What does the decor of your counselor’s office tell you about the person? Or, if you are the counselor, what does your office tell your clients about you?
In the July issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology (58:3, 2011, 310-320), Jack Nasar and Ann Sloan Devlin published, “Impressions of Psychotherapists’ Offices.” In their study (showing pictures of counseling offices) they found a couple of interesting facts:
“Studies 1 and 2 found similar patterns of response in relation to ratings that assessed feelings about the office and the therapist. As perceptions of softness/personalization and order increased, so did expectations about quality of care, comfort, boldness, and qualifications of the therapist. Perceived friendliness increased with increases in softness/personalization.” (p. 314)
This finding isn’t related to gender, age, or prior experience with counseling.
What should counselors avoid? Chaotic, cramped, messy, hard impersonal offices. Put your papers away. The lack of organization and the lack of personalized touches and softer seating may make your clients feel less safe and therefore experience less therapeutic gains.
So, what does your office say to your clients? I recall an office I had in community mental health (shared by several other counselors on a sign-up basis) was sparse, cold, and completely lacking any personalization, art, etc. No wonder many clients preferred talking to us on the street over the office.
My current office contains a love seat, a couple of other chairs, books in a bookcase, a warm wooden desk (that is usually neat in contrast to my academic office), one nice piece of artwork and another that is ugly, some beanie babies, and a blanket. While this office was set up by someone else, I think I’m going to change one bookcase that is in the eyesight of clients. It is a bit messy with various papers, books, and other junk.