Heather K Adams
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As a therapist or mental health specialist, your concern is always uncovering the roots of your patients' problems and aiding in the recovery process. And while your skills are an essential part of your practice, don't forget how very important the tone and feel of your office will be to your clientele. It's the first thing that greets them when they come in and will inform their experience So you want to visually express that this is indeed a calm, safe space in which they can begin to do their work, with your help. There's definitely an art to planning and selecting the best therapeutic office decorations for your practice.

What is a therapeutic space?

Be it a therapist's or a psychologist's office or even a community gathering space for shared discussions about mental health, a therapeutic space is one in which people can speak openly and freely about their issues and concerns. It's a safe space, essentially. Safety is a crucial consideration when planning or redecorating one of these spaces, because even just starting to talk about what bothers you isn't easy, and neither are the discussions and sessions that follow. Patients and attendees need to feel welcomed and physically comfortable in a space that is as relaxing as possible.

Think about the last time you had a doctor's appointment. While the waiting room probably had some nod to comfort and ease, the actual exam room was no doubt pure function. There's usually very little to distract you from how chilly the room is (especially if you're in one of those flimsy exam gowns), how bright the overhead lighting is and how all the noises from the hall and the other rooms filter in. These are all bothersome, uncomfortable elements of that space. A therapeutic space needs to create the opposite environment, one that's soothing to step into, an area removed from the outside world that feels, yes, safe.

Create that calm, safe space.

When it comes to therapeutic office decorations, comfort and calm are the forever bywords. Always carefully consider the needs of your patients when planning the layout, design and decoration of any safe office space.

Furniture.

Furniture is where art meets function and as such is a vital element of your therapeutic office decorations. In fact, when designing and shopping for your office, planning your design around a single set or piece of furniture isn't a far-fetched concept. After all, most folks think of the standard therapist's couch when they picture an office like yours, and it's not really a cliche. A comfy sofa for patients to sink into gives your space all kinds of "this is like a nice living room" vibes. Your clientele will feel more encouraged to kick off their shoes (so to speak) and dig into the conversation, instead of feeling like they're in a doctor's office. Comfortable pieces with clean lines set a good visual tone. A modern style is fine, but avoid anything too stark in appearance because it might feel clinical rather than comfortable.

Wall art.

While the therapist's couch may be a staple that's here to stay, there are certain actual cliches you can do away with when it comes to planning your therapeutic office decorations. The bland landscape wall art is one of them. When it comes to art for your walls, don't get caught up in what your space "should" look like. Move toward what you want it to be, so that it mirrors your personal therapeutic philosophy, representing your approach to your practice and a bit of your own personality. After all, you have to see these pieces every single day. So, if you actually like landscapes, go for it. But if you like abstract pieces, framed textiles or cool thrift store mirrors? Do that instead. Just remember to keep your patients' comfort in mind, and don't place mirrors where they'll be a distraction during sessions. Overall, avoid artwork with potentially disruptive content.

Decor (and fidgets).

Some clients, especially new ones, may be hesitant to jump right into what brought them to your office. And even your regulars can sometimes struggle to find the words. Interesting pieces of decor, especially things that can be handled and perhaps serve as a kind of fidget for nervous or anxious hands, will give you both something innocuous to chat about before easing into heavier conversations. If you travel and enjoy buying souvenirs, consider incorporating some of them into your therapeutic office decorations. And don't forget that books can be both useful and decorative, for your waiting room as well as your office space. Display coffee table books, and install shelves for reference materials and perhaps books you find useful to lend out or give to patients tackling a certain subject. Bookshelves add a sense of coziness, are a great landing zone for knickknacks and also project a certain degree of comforting professionalism.

Plants.

Most people probably agree that a room with plants in it is just a tad more relaxed than a room without any. You can incorporate hardy greenery, like succulents and other indoor-thriving plants, into your therapeutic office decorations with relative ease. That way you foster a more relaxed environment without taxing yourself in terms of caring for these new additions. Try arrangements of plants with different textures, shapes and sizes to increase the visual interest and, again, perhaps act as a conversation starter. If you have a green thumb and like tending, feel free to incorporate blooms and blossoms, and consider rotating out a section of seasonal plants and even herbs.

Light.

The light in your therapeutic space is a significant consideration, especially if you're still in the planning and design stages. Does your space get a lot of natural light? If so, is it often harsh or is it mostly mellow? You can soften harder light with sheer curtains, and block intense light with lined fabric. Knowing the right way to manage the light you get throughout the day will help you maintain a steady mood in your office. Pay careful attention to lamps and other light fixtures, and remember to again consider your personal aesthetic when choosing warm or cool, direct or diffuse light. The decor and color scheme will all play off of, or clash with, the kind and quality of your light and lighting fixtures, so it's a good thing to stay conscious of as you plan, design and decorate.

Colors.

Common consensus might lead you to think that neutral and bland tones are the only palettes appropriate for your space, but when it comes to therapeutic office decorations, don't immediately rule out bold colors or even patterns. To be sure, disruption is unwanted, and anything too bright runs the risk of becoming a distraction. But jewel tones and warm, strong earth tones can make a space feel homey and relaxing, while still being stimulating in a good and creative fashion.

Textures.

Softness is essential. From the throw pillows, caftans and lap blankets on your furniture to any textile wall hangings and art and even to your rugs, textures will add interest and depth to your therapeutic office decorations. Play with patterns and materials that stand out but also complement the overall tone of your design and color scheme. Just make sure everything is soft. Nothing that comes to your patients' attention, be it visual or textural, should be very disruptive or sharp.

Design with confidence.

Choosing therapeutic office decorations for your space doesn't have to be a chore. Instead, make it an exercise in exploring and expressing the philosophy of your therapy practice, drawing on the major themes or concepts on which you base your particular approach. For example, if you often advocate nature therapy, including outdoor elements into the design of your office just makes good sense. Plants and plant-themed or textured decorations and art will communicate that vibe for you. If you lean more toward meditative mindfulness and reflection, create a zen-like space with clean lines and soft focal points.

Let design dovetail into philosophy. Your therapeutic office decorations should reflect the personality of your practice.

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