FP fans, meet Lisa Fladager, a therapist on Whidbey Island, WA!
1) HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF YOUR THERAPY OFFICE?
My “office” is a two room studio in a stand-alone, cedar-sided cottage. It’s surrounded by large, second-growth cedar trees and is shyly nestled off a rural road on south Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, USA.
People entering BodySoul Work for the first time are filled with a sense of wonder and peace…
Wonder as they are greeted by hundreds of tiny figures in the sandplay collection and by the unusual design of the space…and peace as they experience the silence, light and colors of the space itself.
They feel invited in as they enter a place unlike any therapy space they have ever been in before. Without me saying a word, they feel new possibilities of being, working, and healing unfold. Through dialogue—yes—but also through reverie, active imagination, art-making, creativity, sandplay, dream-tending, dance-movement therapy and Authentic Movement.
2) WHAT VIBE DO YOU HOPE YOUR OFFICE GIVES YOUR THERAPY CLIENTS?
People say they feel peaceful, safe, held, and respected…that they have permission to both be themselves and to explore possibilities.
The space seems to invite the unconscious to come forward and trust in the body to be more present. The space holds people, and I would say that the space is a presence itself.
3) DO YOU HAVE ANY CREATURE COMFORTS IN YOUR OFFICE FOR CLIENTS?
Refreshments: I have a selection of black, green and herbal teas that people can pour for themselves in handmade clay cups using on-demand hot water from a Japanese hot water pot (Zojirushi) which keeps the water at a fixed temperature all day.
I offer locally made honey for those wanting to sweeten their tea. I always have room temperature water available in a pitcher.
Therapy Accoutrements: I have props that support dance-movement, drama, sandplay, expressive art and sensory integration: blankets, silks, stretch-cloths and bands, sheepskin, bolsters, pillows, shawls, masks, clay, balloons, touch-drawing, pastels, crayons, oils, acrylics, all sizes and colors of art paper, a wet and dry sandtray with hundreds of sandplay figures, an iPod, a sound machine, and instruments.
I often begin sessions with a period of mindfulness initiated by the ringing of a tingsha bell.
4) WHO DESIGNED AND DECORATED YOUR THERAPY OFFICE? DID YOU GET HELP FROM PROFESSIONALS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS, OR FAMILY?
The creation of my studio was a group effort! My partner at the time, a few close friends, a local artist, a local interior designer, and I all collaboratively designed the space together with the general contractor being Whidbey Island master builder/designer Carl Magnusson.
The BackStory: There’s an interesting story behind my studio space that fits so well with the vision behind my practice, which is based in the depth psychology mission of finding, reclaiming and restoring the soul in the symptom.
When I first saw the inside of the cottage, it was cold, damp and dingy, with dark orange walls and a stained concrete floor. It had been used to mill reclaimed lumber from an old redwood water tower that was deconstructed to refurbish and transform a hundred-year old general store into a vibrant center for community businesses and the arts at Bayview Center.
I loved the symbolism of this myth…the cottage had been a place where something old, broken, and worn out was taken in to be carefully worked on, taken apart, fixed, put together, gradually made new, and repurposed for a vibrant new life in an upcycled building at the heart of a thriving community.
This was right on point with the mission of my practice and I loved it: the bodysoul of the redwood trees was reclaimed and healed in my studio!!
Approaching the remodel, I had a general idea of the design elements I wanted: natural light, a movement space, a sitting space, a floor that people would want to lie down and roll around on, lots of storage for movement props, an art and sandplay area that could be quickly changed to accommodate varied arts modalities, a small desk area, a tea area, a sense of privacy yet with views of nature outside.
The atmosphere I wanted to create was a gentle, warm and welcoming space where people would feel calm and free. Given all of this, we brainstormed and followed the unfolding energy as the design elements and color palate gradually emerged.
Fortunately, Carl is both a master builder and an intuitive artist so we both felt comfortable going forward as we listened and followed a way through as things unfolded.
The walls were painted with a lazure technique, creating a feeling that the color is three dimensional and in the space, not just flat on the walls. The floors are eco-friendly, multi-colored, textured cork, laid down over a thick layer of insulation on top of the pre-existing concrete slab, so it feels soft and warm, welcoming to bare feet and body.
All the shelves were custom made by Carl and his team for the space. A skylight was added to capture the east light.
Local Whidbey Island intuitive artist Donna Selig created two paintings specifically for the space and my practice. I salvaged a small, round oak pedestal table to set a homey, welcoming tone with a thrifted handmade pottery bowl at its center for an entry statement. The table is also highly functional as it can be quickly converted to an art surface or sandplay table by covering it with a swath of heavy duck cloth.
My grandmother’s secretary was repurposed as a small storage and desk area. Two red Ikea stools (that swivel and change height) function as seating at the table and at the desk.
In one corner of the movement room there are two Pottery Barn Hattie upholstered chairs and one Irving leather armchair (for me) flanked by two wicker end tables against a backdrop of an antique Chinese bamboo screen (gifted by a friend), all set atop a handmade Asian carpet purchased from our local carpet shop, Music for the Eyes.
The double-hung, two layer accordion blinds were selected with the help of Cynthia Tilkin, a local interior designer/owner of Hemperly and Babbage Designs. They can be raised or lowered for maximum control of light, privacy and insulation.
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’d encourage people to imagine the kind of space they would want to have their own therapy in if they were a client and could work with their ideal therapist in any way they wanted to…ask themselves what kind of space would I want to be in if I was a client?
Similarly, ask themselves what therapeutic modalities they are steeped in, are really fluid with? What kind of space would support these modalities and their ideal way of working?
They should give to their vision on every sensory level, letting their imagination flourish! Take notes, draw sketches. Consult with others—friends and designers. Then take it from there.
Lisa Fladager is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), a registered dance-movement therapist (R-DMT), a certified movement analyst (CMA) and a teacher of the Discipline of Authentic Movement…
She is a Jungian/depth-oriented psychotherapist and creative arts therapist with a specific focus on mindful embodiment.
She specializes in working with therapists who want to deepen their lived experience of their own embodiment so they can be better therapists, and with adults who are facing various life challenges who want to reconnect with themselves and learn to trust again their own embodiment.
She also guides solo weekend retreats/intensives focused around the Discipline of Authentic Movement.
Her studio, BodySoul Work, is located near Bayview Corner on Whidbey Island, which is about 30 minutes north of Seattle, WA. She also practices in Seattle one day a week.
You can learn more about her practice at: