Therapy offices tend to conjure specific imagery in people’s minds: a large couch or two chairs, dark woods, a chair, a desk, perhaps some lighting or plants. Furnishing an office space for a private practice for therapists can seem daunting, and it’s especially tricky when it’s the first impression, the way patients can feel secure, and the space in which many people have breakthroughs, breakdowns, and major realizations or feelings in treatment.
Likewise, a poorly furnished or ill-thought-designed office space can have negative impacts, both on the therapist’s business and possibly on the patients. An uncomfortable office design doesn’t yield great therapeutic results, and can lead to ineffective sessions, questions of credibility, and potentially a loss of business for the therapist.
Creating a comfortable, safe, and accessible space for therapy sessions requires nuanced balance. While we’re going to encourage affordability, use your discretion on how much you want to spend on counseling office decor for your therapy office. Amazon has lots of great options for everything discussed, as does Target or Wayfair. If you want to splurge, take a look at options at CB2, West Elm, or Joybird. It’s up to you and your budget!
Keep reading for six therapy office essentials to create a cohesive space that facilitates therapy instead of hindering it.
What You Need: Every therapist needs somewhere patients can sit. Most therapists opt for a couch versus a chair because it allows patients to feel immediately at ease. It’s a physical representation of being at home, which can impact their mental state. It also provides options for sitting, laying down, and general coziness. Moreover, if you also see couples or handle marriage counseling and therapy, it gives more room in the office for two people to sit next to each other while they’re in the therapy session.
What to Buy: Aim for couches that are affordable and aesthetically pleasing, with enough room to seat two to three people without squishing them. A neutral color like a light gray is going to match everything and also disguise any potential spills happening (imagine a patient spilling tea on a white sofa right before the next session!) Look for options you can easily assemble. And while it might seem silly to say out loud, take measurements of your office beforehand to make sure it fits nicely inside the space.
What You Need: Now your patients may be on a couch, but most therapists sit in chairs directly across from them for a reason. A chair that’s comfortable for you to sit in for hours at a time is crucial to keeping you focused on sessions. The chair ought to be durable, since you’re sitting in it for many hours each day – you do not want a chair that sinks or falls apart quickly. And you don’t want a chair that you’ll slouch in, which can seem distracting and make you look like you don’t care about the patients. Plus, you want it to match the nice couch, so it should have a similar aesthetic style.
What to Buy: Look for chairs with thick cushions and stable arms rather than an armless chair. Back support is vital to this chair, as you never know when you may be in back-to-back sessions with clients. Again, a neutral color is best, or something that fits in with the rest of the decor of the office design so as not to seem distracting. Since you’re sitting in this piece of furniture and it’s getting the most use, this might be the one piece of furniture to splurge on.
What You Need: Between sessions, you may want to work at a desk or some kind of workstation beyond typing on a laptop in your chair. This is also key if you’re holding teletherapy sessions from your office, as you’ll want a sturdy surface to hold your computer while you’re conducting sessions virtually. While the desk might hold paperwork, documents, office supplies, or books and other resources, it should be smaller and simple. The focus should be on the patient, not your workspace, within the counseling office.
What to Buy: Search for natural wood surfaces instead of glass or metal, or natural wood with metal accents. Not only does it evoke nature, which can be very calming for patients, but it’s also more likely to stand the test of time. A small computer desk works great, and it’s much easier to keep it neat and tidy during sessions. Ultimately, the desk stays in the background, but provides enough surface space – and possibly storage space – to function within the rest.
What You Need: You and your patients may be drinking water during a session, or want someplace to place a bag, or have a notebook out for notes, or place a box of tissues in case they’re needed during a tough moment, or…the list goes on. Having a place to put small items is thoughtful and helpful for you both.
What to Buy: Again, aim for natural wood surfaces. Make sure they are next to the couch and your chair. Buy them in pairs, or have one for the patients (either one, or both sides of the couch) and one for you. It needs to be functional while fitting into the therapy office decor, so don’t overthink it. Note: if you prefer, go with a low coffee table between you and the client for the same purpose.
What You Need: Lighting can really make or break a space. Lots of natural light is always preferred, but if your office doesn’t offer that or you’re seeing clients at night, investing in quality lighting is important. Don’t rely on fluorescent lighting. It’s jarring, uncomfortable, and feels more like a cubicle space versus a safe spot for therapeutic practices.
What to Buy: Any lamps that exude warm, soft lighting are a must, but a floor lamp is probably going to provide the most light compared to table lamps. Look for a sturdy option that gives off lots of light without overwhelming you or the patient. If you’re in need of table lamps, find smaller ones that fit on an accent table. Consider table lamps with multifunctional purposes, like ones that also have USB charging stations so patients can charge their phone while in session.
What You Need: This is where your personality as a professional can shine through. Think of ways you want to fill the space to make it more pleasant and homey instead of just a plain office. Patients want to enter a therapy room they feel safe in, and that includes seeing your expertise on the walls, or feeling a sense of calm when they look at a variety of lush plants. Good decor is relaxing, but also might serve as a “positive distraction” or conversation starter for new patients. It should promote creative problem solving, but never be outright disconcerting. Keep it light and think of calming palettes of dusty mauve, light blue, sage green, and beige. Don’t overfill the space, because that can come off as cluttered and make clients feel uneasy.
What to Buy: Bookshelves are one way to promote your credentials, keep your textbooks and resources together, display plants or small art pieces, and more. Look for posters, photography, or art pieces of natural landscapes – once again, nature is an excellent pacifier. On that note, consider large and small plants that don’t require a ton of work to care for, but offer a piece of the natural world inside the space. If it feels fitting for you, there are lots of poster options with affirming messages regarding healing, self-care, and mental health and wellness. And, of course, always have tissues handy.
Therapy offices are supposed to be an inviting place where anyone feels they can recover from mental health issues. As therapists, it’s part of the job to communicate that feeling through your space. Consider implementing some of these ideas if you haven’t already so that you and the patients, no matter who they are, can focus on the work and healing process. If you are a child therapist, or are wondering how to become a child therapist, there may be different needs when it comes to decor for children, so make sure to consider those before diving into the office decor.