Creating a healing environment
Giving careful consideration to my office aesthetic has always been important to me ever since I started out working within institutions. It made sense to me from the start that environment plays an important role in healing. By my new co-workers at the time I was seen carrying in small bits of furniture, lamps and always plants in an effort to reduce the institutional feel of the provided office and to create, instead, an environment that was warm and welcoming and that would put my clients at ease. Hopefully, they would sense that they were walking into a safe and nurturing space. If we nurture our environment, chances are good, we nuture ourselves, and chances are even greater then that we nuture our clients. I was, from the very beginning, told by my clients that they appreciated my efforts and that it made them feel more relaxed.
Today, in private practice for over 11 years now and in my current space I have a lot more control. For the first few years I was there, it was painted a vibrant and simultaneously warm yellow that I felt invoked hope and warmth—like we were gathering around the hearth. Recently, I chose to repaint. As much for me as for my clients, I felt it was time to simplify, to reduce the clutter that had gathered over the years and to keep what matters most, healing objects. This time around, I wanted my office to feel more spa-like but still intimate. I wanted to bring in the quiet and support introspection and contemplation. As the world is often so loud so is the interior of our minds and this can make the task very challenging for many of us. As such, I try to conceal the paperwork in drawers or if I must, keep tidy piles.
I have kept the plants and have even added more. I decided to make the plants more of a central focus as they are here to clean the air and offer the courage to grow. I always have tea and water in the waiting room; even if it is not made use of it sends a welcoming message. Often a client just holds the warm mug, uses it as something to gaze into as they prepare the sometimes harrowing journey of gazing into their own mind and heart. Psychotherapeutically this warm mug and gift of tea represent the caretaker that is needed and longed for.
Holding space is not just how we show up in the space as providers but it is also the space, the shelter, the container that we create that matters in supporting our clients on their healing journey.