FP fans, meet Michelle Horton, a therapist in San Francisco, CA!
1. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF YOUR THERAPY OFFICE?
I’d describe my office as modern, simple, friendly and peaceful.
The natural light is one of my favorite features and I love the warmth a sunny day offers. The office itself looks out directly onto pretty flower boxes and has some views of the city including part of the Transamerica building.
I don’t have a green thumb so it’s nice to have some greenery (I’m not in charge of) out the window in addition to the succulents and air-plants I have inside. Now that it’s spring, I’ve been bringing some fresh flowers to the office that I think offer a little bit of happiness.
It felt important to have the space feel open but also enough to look at and let the mind wander.
For the art I wanted to bring in natural photography and some local elements, so the main print is the ocean view from Big Sur which is only a few hours away from San Francisco.
I try to keep a variety of books that are approachable and not overly clinical and might be something a client would read themselves or even already has on their bookshelf.
Small and thoughtful details make a difference to me like the yellow bud vase from a local ceramic store.
Because it is a smaller office I wanted it to feel open, but still be able to have a desk area. I found a great bookshelf/desk combo that works well without taking up too much space.
In San Francisco space and storage are precious, so I have additional storage boxes that are hidden under the couch with office supplies etc. which helps keeps things free of clutter.
My therapy office is located in downtown San Francisco but in this area right on the edge of the Financial District called Jackson Square.
It feels like a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle of the Financial District and is still an easy walk for anyone who is coming from a downtown office. There is even a mini redwood park around the corner!
2. WHAT VIBE DO YOU HOPE YOUR OFFICE GIVES YOUR THERAPY CLIENTS?
I hope that my office feels welcoming, safe, comfortable and like a place to slow down. Most of my clients are busy, young professionals that are often under pressure to be “on 24/7” in their work and/or personal lives.
Therapy is an intentional time they set aside to focus on themselves and a chance to unplug from technology and other demands.
I strive to create space that invites authenticity, vulnerability and gives a sense of compassion and warmth.
It takes a lot of courage for our clients to come to therapy and do the hard and sometimes painful work. I hope the space supports whatever emotions may be coming up and give enough room to be able to breathe and think.
3. DO YOU HAVE ANY CREATURE COMFORTS IN YOUR OFFICE FOR CLIENTS?
The waiting room has hot and cold water and inside my office I have a water pitcher in case anyone needs more water or gets thirsty during session.
It sounds funny, but I think one of the hardest decorating decisions I made was about throw pillows. Everyone has preferences for how they like to sit with the pillows or use them.
I looked for pillows that fit the decor but also had lots of texture, felt durable and were fluffy and inviting to lean into.
Clients are welcome to use the blanket, arrange throw pillows or adjust the space heater/fan as needed so they feel comfortable.
There is easy access to post-its and pens to jot down something to remember or to write an encouraging mantra for the week. A phone charger is available for a quick charge.
Another kind of funny but real thing I put thought into is tissues for the office. Seriously, I think last time I bought tissues I stood in the tissue aisle at the grocery store for ten minutes.
My tissue criteria? Soft, durable for tears and runny noses and a cute box. I keep tissue boxes on either side of the couch so no matter where you are sitting there are tissues within arms length.
4. WHO DESIGNED AND DECORATED YOUR THERAPY OFFICE? DID YOU GET HELP FROM PROFESSIONALS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS, OR FAMILY?
I designed and decorated the office but was really grateful to get the input of friends, family and colleagues along the way.
I was always asking people, “What would you want your therapist’s office to be like?” or “What would help you feel comfortable in a therapist’s office?”
I got lots of great input like a mirror near the door so people can check make-up on the way out, easy access to tissues, the importance of nature or nature elements, a place to take notes and “not too much clutter.”
I took inspiration from design and style blogs, colleagues offices, West Elm, mid-century modern style and different spaces I enjoy visiting. I moved into my office at the end of December so I was able to find some great Black Friday and holiday deals on furniture and decor.
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 anyone decorating their office to think about how their ideal client might feel in the office and what they’d need to feel safe and ready to do the work, but also how do they want to feel while working in the space as a therapist.
A good friend advised me, “You are the one that is in the space all the time…have what you want to be surrounded by or just love matters too.”
This advice encouraged me to buy a print of Big Sur (one of my favorite places in the world) from a photographer I’ve admired for a long time. I’m so glad I did it and am reminded of a special place whenever I pause and look at it.
A fresh coat of paint makes a big difference in helping the space feel new and like yours. I picked something neutral with a hint of color called “Blizzard Fog” which seemed appropriate given San Francisco’s notorious fog named “Karl.”
I used a secret Pinterest board to keep all my inspiration and then another Pinterest board as I selected furniture and accessories to help keep track of everything and ensure it would all tie together.
Michelle Horton is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT) in San Francisco, CA…
In her private practice, she supports professional women experiencing life or career transitions while trying to manage a history of perfectionism and overachieving.
She also specializes in working with founders, entrepreneurs and those in start-up community struggling with overwhelm, stress, anxiety, and “imposter syndrome.”
When she’s not in the office you can usually find her enjoying a cup of SF coffee, taking a walk in the city with her French Bulldog or camping in the redwoods!