to visit your website? To draw a bit from my personal experience, I’ll share that every time that I’ve sought out therapy, I’ve been in a bit of a crisis with something. I was suffering. I was hurting. I needed help! And this may be the case for your website visitors as well.

If you want your website visitors to feel like they are being seen, that their emotional state is valid, it’s good to use imagery that mirror the emotions they are feeling.

Of course, don’t over do it. If you work with clients that are suicidal, it would be unwise to use images of someone cutting their wrists. But what about an image that shows loss of hope in a gentle way? Something along those lines can be related to and help your website visitor feel seen and heard.

2. Images that Demonstrate the Destination

kat-love-design-choosing-images-destinationThe second recommended visual category are images that demonstrate the destination. Where does your ideal client want to end up after they have had therapy? What are they trying to achieve?

If your client desires a life that is energetic and happy, use images that motivate and inspire hope in your visitors for achieving this outcome.

But again, don’t over do it. Using images of inauthentic joy or a very large amount of happy images can also end up making your visitor uncomfortable. They may already feel like they are failing in achieving that life and seeing everyone else being happy can easily trigger a sense of what they are missing out on. Imagine that in that moment of seeking help, and perhaps being in darkness, it may be difficult to be inspired or motivated. Keep the visuals from this category subtle and real.

3. Images that are Calm

Emotionally neutral imageThe third category are images that are calming images. I sometimes also describe these images as emotionally neutral. In terms of design, emotionally neutral images can help provide patterns, textures, situations, and environments in which the eye and mind can rest.

These types of images are good to use on pages such as your “Rates” page. I mean, you don’t want to use a photograph of a briefcase full of money or stacks of 100 dollar bills. Instead, use an emotionally neutral image that brings some visual calm into the page. Thinking about rates, insurance, or other issues around money can be very triggering for our website visitors, so an image that brings in some calm can help with clients staying centered and focused on finding out more about your solution.

A word of caution about these types of images however is that they must be used sparingly and intentionally – overuse or use that is not bound by reason can result in a website that looks like an undertaker website or that of a cheesy hotel spa (lotus flowers and meditating Buddha statuettes for every page).

Should There Be A Fourth Category: Images of the Journey?

For the before-therapy period, we can use validation images that acknowledge the state your clients may be in. For the after-therapy period, we can use images of the destination to be reached after therapy. But what about all of that awesome transformation that goes on in your therapy office?

There may be another category of images to choose from, that is: the image of the healing journey. Unfortunately, I have yet to see nice images of the therapeutic process. Pictures often look very staged and just kinda weird. Someone with a rumpled tissue in their hands crying on the couch with smudged mascara may not be the best type of imagery to use to inspire someone in to embark on the work of healing with therapy.

The exception would be if you are a therapist that uses a naturally photogenic type of therapy. Something like dance therapy, music therapy, or art therapy could be communicated in images well. These types of activities will be easier to find in terms of professional stock images.

Questions You Can Use To Evaluate an Image

Although these three categories above will help you think about types of images to choose, there are a lot more things to consider. When you’re looking at an image, here are some questions to help guide you towards choosing something that will work in terms of communication and design.

  • What would this image add to the page? Images shouldn’t just be decor, so is this image communicating or adding something important to the page it will be on?
  • Does this image validate my visitors suffering or demonstrate something about the destination, inspiring hope? Or is it possible that this image will make them feel bad or triggered?
  • If it’s not validating or destination-showing, does this image add an important sense of calm or centering to the page?
  • What size and orientation does this image need to be? To fill a horizontal, full-width space, an image may need to be horizontal and above a certain pixel width. Or if it’s for a blog post, perhaps it could be smaller and square or vertical.
  • What composition does this image need to have? Does it need to have negative space perhaps to allow for text to be over part of the image?

Depending on your website and how an image will be used, you may have further things to consider when it comes to evaluating if an image is a good fit.

Choosing Images Gets Easier Over Time

Having some ideas about what you’re communicating and how you may be able to use images as part of that communication is key. Once you have a clarity around what you’re saying and the types of images that align with that, it becomes even easier to find images that match the tone of your solution.

Hopefully these three categories of images helps you choose images for your website and online marketing a bit easier.

What do you think? What are the images on your website doing for your website visitors? After reading this post, do you feel as if it will be easier to go out there and find images for your website and online content marketing?

I’d love to continue talking with you about this so contact me with your thoughts or tweet me anytime. It’s always great to hear from you.

Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse, so I helped them with websites and marketing for around 5 years. You can still write your therapist website in the easiest way possible with my easy, fast, and affordable solution called Empathycopy. Or stick around here on the Empathysites blog to get your fill of helpful website and digital marketing insights for therapists. Happy to help. Pronouns: they/them/their