The most effective therapist websites aren’t written to get visitors to diagnose themselves. Yet many therapist websites are written as if they are trying to help visitors do just that.

They share mountains of information to educate visitors around their possible diagnosis.

However, this major mistake ends up hurting visitors instead of helping them. Let’s dive into why and what to do instead.

What It Looks Like When A Therapist Is Inadvertently Encouraging People To Diagnose Themselves

You can find this mistake again and again on many therapist websites. Here’s how it typically shows up:

There’s a specialization page, let’s say it’s for “Depression” 

At the top there will be a section for “What is Depression?” and multiple paragraphs describing what depression is. 

Next, there will be bulleted lists around “Common Symptoms” that are almost a direct paraphrase from the DSM itself. Things like: 

  • Depressed mood
  • Diminished interest in activities
  • Fatigue
  • Significant changes in appetite

After listing off the symptoms, in medical terms, there may be further content around the “Causes of Depression.” Like social, circumstantial, and biological reasons depression could happen to you.

Next, you find a list of “The 7 Types of Depression” including major depression, bipolar disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder…

And to finish off the page, there’s a section on “Recommended treatments”  which will include the types of therapy that can help.

Why Therapists Do This: Big Hearts

Before diving in, I do want to validate how challenging it can be to know what to write on your therapist website. Many, if not most, therapists struggle with this. After all, therapists do not get sales training in grad school.

There are a few reasons why therapists could end up having diagnosis-type-info on their sites.

One reason is the big-hearted intention of helping meeting a website visitor’s need for understanding. Understanding, after all, is a basic need.

Perhaps therapists feel that if they help visitors understand what might be going on for them, it would help them confirm they need help. “If you have these symptoms, maybe you do need therapy”

Or it could also be a way a therapist tries to express how they help – with medical-level specificity. “This description is the best way to let my visitors know exactly what I help with.”

Over all, these pages are written with love! And the hope that it will help visitors feel they came to the right place.

It makes sense that many therapists write this type of page. And in fact, the way that so many therapists have pages like these just confirms what I know to be true about therapists: they deeply care about helping people, caring for their needs for understanding, and want to communicate clearly about how they help.

All that said, this page is not effective at meeting those intended goals. The reason is…

There’s a Difference Between Educational Content And Sales Copy

The problem with these types of pages, pages that get visitors to diagnose themselves, is that it’s educational content, not sales copy. As such, it majorly misses the mark on what a website visitor is needing.

Educational content helps people get educated.
Sales copy helps people get therapy.

On a specialization page of your website, such as a “Depression Therapy” page, a website visitor is needing help. They are not needing education. If they wanted education, they would have googled “symptoms of depression” or “types of depression” and found educational content that way.

The fact that they are on your website looking at a sales page means that they are seeking a therapy service. And in fact, educational content delivered in this context is likely to increase confusion and stress, not ease it. 

Picture this: a depressed person is browsing psychology today to find a therapist. They land on your profile, get interested in how you could help them, and click through to your website.

When they land there, they head directly to the “Depression Therapy” page to learn more about how you could help with their pain. They are have some specific questions in their mind like,

  • “Is this the right-fit therapist for me?”
  • “Would I feel comfortable with them?”
  • “How does the process work?”
  • “I wonder how much experience they have with people like me”

But instead of finding sales copy that could care for all of these questions, and more, they find educational information. Almost like they are greeted with a “WebMD” article or the therapist’s essay they wrote in their Depression 101 class last semester.

We can imagine they might be feeling or thinking things like,

  • “I guess I need to figure myself out more before I get help?”
  • “I don’t understand these words like, “dysthymia” or “dysphoric”… this is too much for me! Am I stupid?”
  • “This is so much information. It’s like reading a research paper. Perhaps I don’t know enough about depression to start getting help?” 
  • “Maybe it’s my responsibility to understand everything about depression before I come in” 
  • “Am I sure I have depression? These symptoms sound like what everyone struggles with. Now I’m not sure if I have this problem bad enough.”

With feelings and thoughts like these, this website visitor is unlikely to feel inspired to reach out for your help. In fact, it can have the opposite effect bringing up insecurities, doubts, and more questions around how help can be found.

Confused, unsure, hopeless are not feelings any therapist should inspire in their website visitors.

What Visitors Actually Need On Your Website

When you focus on helping visitors diagnose themselves on your website’s pages, you aren’t focusing on meeting a visitor’s true needs: feeling seen, feeling hopeful, and getting guided towards the help they need.

And the help they need isn’t education. They aren’t trying to become therapists nor are they trying become their own therapists.

Instead they need to understand how YOU can help them, understand that YOU could be their best fit therapist, and know exactly what the next steps are to get YOUR help.

They aren’t needing: a lecture in “what is depression”
They aren’t needing: here are the symptoms so you can diagnose yourself
They aren’t needing: to look up every other word in the dictionary just to understand

Effective therapist websites take the lead. It’s your responsibility to offer help and guide them to it.

If anyone should be doing any diagnosing, it should be you in the context of sessions. That is your job after they become a client. Don’t put that responsibility onto those who are courageous enough to start seeking help.

Educational Content Belongs In Your Blog

Before you chuck your educational content out the window though, you should know that there is a place for it on your website.

Therapist websites have two sides, one side is the sales side, the other side is the marketing side. 

On the sales side, you sell therapy services. In the simplest of terms, this side of your website uses words that describe how you help to people.

This sales side is a series of pages that links together, not only through the navigation, but through creating a logical and effortless journey. The story is this: telling visitors what they need to know and proactively caring for their questions and concerns. Ultimately the journey ends at the start of their direct contact with you: them reaching out for that first call or session.

On the marketing side, you offer content that is written to inspire, educate, and entertain. The purpose of the content is to attract traffic, build authority, and build and nurture relationships. 

For example, a blog post on “The Top 5 Ways To Tell If You Struggle With Depression” could help educate visitors on how to spot depression. This post could also help demonstrate you know your stuff and therefore build trust with potential clients or referral sources.

Therapist Website Copy: So Important

Website copy is important because it’s how you communicate the value you bring with the world. If you want to build an authentic connection with your visitors, you have to step up your website copy. 

Your best fit clients need you to market and sell to them. And making sure you’re taking care of their specific need for finding help on the sales side of your website is key.

The highest form of compassion is sales. Because it is through sales that you help people get help.

Additionally, your website is a direct reflection of how you offer that help. It determines how your customers see you, what they know about you, and importantly, how they feel about you.

Are you helping them feel seen? Heard? Understood? Hopeful? Are you helping them feel safe and guided like, “this therapist understands me” and “there is a way out of my misery” and “help is here and I know how to get it”?

Because if not, you might be making this common mistake: putting educational content where visitors are needing sales copy instead. Meet your visitors where they are. They are wanting help. Once you’re clear on that it’s simply about sharing how you can help them with kind, compassionate, and hope-inspiring sales copy.

P.S. Get help writing it here.