If you’re reading this, you more than likely are in school to become a therapist, counselor, or clinician of some sort. You may have just graduated and are getting ready to make your office home. Or maybe you have had your practice for a while and simply want to change things up.
Either way, you are in the right place.
Creating the proper environment for your therapy practice is a crucial step that you don’t want to omit.
Having a calm, balanced, aesthetic atmosphere can relax clients and help them to get comfortable in your space, as well as minimize distractions so that you both may keep your focus on your session.
Here are some things to consider when decorating for your therapy practice:
- Create a balanced space
- Stay professional
- Incorporate beauty
- Use natural elements
- Utilize positivity
Create a Balanced Space
These important elements must work well together to form a coherent whole. Excessive decorating, adding nick-nacks here and there, and overdoing it with color might cause distraction and even prevent your client from relaxing.
Being overly professional can give the appearance of being closed off or stuffy, and focusing too much on style can get out of hand quickly. Too much of anything when decorating is, well…too much.
Think of a theme and then a few items or colors that you want to be represented throughout your office. Perhaps you want to use calming colors such as light blues, greens, and grays. Then add splashes of color with a few plants and terrariums to give the area a natural feel. Put up a few pictures of your pets, spouse, and kids if you would like, along with some unique decorations that flow with the vibe.
If you’ve never heard of the basic Chinese principles of feng shui, it’s time to do a Google search! According to The Spruce, “The philosophy of feng shui is a practice of arranging the pieces in living spaces in order to create balance with the natural world. The goal is to harness energy forces and establish harmony between an individual and their environment.”
If you’re lacking that creative spark, type in feng shui office into Pinterest and see some amazingly balanced rooms.
Overall, you want to consider both the feelings and opinions of both your clients and yourself, since you will all be spending a lot of time in your office.
This should go without saying…
No matter what decorating skills you excel at or lack, please stay professional. You can definitely find a way to remain professional and not have the office space come off as dreary or stuffy.
By doing so, you’ll show your clients that they are taken seriously and you value the work they are doing with you.
Some ways you can accomplish this vibe are…
- By displaying earned credentials on a desk, on the wall, or somewhere else appealing.
- By choosing modern furniture that blends well with the environment.
- By having nice, warm lighting from simple-looking lamps.
- By keeping all areas in the office clean and organized.
- By locking away all patient-related documents or files.
- By keeping the computer or laptop on a screensaver.
- By keeping a timer close by to avoid looking at a phone during a session.
Take a moment to stand back and think about how you would feel if you were in the client’s shoes. What would you deem as professional or unprofessional? What might be distracting or cause you to negatively judge the therapist?
Of course, there are many more ways to keep it professional as you decorate your office. Just make sure you’re doing what you believe will make your clients the most comfortable and at ease.
Utilize beauty to grab your clients’ attention as they walk into the room.
Decorate the walls with calming paintings or other somewhat neutral artwork––for a therapy office, abstract art or art related to nature might be a good choice. You don’t want too much going on. Find something that represents you and the atmosphere of your office without being too generic or too busy.
Decorating experts recommend going outside of the box and focusing on more than just the wall art.
Remember that art isn’t the only thing you can put on the wall. Think about using textiles like rugs, tapestries, or woven wall hangings, or even shelves with books and decorative objects. Mirrors tend to be less expensive than art too, but be mindful about the placement of your mirrors because neither you nor your client should be able to see yourselves during the session.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; you won’t be able to please everyone, so simply try to keep it tasteful and modern.
Use Natural Elements
Having a variety of indoor plants has been trending for a while, and it hasn’t gone away.
Psychology Today relates that nature can calm the spirit. Plants can be placed strategically in corners or other areas which are out of the way but noticeable. These can be large or small depending on the placement. Whatever you end up choosing, read up on the care instructions for your greenery so that you don’t have dead plants on your hands.
If you’re not great at keeping your plant friends alive, try bringing in some low-maintenance succulents, cacti, or simple terrariums. Or ask a plant specialist at your local garden store which plants work well with little light and can be indoors. There are also faux plants, for those who really don’t want to keep up with live ones. Just make sure to dust them off once in a while!
If you have widows leading to a natural light source, then you’re one of the lucky ones. Be sure to use that to your advantage.
Lastly, don’t forget about water and earth.
Many therapy offices have Japanese zen gardens, those small, desktop sand gardens that you can rake and decorate with pebbles and such. The activity can be quite calming and offer your client something to do with their hands if they are a fidgety person or if they need a calming activity.
Consider having a small tiered water fountain on the floor or an end table. The sound of water trickling down each tier can be extremely calming and enhance a natural atmosphere.
Bringing natural elements into your office will definitely bring some zen to your space.
This decorating tip is quite crucial, especially since you work in the world of therapy.
Utilize positivity in all aspects of the decorating process. This may look like adding an inspirational quote to the wall, by focusing on goals and progress, or even by the colors or scents you use to decorate with.
An article on this topic by the American Psychological Association recommends using
Use positive distractions. Fish tanks in medical offices are somewhat cliché, but they may have empirical merit—they’re an example of so-called “positive distractions,” a phenomenon noted in many research studies (see Resources below). A glance into the tank, or at other inviting sights like the art of pastoral landscapes, can provide a respite from talking about weighty issues. You want views that draw you in and give the part of your brain that has to focus a mini-break.
Combine kindness, ease, and respectability without being dull or drab. One may allow themselves to view the room from an artistic point of view by using their imagination to see the situation in a better way. This will make your clients more likely to keep coming back for a visit.
Consider Hiring an Interior Designer
There are plenty of professional interior decorators out there that focus on small spaces, such as offices. Consider shopping for one online, browse through some portfolios until you find one that reminds you of your own vibe, and contact one. Sometimes the cost of hiring one is worth the time, money, and effort it’ll take for you to do everything yourself.
Tips for Decorating a Therapy Practice: Conclusion
Planning, shopping, and decorating can be an exciting adventure, especially if you are brand new to the professional world and just found your first therapy office. During this process, keep these five tips in mind while decorating to ensure that your office atmosphere and environment work well for your therapy clients. Think calm, natural, professional, productive, and organized thoughts!
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University
Updated November 2021