FP fans, meet Dr. April McDowell, a therapist in Reston, VA and creator of Fresh Practice!
1) How would you describe the style of your therapy office?
My office is still a work in progress but I’m really going for a modern, industrial feel to it. I have a lot of wood and metal furniture, as well as neutral tones to help achieve this look.
The style is also a bit minimalist, as I prefer having an uncluttered and open space for my therapy office.
I’m hoping to add more to give it more of a modern industrial style over time but I’m only in the first few months at my space. I can’t do exposed beams or anything like that with the ceiling but if I could, I certainly would!
2) What vibe do you hope your office gives your therapy clients?
I take my work as a therapist very seriously and aim to create the best overall experience for my clients.
A well-planned therapy environment is just another way in which I aim to serve my clients and let them know they’re in good hands.
I really hope my clients get a modern vibe from my space along with a slight industrial feel that’s popular in many urban areas like D.C. I’d like them to feel like they’re in a space that was designed with their comfort in mind, and gives them a taste of my personality as well.
I aimed to create an open space with nice flow, but also cozy and intimate. I’ve added warm lighting and soft textures to help with this. I’ve also added a room divider to add more coziness since my therapy office is quite large.
Additionally, I hope my clients get the feeling that they have just as much ownership of the space as I do. Many of my clients tell me that they really like my office and have given specific feedback on what they like most, or what could be added.
In fact, I added a throw blanket to my therapy couch after one of my clients (jokingly) told me that the office would be perfect if only he had a nice, soft throw to curl up in while revealing the ugly parts of himself, haha!
3) Do you have any creature comforts in your office for clients?
Yes, I try to think of little ways to make my clients feel comfortable! I have a welcome table with water and a Keurig with tons of coffee flavors, teas, hot cocoa, etc.
I also stay stocked up on snacks like granola bars or chips and make sure they’re available on the welcome table in case anyone is rushing in to see me after work. Speaking for myself, it’s not easy to focus on therapy when I’m hungry.
My office window is right next to a lovely little courtyard…which I like to think naturally adds to the comfort level. 🙂 I also often light candles during sessions and have an air freshener that keeps the room smelling light and airy, as opposed to smelling like my lunch!
It’s funny to me that I thought this was so minor but lots of my clients have remarked on how good my office always smells! These are small details but they really seem to notice.
4) Who designed and decorated your your therapy office? Did you get help from professionals, colleagues, friends, or family?
I decided not to hire a professional to keep my budget lower, and instead do the decor on my own. Once I figured out my vision for the space and ordered everything, I had lots of help from my partner with setting it all up.
I was also fortunate to have a landlord who happily had the entire office and the waiting area painted to my exact liking. The paint colors really helped a lot in giving it the vibe that I wanted!
5) Any advice for therapists who are just starting out and designing their office for the first time, or seasoned therapists looking to redesign their offices?
I’ve been in several offices over the years and have found that every therapist has their unique style when it comes to their therapy office.
When I first started out as a therapist, I didn’t have much say over how the office looked but my boss asked me to spruce up the office (and paid me to do so) and it’s very easy to do this affordably by shopping at places like Ikea, Target, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods.
I’d say, if you’re a new therapist or a therapist sharing a space with others and the space isn’t yours to design or decorate, work with what you have and add small touches to make it more to your liking…that is, if this is allowed in your office.
If you do have your own office and are looking to design it (or redesign it), I’d say look first at your budget. Your budget will tell you if you have latitude to hire a professional or need to control costs and go a different route.
If it’s a DIY project, and this is a strength of yours, you should go for it on your own! You don’t always need a professional to make your therapy office look amazing. And this way you know it’ll have your personality and desired vibe.
However, if interior design and decor is not a strength of yours or you just don’t have the time or desire to put energy into the task, definitely think about hiring a professional.
If that’s out of your budget, consider asking family, friends, and colleagues for help. There are many therapists who enjoy giving this kind of help (myself included) and will be flattered that you trust them to help you!
© Fresh Practice
Dr. April McDowell is a licensed MFT in Reston, VA and creator of Fresh Practice…
Dr. April McDowell specializes in relationship therapy for both couples and individuals. She opened her own practice in 2014 in the D.C. area and has been practicing therapy since 2005.
She most enjoys working with those struggling to make life’s biggest relationship decisions, including deciding to marry, stay married or divorce, stay or leave after infidelity, and deciding whether or not to have children.
You can learn more about her practice at:
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