Patricia Garcia Soto
Product designer

Promoting inclusive therapy with Affinity

Mobile app MVP

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Finding a therapist isn't easy.

With the onset of the pandemic, the number of individuals seeking mental health resources has skyrocketed.

One of the biggest barriers to inclusive mental healthcare is the therapy search process. Though the number of individuals seeking therapists has increased, a lack of guiding information and the ability to search by criteria like cultural knowledge, therapist identity, and therapeutic method still deter many from seeking therapy.

Affinity is an MVP mobile app aimed at providing users with a simplified inclusive therapy matching service.

Project Scope

Create an app MVP for Affinity - an inclusive therapy matching program.

Deliverables

User research, UX design, product branding, app MVP

Tools

Figma, Protopie, Whimsical, Typeform

Understanding the Problem

The Why

The relationship between therapist and patient is a key factor in the effectiveness of therapy, so it is important for practitioners to have a deep understanding of their patient's identities.

Inequity in the field of therapy, and increased demand have left many without the mental health resources they need.

Given the shift to teletherapy in the past year, many practitioners have found that online technologies improve the cost, access, and quality of mental healthcare - and significantly reduce the stigma associated with seeking therapy.

86%
of the psychology workforce identify as white
246k
psychologists will be needed by 2025, while only 188,000 will be available
4x
as many people have reported symptoms of depression in 2020 vs. 2019
Affinity Mental Health

The Hypothesis

An app-based tool that offers individuals the ability to research and connect with culturally responsive therapists will improve access to quality mental healthcare, reducing both the stress and time commitment of finding therapy resources.

Though there are a handful of websites that offer the ability to search for inclusive therapy, mobile technology offers a unique opportunity to provide increased access to mental health services. Reliance on smartphones and app-based tools is common amongst communities of color as well as Americans that fall into low-income brackets, making an app like Affinity more viable for a wider range of individuals.

The Challenges

In tackling this project, I knew there would be crucial considerations for the research and ideation process.

  • The topic of mental health is sensitive, it is important to account for hesitation on the part of research participants. How might I provide empathy and transparency in the research and testing process?

  • The process of finding therapy is already overwhelming, how might I keep the content and design choices straightforward and supportive?

  • How might I close the gap in my own industry knowledge in the process of finding solutions?

I created two user archetypes for Affinity, The Specific Support Seeker, and the Practitioner. For the sake of this MVP, I chose to focus on the needs of support seekers.

I created two user archetypes for Affinity, The Specific Support Seeker, and the Practitioner. For the sake of this MVP, I chose to focus on the needs of support seekers.

The Research

In starting the research phase of the project, I knew that I would have to account for the stigma associated with talking about mental health. This consideration led me to implement three research methodologies:

A user survey allowed me to capture quantitative and qualitative data while also offering anonymity for participants. The survey was sent to a focused audience of individuals that identified as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC), or as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

User interviews gave me the opportunity to build empathy by having a close conversation with participants. I interviewed individuals who had searched for mental health resources or currently see a therapist.

Lastly, I talked with therapists themselves as a part of subject matter expert interviews. These conversations gave insight into the industry and barriers faced by practitioners and patients.

Exploring Solutions

The User Journey

An important aspect of synthesizing my user research was to determine the path that a therapy seeker typically takes when searching for support. Using my user archetypes as a guide, I created a user journey to illustrate both the actions and emotional state of the user.

Affinity Mental Health

User Frustrations

Users expressed a great deal of frustration with the therapy search process. Many were at a loss of where to begin, some felt too vulnerable in the selection process, and others weren't clear about what criteria they could even search for.

In order to narrow the scope of a potentially feature-heavy project, I focused on 4 pain points that showed up in almost all of the user research I completed. With each pain point, I tried to pinpoint a possible solution to include in the initial wireframes and designs.

Affinity Mental Health
User Flows
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User Flow

The initial user flow for Affinity included therapy search options by zip code or keyword. The flow was initially meant to be simple and allowed users to include search criteria such as cultural knowledge, identity, and more.

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User Flow 2.0

I went to users to get feedback on the initial flow and was told that it did not feel supportive enough in the matching process. To address this, I adjusted the flow to include a step-by-step matching quiz in addition to location and keyword search options.

Initial Designs
Affinity Mental Health

Affinity Branding

During the research process, multiple users mentioned that the therapy search process often felt cold and clinical. They did not find the journey approachable or accessible.

In creating the UI design for Affinity, I incorporated a warm, but bold color palette. The app also features photography of a diverse range of clients and practitioners engaging in therapy.

The key screens for the initial design included the Find a Therapist Flow, Search Results, and Therapist Profile.

Key Screens

Find a Therapist

The initial design of the Affinity app included a therapy matching quiz that takes users through steps to establish the criteria that are important to their therapy journey.

Search & Filter

Users can search by categories such as therapeutic method, practitioner identity and more.

Therapist Profile

In depth information about each therapist is offered to help users narrow down the best fit for them. Users can easily contact therapists through in app messaging.

Prototyping & Testing

After the key high fidelity screens were created, they needed to be tested by actual users. I conducted usability testing via Zoom, allowing users to explore the home screen, matching quiz, search results, and therapist profile screen.

Key iterations included changes to the Therapy Matching quiz, Search Results screen and the Therapist profile.

Key Changes

Simplifying the Flow

As users tested the Find a Therapist matching quiz, I noticed that my attempts at a unique "messaging style" UI were falling flat. Multiple users suggested distinguishing more clearly between input fields and buttons, and almost all requested that all inputs be the full width of the screen.

Additional adjustments made included simplified language to support users with the challenging aspects of the search process - such as understanding therapeutic method.

Affinity Mental Health
Affinity Mental Health

Improving Interactions

During testing, many users expressed wanting a stronger solution to liking and saving therapist information. I tested both a bookmark and heart icon on but many users thought the icon made the therapist cards too busy.

To solve this I used a swipe to save interaction to save space on the card itself while offering users the ability to save therapist listings to their search history.

Final Designs

The future looks promising...

This project gave me the opportunity to explore an unknown industry, but it also showed me the importance of adaptability and how to redirect for the sake of the user. I learned the crucial skill of simplification and gained insight into my own capacity as a designer of one.

Through Affinity, I was able to pair my passion for inclusion with both the community need for culturally responsive support, and the growing need for mobile tools to support mental health.

As for the future - Affinity has incredible growth potential.

If I were to continue this project I would focus on:

  • Thinking deeper into accessibility - especially in regards to users experiencing mental health crises.

  • Building out the features in the Hub including group therapy, personalized articles and other wellness tools.

  • Exploring what the practitioner side of Affinity might look like - how do therapists and practices engage with and use this platform to connect with patients?