Environment Of Psychotherapists' Offices May Affect Client Attitudes

October 01, 1998

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Dead plants, bad lighting and sagging couches are probably the last things clients should encounter in their therapists' offices, according to University of Illinois architecture professor Kathryn Anthony.

"The physical environment of therapists' offices may well significantly influence the attitudes and behavior of clients, but at this point we really don't know how," Anthony told members of the American Psychological Association at the group's annual conference in San Francisco last August. In her presentation, titled "Designing Psychotherapists' Offices: Reflections of an Environment-Behavior Researcher," Anthony challenged researchers, architects and therapists to collaborate to further investigate relationships between office design and successful therapist-client interactions.

The U. of I. researcher said she became interested in the topic after searching several national research databases and finding "hardly anything at all." Although she located 23 citations for office design and 3,358 for psychotherapy in Wilson Social Sciences Abstracts, "none linked the two concepts." And of two citations in Periodical Abstracts, only one -- a reference to a gas-filled mattress designed as a therapeutic aid and personal relaxation/entertainment system -- even came close.

In the absence of hard data, Anthony undertook an informal survey of Division 12 APA members, posting a query on its electronic bulletin board. She also sought anecdotal information from therapist-acquaintances. She then combined the responses with her own reflections as an architectural researcher to identify design factors that could play a role in enhancing the experience of therapists and their clients. Among the factors and corresponding relationships that emerged:

-- Location. "If the office is right off a busy freeway intersection, the stress of traffic can predispose one to an even more stressful session with the psychotherapist."

-- Placement and number of entrances and exits. "One therapist said that in seeking out new office space she was concerned that the client could leave her office without traveling through the waiting room, thus minimizing the need to interact or be seen in a state of emotional fragility."

-- Seating arrangements and seating comfort. "Is the therapist face-to-face with clients, or side-by-side? Which is the most/least intimidating?" Regarding comfort, "If it's too comfortable, do you feel like you are sinking into oblivion? Or do some types of furniture actually help clients feel better?"

-- Lighting. "Bright lights may seem cheerful to some clients, but glaring or overwhelming to others."

-- Windows. "Being able to see out widens your view of the world, and could have a healing effect. By contrast, being in an enclosed environment could make you feel as if the whole world is caving in on you."
-end-


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Relationships Articles from Brightsurf:

Gorilla relationships limited in large groups
Mountain gorillas that live in oversized groups may have to limit the number of strong social relationships they form, new research suggests.

Electronic surveillance in couple relationships
Impaired intimacy, satisfaction, and infidelity in a romantic relationship can fuel Interpersonal Electronic Surveillance (IES).

'Feeling obligated' can impact relationships during social distancing
In a time where many are practicing 'social distancing' from the outside world, people are relying on their immediate social circles more than usual.

We can make predictions about relationships - but is this necessary?
'Predictions as to the longevity of a relationship are definitely possible,' says Dr Christine Finn from the University of Jena.

Disruptions of salesperson-customer relationships. Is that always bad?
Implications from sales relationship disruptions are intricate and can be revitalizing.

Do open relationships really work?
Open relationships typically describe couples in which the partners have agreed on sexual activity with someone other than their primary romantic partner, while maintaining the couple bond.

The 7 types of sugar daddy relationships
University of Colorado Denver researcher looks inside 48 sugar daddy relationships to better understand the different types of dynamics, break down the typical stereotype(s) and better understand how these relationships work in the United States.

Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa
Does having close friends boost your self-esteem, or does having high self-esteem influence the quality of your friendships?

Strong family relationships may help with asthma outcomes for children
Positive family relationships might help youth to maintain good asthma management behaviors even in the face of difficult neighborhood conditions, according to a new Northwestern University study.

In romantic relationships, people do indeed have a 'type'
Researchers at the University of Toronto show that people do indeed have a 'type' when it comes to dating, and that despite best intentions to date outside that type -- for example, after a bad relationship -- some will gravitate to similar partners.

Read More: Relationships News and Relationships Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.