One of the first things that people do when they walk into my therapy office is comment how nice it is. They talk about how relaxing it feels…often finishing their observations with a comment something along the lines of “it doesn’t even feel like I’m coming to counseling.”
Which was exactly my intention from the outset. If you are going to go to counseling, well it shouldn’t feel like a medical office. It shouldn’t feel like you are going to some place because you are sick. But this is my preference: that the therapy space feel like a “wellness” place rather than a sterile, clinical feel. And it seems like my clients agree with me.
Office spaces come in all sizes and shapes and budgets. I’ve worked in community mental health clinics with 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand furniture. I’ve worked in clinics that were pretty cluttered and sterile. I’ve worked in really nice therapy offices with expensive decor.
But what matters to me is this:
- That the office feels inviting and comfortable for both you and the client.
- That you are able to make the office reflect a part of your personality. After all, you are going to be spending a lot of time there.
- That the office helps your clients feel relaxed and ready to work when they come in. You don’t want distractions that keep them from doing the work they are coming in to do.
Also, we are talking about building a therapy practice, which often means a private practice — which also means you will be charging a great deal more than most community mental health clinics that operate on sliding scale fees, no fees, and more pro bono work (again, in later posts I will talk about the importance of having some sliding scale and pro bono slots in your weekly therapy calendar). So if you are charging more for therapy, your clients will expect more from their experience (i.e. nice office building, furniture, water/coffee, magazines to read, etc.) Creating a nice space is important because it’s part of the value of the client’s investment in the therapy. And if you want to attract clients to your therapy practice, than you need to have an office that is inviting.
What Do You Want Your Space to Reflect
About 3 years ago I built out my office space that I’m currently practicing in. It’s about 640 total sq. feet. I have a huge office I do therapy in, a lobby for my clients to wait, and an extra office that I have leased out for other therapists to use before (but is not currently my work and storage space). I got to design the space, pick the paint colors, the furniture, art, etc. I loved the ability to design it from the ground up. It feels like me and that is important since I spend 8-10 hours a day there (Monday through Friday).
Some things that were important to me:
- modern feel: clean lines; modern furniture; minimal items in office; no clutter.
- calm feeling: I have a table fountain in the lobby; relaxing music plays all day; lots of dim lighting.
- hospitality: clients can pick coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juices, water from my lobby to have.
- wellness: I chose the building I did because it’s a “wellness” building with lots of practitioners. There is a spa on the first floor and it always smells good when you come in the building.
These are obviously just my thoughts in terms of a therapy space. How you choose, design and decorate your office should reflect your style and personality. But what you do need to take into consideration is that if you are in private practice and you are going to charge a fair amount, people expect something from that than just therapy. They want to come to an inviting place where they can feel comfortable and work on some really difficult issues.