Welcome to My Parlor

Welcome to My Parlor
Source: PlumSiena, Film: The King's Speech, Production Design: Eve Stewart
Source: PlumSiena, Film: The King’s Speech, Production Design: Eve Stewart

As I prepare to take my psychotherapy licensing exams, my dreams of having a wonderfully designed and decorated office takes up a lot of head space.

I cannot duplicate the glorious wall in The King’s Speech, not without buying an office building first, but I find this look and the colors inspiring. The production designer, Eve Stewart, reportedly wanted to get across how layers of emotional pain and armor fall away from the speech therapist’s clients as they begin to work on their impediments. Subtle symbolism, no? I do love set design!

Source: Neil Patel Design, Show: In Treatment
Source: Neil Patel Design, Show: In Treatment

This office layout, used in season 2-3 of HBO’s In Treatment, is closer to what I think I’ll do. I have homicidal ideation about having an office–a home office–that has a brick wall like the protagonist’s does. I like how the furniture is laid out, as well as the rich and soothing colors.

The swivel lounger is a convenient piece of furniture (so is a side table for your mug, but we won’t go there now)–sitting for hours at a time and listening attentively requires some creature comfort and flexibility. Turning towards his left, there’s an armchair for an individual; turning towards the right, there’s a sofa (also for individuals, but suitable for couples and groups).

A sofa in a therapy office can be “apartment size” or larger, but usually a loveseat is not ideal because it may force two people to sit closer than they feel comfortable sitting. Big sofas are convenient for larger groups, but they still have to be size appropriate in relation to the room. You don’t want to give the impression that your office is cramped (and claustrophobic), or impoverished and bleak. 

Source: Jonathan Fong Style, Office: Sandra Dupont
Source: Jonathan Fong Style, Office: Sandra Dupont

For a real psychotherapy office, check out what designer Jonathan Fong did for teen therapist, Sandra Dupont. Natural light fills the room and the palette is upbeat and contemporary at the same time it’s professional and stylish. The therapist’s chair doesn’t swivel, but it’s placed where it doesn’t need to move. And yes, there’s a side table (ceramic garden stool)!

Source: Jonathan Fong Style, Office: Sandra Dupont
Source: Jonathan Fong Style, Office: Sandra Dupont

Notice the long sofa, replete with beautiful pillows and a blanket. Pillows are great for people of different heights to use for lumbar support, and in therapy, it can feel safer to hug a pillow when discussing some difficult topics. A blanket is helpful, too, when stressful situations make us feel cold and vulnerable.

The coffee table is a storage ottoman, which saves space while providing a surface for beverages and the indispensable tissue box. Psychotherapists I’ve designed for tended to reject any sort of table, because they felt it “got in the way,” like it was a physical obstacle between them and their patients or clients.  The tissues would either be on the sofa (haphazardly) or a side table (inconveniently).

I have to wonder, does anybody feel disconnected when chatting with friends in a living room where there’s a coffee table? If a visually solid table is too much, perhaps a transparent glass or acrylic one would be more suitable. I understand symbology in design, but I’ve always got an eye on the practical, too!

Are you a psychotherapist or professional who sees your clients in an office you wish were more inviting, comfortable, and beautiful? Then contact me for a consultation, and I’ll help you achieve your goals.

Featured image source: Sigmund Freud Museum, Photography: Konstantin Binder



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