Therapists: What Your Office Says About You

How your office looks can make the difference between clients feeling safe and at ease or insecure. More surprisingly, it can also affect client impressions of your competency. But do you and your clients see things the same way?

A study published in this month’s Professional Psychology: Research and Practice sought to examine whether or not clinicians and clients judged offices the same way. Using 30 photographs of therapy offices, researchers compared psychotherapists’ perceptions of the clinician behind the office with student responses about the same picture.

Sure enough, therapists are people too, and had similar perceptions as the students. Key features for both groups included paintings, windows, books and the therapist’s chair. The only difference? Therapists were a bit more forgiving to the occupants of messy offices.


Both groups identified three office features that were critical to portraying competency. We’ve listed them below so you can see how well your decor matches up.


A sense of “softness” affects both feelings of comfort and perceptions of quality of care. To achieve this, choose soft lighting, carpeting over flooring, and comfortable, cushioned surfaces.

No surprise–a tidy office leaves a good impression. But clients’ impressions also improve when an office looks more formal than homey.

You may feel like personal items don’t mesh with the therapeutic process. However, research shows personal items can make you feel more comfortable, enhancing your clinical effectiveness. If you choose to display signs of personal achievement like diplomas and awards, the literature says you’ll also appear more qualified and energetic to your clients.

Read More: Impressions of psychotherapists’ offices: Do therapists and clients agree?

Posted by CJ Newton, MA, Editor on April 12, 2012 at 05:00 AM

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