This post was a long time coming.
I was never sure when I should publicly share my opinions on Brighter Vision.
Many great people in the private practice building world partner with Brighter Vision or are sponsored by them. When I started TherapieSEO, I dreamed of being a guest on certain podcasts or partnering with certain companies. I was afraid that sharing my thoughts on Brighter Vision would block me from those opportunities, and I certainly didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
I'll quickly catch you up for those of you who don't know my opinions about BetterHelp and similar mental health startups like TalkSpace.
In my opinion, most mental health startups are only profitable because they exploit and underpay therapists. This article from Mental Health Match summarizes it well. This article and this article elaborate on some of the sketchy practices of these companies, although the most disturbing things I've heard have been from former employees.
So to me, it was no surprise that Brighter Vision decided to pursue a partnership with BetterHelp regardless of their exploitation of therapists because, well… Brighter Vision makes money from taking advantage of therapists too.
Let's dive in.
A quick caveat
I think Brighter Vision is an adequate service for therapists who don't want to be involved with their website and aren't interested in digital marketing.
Subscription websites like Brighter Vision's have a "concierge" aspect to them. They're often set up for you (Brighter Vision does this), so you have to do minimal work setting up a website.
I know that this is appealing to many therapists. When you're starting a private practice, setting up a website seems like a significant challenge that you might not have time for. Because of this, many therapists default to Brighter Vision.
Brighter Vision's concierge-like service can handle simple requests and churn out highly-templated, outdated websites, so if therapists also aren't concerned about branding either, Brighter Vision is a convenient choice.
How Brighter Vision makes money
Before I get into the details, you must understand how a company like Brighter Vision makes money.
All subscription services make a profit based on the volume of people they help. This is an honest way of making money--all service subscriptions follow this model. But this can quickly turn therapists into dollar signs instead of people (which gives me BetterHelp vibes).
One of the things Brighter Vision counts on is people having simple needs and similar problems or requests. If you need something more customizable or advanced on your website, a subscription website service like Brighter Vision may not have the systems in place to adequately support you.
Keep in mind that Brighter Vision isn't the only service like this for therapists--but they are the most prominent player. They actually refer to themselves as "the worldwide leader in custom therapist website design."
I don't entirely understand what "worldwide leader" means to them, but I certainly had a chuckle when I read that.
Note that websites can run the gamut from anywhere to a couple thousand to thousands of dollars if you work with an actual website designer or design agency.
So for a moment, let's think critically about their pricing.
According to Brighter Vision, you can get a website and marketing for $59 to $129 per month. My hourly rate is $325. But because, according to Brighter Vision's founder, "we understand this market so well, we've done all the research, and we understand the aesthetics [...] we charge two bucks a day." Given their recent BetterHelp partnership, I'm not convinced they understand their market.
So how can they offer these prices? Someone is getting the short end of the stick or you're getting an inferior product/service.
Let's dig into their websites and analyze their Social Genie marketing service.
Despite what they say, if you use Brighter Vision, you're getting a template.
That would be fine for some therapists if Brighter Vision didn't market their websites as custom-designed (the image below was taken from their menu).
But in their copy, they say, "we take the time to understand you and your practice, and build you a custom website on one of our frameworks that will empathize and resonate with your ideal client." It doesn't seem so custom anymore.
Look at Brighter Vision's portfolio. This is what they think custom design is.
Look at this website. THAT is what custom design actually is.
Switching out colors and a logo is NOT a custom design, and I suspect that they haven't updated their designs since their founding ten years ago.
Having been a website production manager at a website design and marketing agency, I know what goes into a truly custom website. Their prices would leave most agencies significantly in the hole financially. Custom doesn't scale, and Brighter Vision needs volume to turn a healthy profit.
Like many companies in the therapy space (I'm looking at you, Psychology Today), Brighter Vision is fast and loose with the truth. Notice how "custom-designed" quickly becomes "built on a framework."
Brighter Vision's service is what it is, but much of the predatory nature takes form in how they market their products and services.
They make basic features sound like benefits
This is a classic sales tactic. By listing a bunch of really awesome-sounding things, they bolster the appeal of their product.
But what they offer isn't unique to them or noteworthy--these features are standard practice.
Let's take a closer look at these features, shall we?
For obvious (and personal 😂) reasons, this makes my blood boil.
A website AND SEO for less than $150 per month? Really? What does that service entail?
Brighter Vision is essentially telling its customers that they don't have to worry about SEO. But let's return to their pricing model. What quality of service are you getting for that amount of money? My monthly retainers are around $1,200. For SEO AND a website, you can pay Brighter Vision $129.
I'm no math whiz, but that's not adding up. Remember: to offer those prices, someone is getting the short end of the stick, or you're getting an inferior product/service.
The only way they're providing SEO is if they do some initial and basic optimizations when the site first launches. But as I tell all of my clients, SEO is not a one-and-done thing. That is a dangerous narrative to impress upon your customers, especially since therapists often don't know much (if anything) about SEO.
Initial optimizations are also a tiny slice of what comprises SEO. What about content? Link building? Technical SEO?
Unlimited tech support
This is pretty legit. But I would argue that the tech support is limited in quality.
Here's an example.
One of my clients used Brighter Vision, and her site was extremely slow.
I can usually fix some site speed issues on my own, but Brighter Vision sets up their WordPress websites so their clients really can't do much themselves. I've worked on many WordPress websites, and I've never encountered a more limited dashboard. I understand why Brighter Vision sets them up that way, but it increases dependency, which can leave therapists trapped with Brighter Vision if they ever want to leave.
So, I reached out to support.
Six days later, Brighter Vision installed a plugin to help with site speed.
When I ran her website through my tool again, it still wasn't up to par.
So I resent a screenshot and reminded support (again) of the potential problems.
This exchange went back and forth for a while, and it felt like pulling teeth to come to a solution.
So, did we get unlimited support? Yes. Was it quality support? For our untemplated problem, they weren't ready to provide an untemplated solution.
We ended up leaving Brighter Vision. My client now has a beautiful and fast website that offers increased flexibility for her marketing efforts.
One last thing: like I briefly mentioned, unlimited support leads to dependency. Dependency reduces your autonomy, which could trap you in Brighter Vision's services. Note that Brighter Vision also maintains ownership of many of their marketing assets. So if you ever leave, you may be left high and dry.
Someone sent me this passage from their contract:
"In case your website under the Services is cancelled and/or terminated, BVWS owns the rights to the content, logo and design work created by BVWS under the Services. You can request, at an additional fee, site files and site database backup except for all sites launched under the Services. For such rates, please contact BVWS's customer support department. Upon Your request, we can also provide You with the pre-written and intake forms completed by BVWS under the Services."
So if you leave, you potentially lose your content and logo, or you'll be paying undisclosed fees to keep them.
Easily edit your website
I couldn't edit one of my client's homepages, first of all.
But this is more important: Brighter Vision's content management system (the place where you enter content on your website) is outdated. WordPress's Gutenberg content editor came out in December of 2018. The Brighter Vision sites that I worked on in the winter of 2020 and spring of 2021 did not use the new (and standard) WordPress content management system.
Maybe their new sites use Gutenberg, but it's still their responsibility to update old websites, too.
My conclusion? They're not concerned with the quality of their product. I suspect that this is largely due to therapists not being privy to these kinds of issues; therapists are unfortunately easy to take advantage of in these situations. It makes me sad.
This is not special. Any website designer worth their salt sets up SSL certificates.
This messaging is a scare tactic. Without Brighter Vision, your site won't be secure? Please.
Mobile responsive websites
Yeah, no doy.
If your website isn't responsive, you'll struggle to rank on Google, and clients won't contact you because they can barely navigate your website on mobile.
Mobile responsiveness isn't a feature--this is standard practice in website design.
I'll keep this short.
Pre-written content is a bad idea, and professional marketers know this and would never recommend using pre-written content.
It's simple: templated marketing doesn't work. "Homepage content generators" won't convert clients.
This is telling of Brighter Vision's marketing strategy--they feed into the fear that therapists have around marketing and websites and replace that fear with suspiciously convenient and cheap solutions.
Speaking of suspiciously convenient and cheap solutions...
Brighter Vision's "Social Genie" service has long concerned me. You pay a low fee every month ($99 to $129 with a website) to "access a library of thousands of social media and blog posts and schedule them across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in a matter of minutes." You then "schedule them to publish on all platforms."
This is bad marketing. If you're looking to do little to no work in marketing, I recommend investing that money in a Google Ads campaign instead. Why?
Templates don't speak to your audience. They're generic. They speak to everyone. So really, they speak to no one.
I hate to break it to you, but there is no shortcut to relating to potential clients. Filling up your Facebook scheduler's queue doesn't accomplish anything. Don't do marketing because someone told you to post on Facebook every day--do marketing to relate to potential clients.
I've noticed that therapists entering the private practice world can become obsessed over what they "should" be doing. They're afraid that they're not doing things right and that they're not doing enough. Brighter Vision happily plays into that (unfounded) fear by offering a solution that ticks all the boxes--quick and easy content on every platform for the busy private practice owner.
You don't need this. And an ethical marketer would tell you that.
Just because Brighter Vision's customers may have expressed a desire for a service like this doesn't mean that they should provide it if it's a waste of their customers' money. This service benefits Brighter Vision--not therapists.
Having the same Instagram graphic as other therapists is one thing, but sharing blog content is another.
That's why my biggest concern with Social Genie is their blog post library. If I understand the service correctly, what they are offering is in direct violation of Google's algorithm.
By posting an article on your website that is also on other therapists' websites, you have duplicate content. You can learn why duplicate content is harmful to SEO here.
Note that Brighter Vision offers SEO services. They should know this about Google.
Here's an example of duplicate content on Brighter Vision websites.
No SEO professional would ever, EVER recommend posting duplicate content on your site. So that "SEO" you're getting every month through Brighter Vision? Subpar.
Unfortunately, many programs, services, products, and companies are taking advantage of therapists' lack of experience with websites, fear about private practice, and indoctrination of martyrdom in graduate school to make a profit. Companies like BetterHelp, TalkSpace, Brighter Vision, Thriveworks, Psychology Today… and the list goes on.
And remember that if you're not the one getting taken advantage of, someone else is. Always remember: someone is getting the short end of the stick, or you're getting an inferior product/service.
Here are my recommendations:
- Work with individuals or small businesses.
- Examine who you follow on social or what podcasts you listen to and see if they're getting sponsored by these companies.
- Question services, and get educated before you meet with these companies to ask them tough questions.
For more of my thoughts on this and the BetterHelp/Brighter Vision partnership, you can watch my IG Live I did with Tara Trottier of Tara On Demand here.