FP fans, meet Dr. Melissa Hudson, a therapist in Plano, TX!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF YOUR THERAPY OFFICE?
My office is a cross between traditional styling with classic motifs like the Greek key and quilted diamond pattern paired with modern elements such as Lucite, mixed metals, and modern art.
It is comfortably stylish, not fussy, but polished and timeless. The colors I used throughout the office were chosen for their neutrality and crispness, while creating warmth and interest with texture, lighting, and lush fabrics like velvet and chenille.
WHAT VIBE DO YOU HOPE YOUR OFFICE GIVES YOUR THERAPY CLIENTS?
I hope clients feel welcomed and comfortable. I see predominantly couples and the office is designed for an adult aesthetic and convenience in mind.
The location of the office plays into the vibe I’m creating as I chose an office in a tucked away corner of an otherwise bustling area of town, near many corporate headquarters and one of our more popular shopping and dining spots.
The waiting room furniture scale and placement are intentional to provide relaxation and confidentiality as clients enter and exit the space. While my objective is for clients to feel safe, soothed, and even cared for, there is a bit of formality communicated by the way the office is configured. I intend to model order, tranquility, and healthy boundaries.
I intentionally stayed away from whimsical or trendy design because the work we are doing is challenging and important. The space, in turn, is a reflection of me as a clinician setting the appropriate tone to appeal to my ideal client and function with their therapy objectives in mind.
For me, thoughtful, beautiful spaces are therapeutic and my goal was to make the therapy experience positive from the moment clients enter the waiting room.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CREATURE COMFORTS IN YOUR OFFICE FOR CLIENTS?
Yes! In the kitchenette, I keep a selection of healthy drinks: flavored water, tea, cold brew coffee, and sometimes a seasonal surprise, like lemonade in the summer, apple cider in the fall, and Frappuccino in the chilly months.
Jolly Ranchers or Lifesavers are offered in pretty and interesting containers throughout the office—a small touch clients seem to like. I also offer a variety of snacks that clients appreciate when rushing to their appointment after work or mid-afternoon.
In my office, I offer cozy blankets by Sferra, an Italian luxury linen company that makes gorgeous yet durable products.
In the waiting room, there is a lending library where clients can borrow books covering a variety of topics from self-help, to finances, to pleasure reading. Though many people choose to check their phones while waiting, for those who’d rather unplug, there is a selection of magazines that appeal to my clients from Southern Living, Architectural Digest, Sports Illustrated, to Vanity Fair among others.
I also put one or two interesting books on the side tables and change these up monthly. For instance, during our hot August, clients enjoyed perusing a book with kids’ hilarious and sometimes horrifying letters home from camp. I like to have unexpected surprises to add levity to the experience of coming to therapy.
To play to my creative side, and also show client appreciation, I will sometimes leave a “happy”, as we call it in the South, on the console table where clients check in. These surprises are frequently tied to the seasons or holidays, so for Thanksgiving, I may offer a bundle of truffles with a tag expressing gratitude, “So very thankful for you”; at Easter, foil eggs and the message, “You’re a good egg”, yet another month, I will offer affirmation cards or Doughforit’s aromatherapy, stress relief dough imprinted with soothing phrases (and my logo).
I create a spreadsheet with a year’s worth of ideas like this. Such offerings are not required or expected but intended to acknowledge the effort of my clients.
WHO DESIGNED AND DECORATED YOUR THERAPY OFFICE? DID YOU GET HELP FROM PROFESSIONALS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS, OR FAMILY?
I worked with my favorite, local furniture store and design firm, IBB Design. First, I showed designer, Rachel Johnson, inspiration pictures I had collected. From there we worked together for approximately a year to achieve the final project, well before the actual space was chosen and leased.
Once the office was chosen, Rachel completed the space planning, considering the appropriate scale indicated by the size and orientation of each room. Final selections were chosen at this point, but much of the leg work had already been done allowing us to stay on schedule and budget. She saved me countless hours and money by making wise choices from the outset.
Each fabric, nail head, and wood finish was custom selected, down to the piping on my Caracole desk chair. You won’t find another chair like it—it’s a fun, green and blue toned animal print with contrast piping and luxurious teal fabric on the sides and back.
My sofa is upholstered in a beautiful fabric by Kravet accompanied with comfy overstuffed and lumbar pillows that clients use in all kinds of ways. Special care was given to choosing performance fabrics for durability that also have a nice feel.
To my delight, the scale and comfort of all the pieces turned out better than I could have imagined. This is where using a design professional and investing in quality furniture lines leads to increased cushion comfort, resiliency, and durability.
On the other hand, when it came to accessories and smaller furnishings like lighting and end tables, I chose selections from Wayfair and their affiliate companies in order to save a bit. The furniture is easily the star of this space, so I believed I could be a bit thriftier and simplistic in accessorizing. This was slightly challenging for me because I love a great lamp the way some people love shoes. The suite is softly illuminated with a combination of lamp lighting, torchiere floor lighting, and a fun, contemporary sconce I had installed.
Artwork is by Christie Adelle as well as custom-painted watercolors I purchased on Etsy for $10 each. I intended to stick to my budget, and I am happy with my choices and the combination of splurges and frugal finds.
Again, the client experience was always paramount. For example, even in the decision to have a side table by each piece of furniture, I had clients in mind. While I wanted the space to be beautiful, the function was critical. I wanted a place for the items we use in therapy, in my case: pens, clipboards, and tissues, so that no one is reaching across the room during a session.
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 truly believe we, as therapists, are the most important intervention and tool. Clients don’t necessarily need a posh space to experience good therapy.
This is my dream space, after six years of subletting, saving, finishing my Ph.D., and working two jobs. Until last year and for a decade, I was a full-time high school teacher and, as such, I had industrial, metal beige furniture, fluorescent lights, and kid-friendly colors. So, for me, the investment in this space was important; it’s a life and professional milestone, as I’m finally working full-time as a therapist.
My first tip may seem obvious: take your time and do your research. Think about spaces that feel good to you, reflect you and your brand, and will create the client experience you desire.
Before you start purchasing put together a portfolio of rooms you like. I researched office design, followed favorite designers, and saved rooms on Instagram for a long while before I made final selections.
Next, you must consider the space you’ve chosen, not just select furniture and accessories you like. Can you highlight the natural beauty of the office? If so, the view could be the focus and the interiors more simplistic.
Or is your office, like mine, devoid of a great view or architectural interest, in which case, you can create visual interest. Forethought will allow you to craft a cohesive space.
I also like the space to reflect the geographic location. If I were in Florida, by the beach, or New York City, I’d have a completely different office. My space reflects Dallas—polished, fashionable, yet cozy and inviting.
To create the best client experience, I encourage you to think like a host. Your clients are guests. We don’t mother them, but we think of what they need.
Special care also needs to be given to the function of the space. My clients are guided through the space by the furniture placement to the console table, which has instructions for them to follow. New clients, as you know, are often a bit nervous about their first visit, and I don’t want them interrupting a session because the space is confusing or anything less than self-explanatory. Signage, lighting, furniture scale and quality, are all important considerations that lend to the client experience.
Another tip is to create an inspiring space for you. We need care and consideration as we work, too. I deliberately chose a style that reflects my taste but is completely different from the warm hues and traditional design I have at home. I find myself lingering in the office; it feels wonderful and I am productive.
My very favorite piece is my desk by Interlude Home. I fell in love with it at first sight, and then debated if I should splurge. I’m so glad I did because I feel special and inspired when I work at it. Be sure to incorporate items that inspire you.
Another tip is to incorporate fresh flowers or beautiful plants. Flowers are a special treat for clients and me and not the norm, so I ordered a fun and beautiful succulent arrangement from a local business. Clients love it, and it’s another detail that makes me smile. If you don’t have a green thumb, go to the established nursery in your area and they can help you find suitable inside plants.
Finally, resist doing what everyone else is doing. Resist the Pottery Barn look or any design motif that seems to be everywhere. Such obvious choices tend to look dated quickly. Even if you’re on a strict budget, check out the better furniture stores for inspiration, then work to replicate those looks more affordably.
Remember to select your case goods carefully, as they will wear longer than upholstery. High-quality upholstery can last for ten years, so the investment in quality pays off.
Another great strategy is to choose a palette of neutrals for your major pieces and infuse the space with pops of color. This allows you to make seasonal changes or new additions down the road.
Lastly, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can add art or accessories as you go, which will allow you to choose what you really want rather than what you have to settle on due to budget or time constraints.
Investing in an inspiring office is an act of self-care that serves as an example for my clients in addition to serving as a functional space to do this wonderful work.
Dr. Melissa Hudson is a licensed marriage & family therapist (LMFT) in Plano, TX, a Dallas suburb…
She works with adults and couples on a broad spectrum of relational and psychological concerns.