This article reviews diffuse optical brain imaging, a technique that employs near-infrared light to non-invasively probe the brain for changes in parameters relating to brain function. We describe the general methodology, including types of measurements and instrumentation (including the tradeoffs inherent in the various instrument components), and the basic theory required to interpret the recorded data. A brief review of diffuse optical applications is included, with an emphasis on research that has been done with psychiatric populations. Finally, we discuss some practical issues and limitations that are relevant when conducting diffuse optical experiments. We find that, while diffuse optics can provide substantial advantages to the psychiatric researcher relative to the alternative brain imaging methods, the method remains substantially underutilized in this field.