Let’s say that, as a therapist, counselor, social worker, or other behavioral health professional, you seem set on your office space. You’ve set up a private practice, your office is affordable and kept neat, it’s fully furnished, you’ve received no criticism from clients, and you’ve got your diploma hanging nicely in the corner. Seems like you’re done tinkering with your therapy office space, right?
A therapist’s office should be a comfortable and safe space for clients to address deep-seated fears, deal with present-day issues, and work through past traumas or current mental health disorders plaguing them. But just because you have comfortable furnishings doesn’t mean you can’t enhance the space with therapist office essentials that helps address specific psychological issues. Many people view a therapist office as a mental, emotional, and even physical space of retreat, healing, and insight. Everything from effective design to color palettes to interesting shapes and decorative accents can contribute to healthier and more conducive therapy sessions.
Below are twelve ways you can improve the decorations in your therapy office so that you and your clients are getting the most out of each therapy session before even beginning:
Consider color. There are scientifically proven studies that show color affects people in universal ways. Blue and green are both known for their reassuring and calming effects. Red, on the other hand, is associated with physical energy and exertion, so it should be avoided in a therapy room’s decor as you’re trying to create a tension-free zone.
De-intensify that color. It’s best not to use bright or saturated colors in any space where feelings and emotions can run high. Whatever color you’re thinking of adding to your space – whether in painting the walls or through a throw pillow – soften the color. Bright yellow is stimulating, whereas pale yellow and other neutrals are more relaxing.
Add colors and adjust the dial. Two or more colors is going to countercheck the space, whereas all of one color will be overwhelming. Even if you have blue furniture, for example, a softer, lighter blue will provide a measure of balance. Start with a neutral color as the base for everything, then add in soft, paler colors that offer a relaxing, calming effect.
Layer accent colors. Hues of green, yellow, brown, and gray in different shades work as accent colors against blue. In contrast, green works with other nature-based colors like dark brown, cream, and bright blue. Above all, avoid overwhelming your patients with too many colors and choices that can create color chaos.
Add pillows to your client's couch or chair. When your client is sitting or stretched out on the couch you’re seeing them in, it helps to have throw pillows for lumbar support. Some clients like to hold on to objects like throw pillows while talking. A soothing fabric texture like chenille is a great choice, as are natural textures like cotton or linen.
Stick to neutral window coverings. Unless you absolutely can’t change them out, switch out window blinds for soft, flowing curtains in a white or beige color. If you have nice blinds, keep them as is, but keep them open to let in as much natural light as possible. Don’t go for a crazy print for curtains as it can be distracting.
Bring nature indoors. Paintings, photography, wall art, and sketches of forests, lush creeks, scenic beaches, or beautiful mountain ranges can serve as a mollifying motif and a focal point for patients as they discuss their issues. You can opt for one larger wall piece, or add a few small pieces of art to the walls. Also consider other nature-themed elements like birds, seashells, or floral prints.
No bookshelf? Try floating shelves. A floating shelf can still offer storage for personal items, but can also be used to place wall art or other accent pieces on display. This is a great way to put up a variety of textured pieces, like glass vases, pottery, or plants, alongside select readings you might want to lend your client.
Add an area rug. Area rugs are a great way to tie a room together in any space. Find one that’s big enough for the room, so it doesn’t throw off the balance of proportions. Tie all your furniture and accent pieces together with a rug that complements those colors and textures. Make sure to also get a rug pad, lest a client (or you!) accidentally trip over the rug and hurt themselves.
Soothe with sound. Some therapists use sounds like running water to help clients relax or learn coping skills. Others use soft instrumental music. Either way, a small, desktop-style water fountain might help out, or a portable bluetooth speaker you can control with your phone to easily start and stop music underneath during sessions. Even if the room has central air and heat, an oscillating low-speed fan creates a similar white noise effect that also simulates gentle breezes to help alleviate anxious clients.
Light the way. Don’t have intrusive or harsh lighting. Let floor lamps light up the room with soft, diffused light without taking up much space. The same goes for table and desk lamps. If you like and can do this to your space, think about recessed lighting on a dimmer switch – it’ll always naturally create the right relaxed ambiance.
Nurture with a nursery. Fresh flowers and green plants bring any office to life. Living plants are great mood boosters overall and create an instant connection to the outside world. Have vases with fresh flowers you buy from local shops – just be sure to replace them once they begin to wilt. You can place fresh floral arrangements on your desk, on a shelf, a bookcase, or a tabletop to infuse scent and add texture. Use planters for larger floor plants in the corners or behind sofas and chairs, whereas smaller plants can add depth to room design pretty much anywhere you’d put fresh flowers.
A therapist office is still a space for healing anxiety or other behavioral health issues. It needs to remain professional and clean, and provide a comforting scene for clients to feel they can safely open up and work through all kinds of mental health issues and feelings. It also still needs to function as a workspace for a therapist, so it still has to include furniture and storage for whatever they need. And yes, as an office, it cannot be too loud or formidable to your patients. But adding special pieces of decor that reflect your taste, education, and aesthetic choices are a great way to individualize the space you spend so much time in, and while it is intended to help with the stress of the patients, the decor can also help you deal with some of the stress of being a therapist, as well.