Maybe this seems second-nature to you, but I will tell you that I have been in some therapist’s office that looked like a tornado had recently blown through their space. When thinking about how to set up your office, think about your client and his or her needs before your own. Consider ways you can create a space that feels peaceful, open, welcoming, and relaxed. If you are asking someone to be vulnerable with you, give them the space to focus on your conversation and work together – not your latest and greatest vacation, your eight hundred books on psychological development, or your “to-do” list for your spouse. Ambience, or what I like to call the “mood” of a room, can have a significant impact in therapy. For some, what a room looks like may not make a big difference, but for others they need enough personalization to feel cozy but not so much that they know every detail of your life!
2) Consider the Color.
Hopefully, we have all seen enough HGTV to know that the color of a room really impacts our emotional state. Consider using colors like pale blue, green, or even lavender that evoke a sense of calm. Maybe you love bright yellow because it makes you feel alive – that’s great, but for most of us that is a super energizing color and can make it difficult to focus. The goal with your color palette is to support your desired ambience and facilitate an open, reflective conversation. Save the bright pops of color for your beach cabana at home, your client will thank you.
3) Lamps, Lamps, Lamps!
Oh my goodness, have you ever been to a therapist’s office with no natural light and fluorescent bulbs that make you feel like you are in a horror movie? Well I have. It is not pleasant. Lighting is a huge factor in designing a therapy office. Of course, natural light is always a great option. I still caution you, however, to be intentional about how much natural light you allow in your space. And please, if there are overhead lights that you cannot control, invest in some lamps. Lamps immediately warm up a room and create a more cozy, friendly atmosphere. Also, when in session ask your client what kind of lighting they prefer. If they are like me and suffer from daily migraines, lighting is a huge factor in my ability to function. I can share deeply if my head isn’t splitting open. Think about all the ways light can affect your practice!
4) Choose Your Furniture Thoughtfully.
Not only is it great to have furniture that is aesthetically appealing (I mean, save the oversized recliners for your movie room at home), but there are other design choices to think about when choosing furniture for your office. For instance, is it furniture that functions for people of all abilities? Deep seat furniture can be difficult for many people. Is it comfortable enough so that people feel relaxed, but not so comfortable they go to sleep? If you are a therapist who specializes in eating disorders or body issues, have you considered what might make your clients feel more safe or comfortable? It can be great to have a couple of pillows for those who are struggling to feel good in their body, so they don’t feel so exposed during your meeting. Another consideration is how you place your furniture. Furniture position is a key way to facilitate sharing and conversation. When in doubt, ask your clients if the room setup works for them or if they want to make adjustments. They will appreciate your attention to this detail.
5) Accessorize in Moderation.
As I mentioned before, it is a great to have some items in your office that speak to your personality as a person and therapist. Most people want to know something about you. But, as I said before, be mindful of how much you include in your office space. Consider that certain quotes and specific artwork may be inspiring to you, but not your client. I do not advocate for only pictures of a beach on your wall or anything like that, but rather, I advise intentionality. Be thoughtful about what accessories you use in your therapy office and what messages you want to communicate to your clients.
All of these tips are meant to help you consider how you can serve your clients well. I absolutely know that not every therapist is a good fit for every client. Sometimes, however, you may miss out on a good match for a superficial reason. These tips are meant to help you craft a space that works for many people and YOU! I hope you found them helpful and if you would like assistance creating a welcoming, intentional therapy space for your clients please get in touch!
Lauren Santerre is creator of her own company Sacred Spaces by Lauren that helps individuals and families to connect with God in their hearts and homes. Lauren recently launched Sacred Spaces to provide her clients with spiritual direction, intentional home design, and joyful gatherings to foster the Sacred in their daily lives. Previously, Lauren served as a Hospice Chaplain for Silverado Hospice North Houston. Prior to being a chaplain, she was the Director of Interfaith Relations for Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston and the Executive Director for Brigid’s Place in Houston, TX. She received her B.A. in Religion from The Colorado College, her M.A. in Urban Ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and her M.A. in Spiritual Direction from Houston Graduate School of Theology. Lauren is married to her wonderful husband, Randy Saad, and they live northeast of Houston with their daughter Vivian. Lauren and Randy are members of Atascosita United Methodist Church.