This essential branding guide for therapists has been crafted with therapists and counsellors in mind, with specific examples and case studies to help you create a stand-out brand. If you want to grow and scale your therapy practice, create an online presence or uplevel your business by crafting a professional brand, I’ve got you.
Why branding for Therapists matters
Brands are powerful. They can change our thoughts, feelings, habits, behaviours, and beliefs and bring a sense of belonging, all essential elements in a successful therapeutic relationship. Branding for Therapists is more than a nice-to-have, it’s essential for the success of your business and relationships.
One of my earliest brand clients was a friend who was starting on her journey as a counsellor, I remember at the time trying to instil the importance of branding for her business. She quickly discovered after posting her details on the Therapist Directory:
If you want to succeed, you need to stand out.
Many therapists and counsellors struggle to brand themselves because the thing they sell is intangible; it’s not an iPhone that can be put in pretty packaging and photographed.
And since the relationship between a therapist and client is so personal, it’s important to reflect some of yourself in your branding (obviously with boundaries).
Now, I know I’m biased here, but I believe Branding & therapy can be a match made in heaven, and I’m going to explain why in depth:
What is a brand?
Your brand is the total of everything your business is, what it stands for, the value you bring and how the world perceives it. It is a living, breathing entity that must be crafted intentionally, infused with your energy, nurtured and cultivated over time.
Your brand is how people experience your business; it encompasses the essence of who you are, what you do and what you stand for. It’s how people think about and, more importantly, feel about your business.
As Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, so eloquently put it, “your brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is”.
Since your brand is affected and decided by other people’s opinions of your business, every facet of your brand must be crafted with intention to ensure there’s no gap between how you want people to experience your brand and their actual, lived experience.
Your brand is multifaceted, made up of your:
- Story & Your Why
- Ideal customer
- Visual identity
- Logo, colours, fonts
- Brand tone of voice
- Brand personality
- Design Aesthetic
Branding for therapists : How to stand out from the crowd
If you’ve ever looked for a therapist (and if you’re a therapist, I highly recommend going through this process), you’ll know it’s hard to find one because everyone seems to be saying the same thing and (weirdly) everyone seems to look the same?!
How do you stand out from the crowd if all therapists offer the same thing?
A cursory look at the BACP therapist directory in the UK shows pages upon pages of therapists and counsellors, all using the same descriptions, words that mean nothing to the average adult human, and they all come with impersonal headshots that showcase exactly zero personality.
Standout brands are different. They use distinctive language, imagery, colours and designs to tell their story and convey emotion, personality and values. Brands that stand out create a sense of connection and belonging, a feeling of having found the right place, being amongst ‘your people’.
Standout brands aren’t afraid to say, “I’m different”. They understand their unique value, and they use it to their advantage.
Whether it’s a unique perception through past experiences, a framework that delivers proven results, their personality, or a truly memorable experience, they understand what makes them different is their biggest strength. I call it their Unique Standout Advantage.
They own and showcase their uniqueness through imagery, language, design and stories.
Building trust & rapport through your brand
Building trust and rapport is an essential and foundational element of any therapeutic relationship. Your brand can lay the foundations for this relationship before your client ever sets foot through your door (or appears on your Zoom screen).
Brands have an incredible power to make us feel specific emotions through powerful imagery, font psychology, specific words, phrases, language, location or colour.
Brands speak to us on a subconscious level – just as Apple called out the creators and disruptors of the world, Disney sparks a childlike joy and wonder; when we see these brands, we know what to expect.
Brands that craft excellent customer experiences or invest in quality photography, user-friendly websites, and beautiful design can build trust with their clients, show empathy and build connection.
Your brand is an extension of the customer experience, so you should put as much thought and attention into it as you do your one-to-one interactions.
Case study: creating a calm welcome for burnout clients – Seide Integrative Health
Attracting your dream counselling clients
When it comes to attracting your dream clients, I’m not a big fan of ‘picking a niche’. Sometimes your niche or dream audience is obvious – for instance, therapists who deal with PTSD in veterans or physician burnout. In this case, finding and attracting your dream client is easier.
However, if you specialise in a broader area of depression, trauma or relationship counselling, your dream client becomes more challenging to describe. Dream clients, in a therapeutic sense, are the ones you can make the most significant difference to and the ones who are ready and open to change.
Through your brand messaging and visuals, you can attract the people who will most likely gel with you. This is where it’s essential to let your personality, background and experience shine through.
I’m a no-nonsense kind of girl; I don’t want flowery language and sugar-coated platitudes – I need a straight-talking therapist who’s not opposed to throwing the odd F-bomb into the conversation. I also need flexible frameworks – I don’t like being penned in, but I appreciate some structure.
I swerved the hundreds of counsellors offering a ‘warm and friendly space’ (tip: I’ve not found any cold and uncaring counsellors yet) and a person-centred approach (is there another type of therapy?).
Understand that the right clients will be attracted to you for being you.
Being more you to create rapport
My best friend is a highly effective child therapist working with children in care, usually with extreme and complex trauma cases. Her ability to build rapport quickly comes not just from her 20-odd years of experience in the field but also from her relatability and the fact she does not ‘look’, dress or sound like your average social worker.
Over the years, her 90s-wild-child-meets-rock-chick looks have raised many eyebrows amongst the headteachers, police chiefs and council workers she works alongside. Still, her non-conformity and absolute refusal to be anything other than herself have allowed her to build deep and trusting relationships with hard-to-reach patients.
Letting more of you shine through is a strategy that will serve you well in your brand and business.
Your brand as an extension of your therapy
Your clients’ and potential clients’ interactions with your brand are part of their customer journey. As such, these interactions have the ability to either support the relationship with your clients or hinder it.
We often don’t consider customer touchpoints until something goes wrong. Then we realise that causing frustration through a broken client booking system or a website that doesn’t work can add to the stress of day-to-day life and create the very situations you’re trying to help your clients overcome.
These brand interactions (known as customer touchpoints) are opportunities to create an extension of the client experience. I explore the importance of brand touchpoints in an earlier article.
Your brand communications and design can help to foster desired emotions and feelings in your clients throughout their journey. Your brand can have a visceral impact on your audience for example, did you know there’s shade of pink that’s known to reduce human aggression?
A calm, welcoming website: Seide Integrative health
When I designed the Seide Integrative Health website, we were designing for clients who were either facing a cancer diagnosis or experiencing physician burnout. We wanted to induce a sense of calm and equanimity at every level. I specifically chose a soothing colour palette with calming visuals and created a smooth user experience.
There’s a video with the founder Dr Ann Seide explaining the chemistry of stress and the effects it has on the body, and there’s a free, downloadable meditation. Every step of the journey with Dr Ann is calm and supported.
Branding and charging a higher price
Time and again, it’s been proven that people will pay more for Brands they value and want to be associated with. It’s why people pay ££££ for red-soled Laboutin shoes, or the latest iPhone (I happen to be a Samsung girl myself).
When you create a brand that stands for something valuable in the hearts and minds of your audience, you get to charge a premium for it. People will pay for what they value, and brands can charge a premium when they increase the perceived value of their service.
There are 4 areas where brands can create value:
- Functional benefits – focus on the functional elements of the brand – i.e. Does it save time or effort (online access), provides quality, integration (i.e an app you can access on the go), professionalism or sensory appeal (location).
- Emotional benefits – Examine how the service makes the user feel: i.e. does it improve wellness, reduce anxiety, offer an extraordinary experience or provide therapeutic value, fun or aesthetic design?
- Life Changing – Looks at how the brand changes individuals’ lives : Does the brand provide hope, self-actualisation, motivation or a sense of legacy or belonging?
- Social Impact – looks at the value to society and how the brand/service has a broader positive impact.
When you can build and communicate value across multiple layers of your brand and service you get to charge a premium.
** for those of you worrying about being ‘affordable’ to everyone, you still get to offer reduced pricing for those on lower incomes. Or your higher pricing can subsidise pro-bono work if this is important to you.
How to brand yourself as a therapist
Creating a standout brand that feels aligned and authentic to who you are is important to all businesses, but when you rely on the connection you create with your clients to the same degree that therapists and counsellors do, it becomes essential to get your branding right.
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow to create your brand.
1) Establish your vision & mission
The first step to creating a brand with impact, connection and soul is to start with a clear vision and define your mission.
To paraphrase Gandhi, if you want to be the change you want to see in the world, you need to be clear about the kind of world you want to create.
If you want to create a connection, you need to know with whom. And if you want your brand to stand out, you need to stand for something. Your vision and mission can be the foundation that drives every decision you’ll make in your business.
It’s time to ask yourself some big questions…
What is your vision:
- for your business?
- For your life?
- For your clients?
- For your community?
- For the world?
What is your part in this? What are you here to do? How will you do it?
2) Uncover your Brand Essence
Your brand essence is what makes your brand unique to you or the cause you serve. It’s the underlying energy, intention and vibe behind your brand.
It’s similar to personality, but personality is the outward expression of what’s an undeniable truth on the inside. Brand Essence can also be thought of as the soul of the brand.
Your brand essence is usually condensed into 3-5 words that define the core emotions and feelings you want to evoke.
My brand essence is: expressive, inspiring, radiant
Nike’s brand essence is: authentic athletic performance
Disney’s brand essence is: Magical
When you understand your brand essence it’s easier to start crafting experiences, interactions and visual elements around that.
I cover more of this in Build a brand strategy in 10 steps
3) Identify your Values
Your brand values are the cornerstone of your brand and the modern consumer craves a connection with businesses whose values align with our own.
As humans our basic need to belong and be accepted results in an almost magnetic pull towards businesses and communities whose values and actions resonate with our own aspirations.
Identify 5-6 core values and then consider how you will demonstrate these in your business.
My core values align with my brand values of beauty, creativity/growth, spirituality, kindness and well-being. These values are expressed through the work I do, the clients I serve and are woven through my client interactions and brand touchpoints.
The experience of working with me is extremely different to the corporate branding and marketing agencies I worked with in my corporate days. My clients are happy to forgo the London offices and boozy lunches for heart-felt conversions about the change they want to make in the world and energetically aligned design (I call it strategy with soul!).
My clients and I are far more likely to hang out on a yoga mat or on a forest walk than at a swanky bar or nightclub – and that’s the way we like it.
When you lead with your values, vision & mission, you’ll never feel like you’ve taken a wrong turn in your business.
4) Create a Visual brand for therapists
If you’ve made it this far, you’re dedicated and I promise you it’s worth it! Once you’ve done the deep soul-searching of crafting your vision, mission essence and values, you know the unique value you bring and who you serve best it’s time to translate all of that into a visual identity. This is where the fun begins.
Most people think of a logo when they think about creating a brand. But your logo is not your brand it’s just a small element of your visual identity.
Your visual identity includes
- Logos and icons
- Colour palette
- Patterns & illustrations
- Design Aesthetic
- Photography & photographic style
A carefully crafted visual identity balances colour psychology, font psychology, design aesthetics, imagery and photography to tell a powerful story about your brand without you needing to say a word.
Take time to carefully craft your visual identity and seek professional help to ensure that your brand reflects your values, personality, and brand essence and speaks to your audience to create connection and build trust.
5) Consider your Brand Photography
“A picture tells a thousand words” is a saying that speaks to the ability of a photograph to tell you everything you need to know about a person, place or experience.
Incredible brand photography can make a mediocre website look amazing, it can make up for boring text and it can make you stand out in a sea of sameness.
I highly recommend that when you plan your photography you keep in mind all of the work you’ve done to establish your values, vision, essence and personality and speak to your photographer about ways you can weave these into your photography.
Consider your photography locations, your personal styling, props and backdrops and how you can bring more of your personality out.
My husband is not your average Financial Advisor, his photoshoots often take place in a relaxed setting, and he’s stepped away from the traditional suit and tie look you’ll see everywhere else.
Take time to research your photoshoot and get photos of you looking relaxed and smiling at the camera to build trust and rapport.
6) Create a Website that converts
Your website is an extension of your brand and it’s capable of performing innumerable functions for your business. It can:
- educate clients
- tell people about you and your business
- explain your frameworks or methods
- provide helpful resources & tools
- provide an easy online booking function
- Make it easy to contact you
- Display testimonials and case studies
- Promote events
- answer frequently asked questions
- provide a seamless onboarding experience
- sell online courses & resources or house online communities & memberships
Your website is a digital home that can serve your vision and help you achieve your mission. Unlike social media posts that get lost in a sea of information, your website is specifically designed to take visitors on a journey.
When I’m building websites for my clients we start with a deep understanding of their business, who they serve and the impact they want to create in the world and we build their website from there making sure that every design element and every paragraph serves that purpose and I suggest you do the same.
What makes a good therapist website
Once you’ve created a standout brand your website is an ideal place to communicate everything your potential clients need to know about you.
First and foremost, a therapist’s website should tell people what you do and who you serve.
Other things a good therapist’s website should have:
- Clear contact details
- Professional photography & design
- An introduction to you
- An about me page detailing your qualifications & experience
- Details of the type of therapy you offer
- Who you help or details of the areas you help with i.e. anxiety, post-natal depression, childhood trauma, grief, relationship therapy etc
- Clear call-to-action buttons
- An online booking system or contact form
- helpful resources
- Links to any professional directory listings
- Reviews/testimonials, case studies or client interviews
Avoid therapy buzzwords
Your website is not the place for industry jargon. Phrases like “person-centred” sound generic and lack meaning to the general public. Don’t assume people know what you mean when using common therapist buzzwords.
It can be tempting to use buzzwords to try to sound authoritative, but simpler language has a bigger impact. A good rule of thumb is to imagine you’re writing for a child.
Constantly using complex therapy terms and buzzwords won’t make you sound more intelligent or authoritative, but it can make you sound out of touch and unapproachable.
Avoid overusing acronyms like CFT, ACT and DBT therapies and terms for psychological models, including Humanistic, Psychodynamic, and Integrative approaches, especially if given without a plain English explanation – again, these terms carry little meaning for those outside therapy circles.
Branding for Therapists: Next steps
Brands aren’t created overnight. It takes time to craft a meaningful brand. If you’re looking to create a stand-out brand that feels authentic and aligned, you need to create it from the ground up. You’ll find heaps of resources on my blog to help you on your journey.
If ready to create a standout brand and website, I’d love to help. Learn more about my 1-1 brand strategy service, brand design package and full brand and website design package by clicking on the links.