Saul Robbins is a photographer whose “Initial Intake” project examines the empty chairs of Manhattan-based psychotherapy professionals from their clients’ perspective. He’s now photographed more than 50 therapy rooms. Some of these photographs were used by environmental design experts Jack Nasar and Ann Sloan Devlin in a piece of research--participants were asked for their perceptions of each therapist, based solely on the image of the empty room.
The study identified three main themes of importance for a good therapy room: “For counseling settings, research suggests that softness, personalization, and order might affect the experience and the perceived expertness, trustworthiness, and social attractiveness of the therapist.” So, we want a comfortable, welcoming place to sit. We want to see some personalization, some art, plants, mementos (but please, not too much—we don’t need to be exposed to your laundry, leftovers, or dog chews). And we want orderliness—a clean, tidy, uncluttered room. Follow-up studies confirm these broad preferences. In my experience, two out of three isn’t bad.
You can look at Robbins’ therapy room photos here. There’s also an American photographer and a psychoanalyst called Mark Gerald whose project “In the Shadow of Freud’s Couch,” started in 2003, offers a look inside the offices of analysts all over the world. His photos are here.
This is important stuff. Some clients might be completely oblivious to the environment around them, but a lot are highly-sensitive people who aren’t going to make best use of the session if there’s harsh lighting, drilling noises outside, detergent smells or other sensory intrusions.
Whether or not you go for therapy, take a look around your environment, your spaces, your rooms. Make them, too, soft and welcoming, personal, and uncluttered. Turn your home into a healing space.