Creating a Suitable Environment for Counseling

As a trained therapist, you should always be conscious of how you are presenting your counseling services to your clients. Making sure that your environment is suitable can help establish trust with your patients, as well as present an image of professionalism and cleanliness that will attract new customers to your practice. In this article, we’ll provide some important tips on how to create a suitable environment for counseling sessions.

Why Is a Suitable Counseling Environment Important?

Many people visit a therapist's office to discuss their personal lives and problems, so it is important for a therapist to create a comfortable counselling environment where patients can relax; a suitable space can encourage trust, make patients feel at ease, and create an environment where it is possible to open up about thoughts or emotions. So what makes a suitable counselling environment? Read on to find out how to create one!

Tips for Creating a Suitable Environment for Counseling

How your environment looks has a big impact on how your patients feel and the success of your sessions. Here are 12 things you can do to help you create the best possible environment for your clients that will make them feel at ease and ready to open up.

1.   Use Soothing Colors

Generally speaking, softer colors are more soothing and inviting than bright ones. In in person, online therapy or treatment settings, soothing colors can help create a more comfortable environment in which patients can feel free to open up and let their guard down to process their different types of traumas and ask therapy questions. Having a good environment for therapy will also improve your therapist patient relationship. Soft greens and blues provide mental rest and relaxation, while stronger hues like red or yellow tend to be more energizing or stimulating—an effect that's not necessarily what you want in individual therapy room.

2.   Choose the Right Chairs

When patients are in psychotherapy, they want to feel comfortable and supported in their surroundings. If chairs are uncomfortable or don't have back support, it's more difficult for them to stay focused on the task at hand. Therefore, it's important to choose seating that will help create an environment conducive to effective psychotherapy.

Select chairs with comfortable padded seats that can be easily moved around so your patient can adjust the chair if necessary. For example, your client may feel more comfortable facing the door instead of having their back to it. It’s also a good idea to offer multiple seating choices so patients can choose their preferred option—this makes clients feel like they have autonomy and control over the space, which puts them more at ease.

3.   Create a Private Space 

Creating the right environment for mental health counseling is about so much more than simply picking out paint colors and furniture. It's about fostering trust between you and your clients and creating an atmosphere that allows them to feel comfortable exploring potentially uncomfortable issues. To achieve this aim, you should make sure that your space offers patients plenty of privacy. Begin by making sure conversations are not audible outside the room. You should also be sure entrances and exits are private and patients don’t run into one another as they’re coming and going so clients feel protected.

4.   Keep It Quiet

Background noise isn’t just distracting, it also has an impact on your clients' ability to relax and get into mental health counseling mode. Turn off all music, minimize background noise as much as possible, and turn down ceiling fans or air conditioning units if they prove to be too noisy. You don't want your client distracted by what's going on outside of his or her head. It's not only distracting—if it's too loud, it can actually interfere with your patient's concentration (that is, making them more likely to tune you out).

5.   Include Adjustable Lighting

To ensure the counseling environment can meet the needs of all your patients, you may want to consider installing adjustable lighting that operates through dimmer switches. Each patient will have different preferences in regards to lighting—some may feel distracted by bright, fluorescent lighting and prefer a dimly lit room while others will like it as light as possible. To create a more comfortable counseling environment for all of your patients, allow for some flexibility in lighting options.

6.   Don’t Overcrowd the Space  

You may be tempted to fill your counseling space with as many comfortable chairs and friendly pillows as possible, but there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing. Not only will overstuffing your room make your clients feel crowded and claustrophobic, it can also negatively impact their moods—and could even make them uncomfortable enough that they want to leave early. Make sure you’re using enough space for people to move freely and have breathing room; after all, what’s more important than ensuring your clients feel relaxed?

7.   Utilize Natural Components  

Using natural elements in your office can also help create an environment that’s suitable for counseling. Psychologists and other experts have found that natural elements can improve both relaxation and performance; they help patients feel less stressed, which makes counseling sessions flow more smoothly.

You could start by adding some natural elements like plants, scenic photos, or painted landscapes. Another possibility would be to create a mini greenhouse with indoor plants to display. You should also allow natural light to come in, if possible; sunlight creates a warmer, cozier feeling than overhead fluorescent lights and reduces stress hormone levels in humans.

8.   Include Some Fun Stuff, Too 

As therapists, we know that it's important to make our offices feel comfortable and inviting for potential clients. When people are at ease, they're more open to exploring their mental health issues or difficulties and working on solutions with us. So when you're setting up your office or therapy room for counseling, try to think of ways you can add some fun and creative elements. For example, you might try including a small tabletop fountain. Pictures, posters, and small sculptures can also bring some playfulness into your space without overwhelming it.

9.   Avoid Anything That Might Be Triggering   

As you’re selecting artwork and other decorations for your office space, always try to keep in mind how each piece could affect your patients. Though something may look innocuous to you, it may spark negative emotions in your client. For example, a painting of two people embracing could cause your client to feel depressed because they recently lost a loved one. Do your best to avoid including anything that could potentially trigger your clients to create a space that feels warm, inviting, and safe.

10.        Keep Your Space Clean and Organized  

If you want to create an ideal therapeutic environment for your clients, make sure it stays clean and well-organized. This type of environment is better for counseling sessions for several reasons. First, it sends the message that you care about your work and pay attention to detail. Second, while a messy office can generate feelings of anxiety, a clean and organized space will have a calming effect on your patients. Third, it can help keep your clients from feeling distracted when their eyes are wandering around all over your office. You want them focused on what you’re saying – not on all of the clutter.

11.        Avoid Over Personalizing the Space  

Therapists are only human, so it can be tempting to decorate their space using personal items. While this may make the environment more comforting to you, it could have the opposite effect on your patients. A suitable environment for counseling will feel like neutral ground to both the therapist and the patient. If you display too many personal items, it could make the patient feel as if they’re a visitor in someone else’s home. You can avoid this by keeping personal items where they belong—in your own personal space.

12.        Don’t Neglect the Waiting Area  

Though all the focus has been on the therapy room so far, be sure you don’t overlook the waiting area; it’s important, too. The waiting room is the first space a patient will see when they arrive for their appointment. This area needs to be comfortable and inviting in order for patients to feel safe and secure in their environment. Make sure the seating area provides visitors with places to relax without any pressure.

The waiting room should also have the proper amount of light and privacy, as well as enough space between the chairs so that patients can comfortably focus on other activities if they wish (such as reading or quietly listening to music). Of course, it’s always helpful for clinicians to have binders containing information about themselves and their counselling practice sitting out on the coffee table before their sessions start. Whether it’s an intake form or printouts about psychological therapy in general, these resources will give patients something to focus on and help put them at ease as they wait for their individual counselling session.


Research has shown that some environments are better than others when it comes to counseling effectiveness and client satisfaction. As a trained therapist, you have the power to create the best possible environment for your clients by making the above changes in your office. Clients will appreciate the extra effort you put into your space—and they’ll feel more relaxed and willing to share during their individual counselling session.