Therapy Office Design: Why and How to Provide the Right Setting

You’re a shrink setting up your new space, deciding on a therapy office design. You find a few chairs, throw some extra things together—and voila! A place where your clients can come see you. You sit, they sit, everybody’s happy. I mean, beyond that, does anyone really care how you decorate your therapy office?

Your clients do. And, according to a study from last year, they take even more notice when it’s an office they don’t like. And it affects how they perceive You, the therapist that comes with that office.

For more info about the research on therapy office design, click on this Psych Central link. But I’ll go ahead and tell you that the basic conclusion of at least one of the co-authors of the study, Jack Nasar, Ph.D., is:

I would tell therapists to keep their offices soft and friendly looking. Put up your diplomas and personalize the office. Arrange everything in a neat and orderly way and keep it that way.

Participants in the study looked at photos that Saul Robbins had taken of different offices. Although I don’t know if any of these were used, Robbins does have an interesting exhibit of “Psychotherapists’ Chairs From Their Clients’ Perspective” [UPDATE Aug. 2012: now called “Initial Intake”] on his website if you’re interested.

I recently came across another project about therapy spaces called “The Holding Environment: Photographs of Psychotherapy Rooms.” It was conducted by Jose Ribas, M.D., who explains how it came about:

As a Psychiatry resident on the verge of setting up my own practice, I photographed 28 therapeutic spaces and interviewed 12 of these providers about why they configured their space in the way they did. It was informative and rich to see the range of spaces, from the more traditional ‘blank slate’ position, trying to keep the space as neutral as possible to invite all kinds of fantasies and projections from the patient, to the rooms where therapists intentionally made their space very personal.

When you click on the link above, you can watch it as a slide show, complete with brief explanations from the therapists regarding their choices. 

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