By Anna Honeysett – Counsellor & Author
“Does the decor of your counselling room really matter? Surely it’s not what’s important about counselling? And ‘I’m sure my clients won’t notice?”
These are some of the questions I would like to ponder in this short blog and help you as a practitioner reflect on the space you work in and the possible impact it has.
One of the resounding childhood stories that my mum loves to tell is about my obsession with washing powder. Somehow one day I had discovered the large box of washing powder by the machine and loved to stick my hands in and feel the powder! She would try and distract me with other toys and entertainment but as soon as her back was turned I would be straight back with my hands deep in the gritty white substance. I have always been a sensory-oriented person and I respond sensitively to the environment around me. So when I started in private practice one of the most important aspects to me (other than the therapeutic relationship itself) was the look and feel of my counselling room. For me the room/environment we work in is critical on multiple levels and I will try to expand below.
Firstly, it is not just a room but the place where sacred work takes place
Coming to therapy is such a personal experience and people really do lay themselves bare in this room and to do it in a comfortable warm space can really make a difference to their overall experience. I love to see my clients getting comfortable, snuggling down into the sofa or stroking the velvet cushion on their lap. Having things and colours around that can calm and soothe the soul is always my aim.
Your room is a reflection of yourself and your company or the company your work for
Clients will notice your room – the plant in the corner, the lovely picture on the wall, the comfortable sofa. Your room gives your clients a glimpse into who you are and what you are offering. I know many may say “but surely none of this stuff really matters if I offer them a wonderful therapeutic relationship”, but I believe it does matter because anything you display is an extension of your business and it shows you care about yourself and your clients.
Modeling self-care to your client
If you turned up to your first therapy session and the room was a bit messy, generic un-thought-out pictures on the wall and a slightly stained rug, how would you feel? Would you feel cared for? Thought about? Or would you wonder how well the counsellor takes care of themselves? When we present a warm, beautiful thought out space we are modelling our own self-care and by doing this are encouraging the client to do the same.
It is your workplace
Although our thoughts are often aimed towards our clients experience, don’t forget your own. What we do is demanding and often can feel lonely so creating a space where you want to be will make your work much more pleasurable and containing.
I guess the message I would hope to convey is; not to underestimate the impact your counselling space has on your client. For example when I was in my student placement I worked from a GP practice (a more clinical environment which cannot be helped.) However, the room I was allocated was so small with a prison like window in it – the company had not considered their clients at all as I was working for a bariatric company! These people were already painfully aware of their size and then were forced to squeeze themselves into this shoe-box!
Now I realise that we don’t always have full control over where we work especially if in an organisation however you can still think about little tweaks you can make to enhance the environment. For example:
- bringing in a soft blanket
- having some battery operated candles dotted about
- adopting a plant into your space
- having some silky cushions on the chairs
- anything that can just bring a little touch to a cold room will make a difference
If you are in private practice and your room is yours to play with then you can be much more creative. If interior design really isn’t your thing that’s ok – we are all different but maybe consider asking a friend to help (you know that friend you have that always looks great!), Pinterest is also a great place to get inspired.
For me I love to create a living room vibe with sofas, lamps, candles and different points of interest around the room, but not so fussy it is distracting. I would also bear in mind colour and gender as well and making sure (ladies) that your space doesn’t become to feminine.
Love your room, care for it and make a place you want to be! This will not only enhance your wellbeing at work but will also aid and encourage your clients in their journey.
© Anna Honeysett 2019
Anna is a counsellor and trainer, working with a range of issues. She has recently published a book called How to Set up a Successful Counselling Practice, which is available on Amazon and from her website www.honeysettcounselling.co.uk/book