Below is my video presentation exploring the research I conducted as part of my MSc in Counselling, and an introduction to the origins of the study.
The study explored combining non-conscious priming within logos on therapist's profiles. With different combinations of logos and therapist's gender, participants were asked to read a profile as if they were considering whether to choose the therapist. They were then asked to complete a variety of questionnaires to explore how they perceived the therapist, how they thought a therapeutic relationship might be based on the profile, and their attitude towards seeking help.
The one significant result within the study demonstrated that combinations of priming and therapist gender effected men's attitudes towards seeking help, when the issue they were facing was to do with suicidality.
The primary implication that emerged from the research was that mental health service providers and therapists should consider their representation of gender and logos when supporting male help seekers with suicidal thoughts.
The inspiration for this study was a culmination of various threads of interest for me. Bringing all of those threads together into a workable research proposal was a challenge in itself! I was intrigued by the positive evidence of online therapy and how it can achieve comparable results to face-to-face work. Clients are getting better and receiving the support they need, regardless of whether or not they are in the same room as the therapist.
Based on the idea of therapists working through the internet, I became curious about how counsellors portray themselves online. I wondered how, in a competitive market, therapist’s attempt standout from one another amidst online directories and websites? There was an element of personal curiosity here too, as at the time I was considering setting up a private practice, and offering online therapy.
I saw that working online represents the opportunity for therapist’s to gain access to a global audience. In face to face work, the size of a therapist's potential audience is bound to the local geographic area. However, whilst the global audience represents opportunity, it also represents the challenge of distinguishing yourself in a much broader arena, with much more competition.
It got me thinking about the culture of innovation that occurs in big tech industries. Companies like Facebook and Google improve upon their websites and advertising by using an A/B testing protocols. Simply put, two or more versions of a page or advert gets tested to see which performs better. This test and retest methodology gets continually used to refine and improve upon user engagement and sales. I wondered how much of that methodology of trial and error to innovate had trickled down to the helping industries? Presumably, if say a charity supporting suicide prevention could change their logo, or edit their photos in a particular way that would increase clicks and new service users, design edits could improve the charities aim to save lives.
So I started asking how could this type of methodology for improving web design help industries like counselling and psychotherapy, as well as charitable organisations?
I set out to compare whether logos embedded within therapist's profiles would affect peoples help seeking. Could a more positive logo change the way people view therapists, and further encourage them to reach out for help? Starting therapy can be a huge, frightening life choice for some people, so perhaps design features could support it to be a less daunting process? Ultimately, could a logo increase the likelihood of a person seeking help from a counsellor? The scope of my small study could not answer all of these questions, but I made a start!
Rather than go into any more detail about the actual study here, I'll let the video do the talking. I made an effort to make the video engaging to a wide audience, even if you don't have a background in academia.
Do get in touch if you have any questions, or would like an emailed copy of the full dissertation.