The Consulting Room

This little piece in the NY Times last week reminded me of a project I have long had interest in and sort of started work on a couple of years ago -- the therapist's office or consulting room. I am fascinated by the various ways therapist's decorate their offices and what they believe that says about them. There is the issue of home office versus rented space somewhere just for starters. I am also interested in the way patients perceive therapists' offices and whether therapist and patient see the space roughly similarly.

About 20 years ago I moved from having my office in a profesional office building to having my office in my home. At first, it was a practical decision based on childcare issues. My children had reached the age where they felt too old for after school daycare and I thought they were too young to stay at home alone. A home office seemed the ideal solution. And when we moved into a building that seemed to have been planned for just our situation, it became an even better idea. My kids caught on quickly to the need to use the back entrance to the house to come and go and to not knock or otherwise interrupt when my door was closed. The space was warm and had a good feel to it; my patients and I were all happy with it.

Even after I got divorced and moved into an apartment, working at home just felt better to me and I worked to make that possible in the new space. For me, there was an almost seamless connection between home as I make it and my work, something touching into the archetypal feminine.

In the field of psychotherapy there is certainly not universal agreement on this whole office location issue. In fact, there are many who see having the office in one's home as a gross violation of the therapeutic frame and of boundaries. I understand that point and that it works when one practices from that particular way of viewing the process. And I certainly would not see using my living room as an appropriate space for therapy work. That would be bring far too much of the personal about me into the temenos of therapy.

I have wrestled a lot with this whole issue over the years. At times, those times when I was intensely exploring the concept of therapeutic frame and reading and considering the ideas of Robert Langs, I seriously questioned the acceptability of having my office at home. 

Years ago I saw a therapist whose office was in his basement. It was a very small space and had just a tiny window so it was a bit dark and cave-like in a slightly unpleasant way.

Both of the analysts I have worked with have had home offices. The first met with patients in her living room, which was disconcerting. I missed the sense of being in a container which was just for the kind of work we were doing. That sense of sacred therapeutic space, temenos, was missing and I believe it did negatively impact our work.

My second analyst has his office in separate space in his house. It is not a big room but is warm and personal without being intrusive. The art on the walls, the books, the plants all speak of him but did not offer too much information. 

Here is a look at my current office, which is in my home --


I got about 15 responses from a questionnaire I sent out when I began work on this project. Not enough to tell me much. It is hard to draw conclusions on such a small sample, but the CBT therapists who responded gave access to public transportation and parking as the most important factors in choosing their location and the depth therapists expressed most concern with how the space itself felt. Inner vs outer focus perhaps?

If you are interested in completing the questionnaire, use the contact form and email me, letting me know that you would like me to send it to you. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.