Welcoming clients into an office largely differs from having the workplace all for yourself and fellow colleagues. Whereas one is concerned with employees only, the other has to take clients into consideration as well. And while this is true for several types of work, a therapy office can be the most striking example.
A therapy office should be geared towards the clients, first and foremost. Not only does it have to look professional, but it should appeal to them on a more personal level as well. It has to radiate with warmth, acceptance, and be generally comfortable and cozy.
A psychotherapy session can be a rather vulnerable process for the client, and much depends on the environment as well. The goal is to provide a safe space, where people feel secure and comfortable – one where personality, charisma, and warmth are generally placed above elegance and professionalism.
So let’s explore the process of decorating a psychotherapy office.
Comfortably sized studio
The first thing that has to be taken into consideration is the size of the office. The main office, where the session takes place, shouldn’t be small by any measure. Tight spaces cause discomfort, and anxious people can easily get distressed.
On the flip side, it shouldn’t be overly spacious as well. It is hard to connect to a person, and open up emotionally, when you feel exposed and “out in the open”. A large office can negatively influence people, and we don’t want that.
A comfortable and welcoming waiting room
Depending on your practice, and the number of daily reservations, it is very important to have a waiting room. Clients often arrive early, or have to wait because the previous session can last a minute or two longer, so it is only reasonable to create a welcoming and comfortable room where they can patiently sit and wait for their turn.
You must realize that most clients are anxious and restless right before the start of a session, so it is of great importance to decorate the room in such a way that people feel relaxed and calm.
Decorating the main office
The main office has to be vibrant and ooze with warmth. People feel insecure and uncomfortable around empty spaces, so proper decoration must be put in place.
The general premise is not to leave an empty spot. Decorate walls with paintings, put console tables where there is a gap, and place decorative art elements or books on each smaller table or shelf.
But here is the rule of thumb – whereas décor is necessary, too much of it can ruin the session by offering a great number of distraction points. You want the client to feel cozy and at home, but not overwhelmed and intrigued by the amount of detail.
Finding the line between these two can be hard, but feel free to experiment by adding and removing one item at a time.
The most important piece of every psychotherapy office is the sitting furniture. You can very well chose between a sofa and a chair, or have more options by combining them so the client can choose.
Although, it is recommended to vary the furniture, but keep the client seat fixed, without him or her having to decide where to sit.
The furniture has to be super comfortable, with tall and wide back support, and include pillows or additional arm support as well.
Preferably, you’d like to mix the color options, so that your seat is slightly, or contrastingly different from that of the client. Pillows are an excellent way of introducing options, both in color as well as sitting position, so the client can adapt during the course of the session.
Many people become fidgety or restless while opening themselves up, so placing a pillow at arm’s reach can help them focus better by allowing them to canalize the energy through.
Windows, windows, windows…
For many clients, the process of becoming vulnerable by opening up to someone can be rather difficult. And unfamiliar places don’t help as well.
What you’ll be surprised to learn however, is that people generally adapt better, and feel more secure, when there is a window close by. The human brain has evolved learning how to fear unknown and unfamiliar surroundings. The window, then, is a comfortable signal of not being trapped in such an environment. If your space allows, try and emphasize the window area, by decorating the wall with several curtains, and gently showcase the window as well.
People would feel more at home, and definitely more secure and comfortable with one around.
Mind safety as well
While most sessions go smooth and without significant problems, you must still consider the possibility of unpredictable events happening. Troubled people, especially those you’re not familiar with, can sometimes snap under the pressure of having to open up to a stranger, and possibly become hostile as well.
You’d have to, therefore, consider an exit strategy.
The best way to go about this is to plan the layout of the main office carefully, allowing you to exit the room quickly and without obstacles.
Think about where the client seat should go, and how close yours has to be in relation to the door, back of the room etc.
Most seasoned therapists have a way of calming the situation down before things escalate even further, so sometimes no exit strategy is needed whatsoever. If you are just starting your practice, and still have doubts in your ability to handle the situation, consider the exit strategy as an additional safety net.
Similarly, try not to decorate the room with items that can cause any of you neither harm nor trouble.
Folding up this letter, you must realize the importance of having your office properly decorated. It is much easier to reach people, and have them opening up, if you manipulate the environment so well, that they feel comfortable, cozy and at home.
A good psychotherapy office should welcome clients and radiate with warmth, as well as mind safety and be prepared for every