FP fans, meet Molly Merson, a therapist in Berkeley, CA!
1) HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF YOUR THERAPY OFFICE?
My office is small and bright, with high ceilings and spacious south-facing windows. It’s modern and approachable.
I placed the artwork and furniture at eye level or lower, so when you sit or lie on the sofa, it looks like the room is set up just for you.
Because the sofa is long enough to lie down on, you can even shift how close or how far you sit from me, and whether you want to face me for a more psychodynamic style, or have me sit behind you while you lie down for a more psychoanalytic style.
2) WHAT VIBE DO YOU HOPE YOUR OFFICE GIVES YOUR THERAPY CLIENTS?
I hope the room feels cozy, safe, and relaxing, like a space where you feel you can open up and still feel contained. It’s okay to get messy with your feelings in here, because there are lots of soft places that will catch you.
There are many items to look at, too, to help center you, without feeling cluttered or overwhelming. One of my favorites is a little hand-woven pine needle basket that contains a couple of rocks and a bracelet made of smooth stones and leather. Sometimes people will hold the rocks inside to help stabilize them when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
3) DO YOU HAVE ANY CREATURE COMFORTS IN YOUR OFFICE FOR CLIENTS?
I keep water, blankets, tissues, soft pillows, rocks and shells, plants, and a bottle of herbs and lavender in the room. These things help people who want to cover themselves, hide, or hold something soft, or are spacing out and need some help getting back into their body.
There are books and academic journals as well, which have been intriguing to my clients. Sometimes even book titles will help people free associate and make links between parts of themselves that wouldn’t otherwise make sense.
4) WHO DESIGNED AND DECORATED YOUR THERAPY OFFICE? DID YOU GET HELP FROM PROFESSIONALS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS, OR FAMILY?
I had been in this office for nearly four years without updating it, having inherited all the furniture from the previous leaseholder. It was getting very difficult to feel like I was doing good work since the office was not reflective of my style and not entirely comfortable to me.
My friend suggested I paint the walls, and inspired even more by the change in wall color, I finally ordered the sofa.
I chose the color scheme, the sofa style, the furniture arrangement, and what to keep in the space, and my partner helped me paint the walls and friends (who are also therapists) helped me narrow down my color choices.
The color scheme came to me in multiple visions, and was largely inspired by a Georgia O’Keeffe print I have hanging in my line of sight.
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 realized my old space was not supporting my work or my thinking. Changing my office décor provided a much-needed shift in my ability to stay present and feel like my space was really my own.
I now love my office so much that I will even come in on off days just to hang out and read. I’m glad I put in the effort, asked for help, followed my gut, and took the risk to make a change.
And, on a practical level, new paint is an inexpensive way to update your office, and online sofa places can have excellent, interest-free loans.
Molly Merson is a Marriage & Family Therapist with a practice in Berkeley, CA…
She is a psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, relational therapist with a social justice lens. Her license is in Marriage and Family Therapy, though she works primarily with individuals who struggle with grief, shame and self-destructive patterns, and who’ve had to grow up too fast.
She also supervises at the Wright Institute, offer presentations on treating people with Borderline features, and participates on two committees in the psychoanalytic community.