FP fans, meet Jamie McNally, a therapist in Livonia & Trenton, MI…
1) HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF YOUR THERAPY OFFICE?
I would describe the style of our office as being intentional and storied. Practically speaking, we have designed our office with soft, neutral tones and the office gives the feeling of being spacious and warm.
Each office has a slightly different feel and varied décor, but the entire suite is consistent in its clean feel with soft wood tones, which research actually shows tends to be more inviting for clients. And of course, our company name is Sycamore, so wood tones sort of makes sense.
On a completely different level however, the space is a tangible reflection of the fact that everything we do at Sycamore is a labor of love for our clients. There are pieces throughout the office that have a lot of character and that reflect the value that we place in stories, in seeing the full potential in things, and in redemption.
For instance, there are vases on our coffee bar that used to be at another clinic I worked at; someone accidentally broke the tops off both of them and the clinic was throwing them away. Instead, I decided to wrap the broken tops in white rope and restore them for use in our office.
Or take the wall behind our coffee bar as another example. We had a large open space that we wanted to close off and so I purposed a large bookcase to be dual-functional: it now houses our therapist resources on one side while also providing something aesthetically pleasing for our clients on the other. I personally painted, stained, cut, and attached the various pieces of wood to create this dividing wall that people now regularly comment on and love.
Then there is the decorative flower above one of our desks that is handmade by me with pages of a book representing our commitment to continued study, research, and competence.
Yet another example, is a book that we have in one of our offices that was gifted to us with our name, Sycamore, in the title; it is meaningful both for the significance to our name, but also because it was a token of appreciation from someone that we helped immensely.
Each of these pieces has deep meaning. These details may seem silly to some people, but for us, it is symbolic.
When my husband, Sean, and I decided to start Sycamore, we talked at length about the sacrifices that would be involved and we decided that we would pour ourselves into every aspect of the practice for the purpose of bringing joy and healing to our clients’ lives; so while it may not be a typical answer, it is how I describe the style of our office because this is what I see when I walk into this space every day.
2) WHAT VIBE DO YOU HOPE YOUR OFFICE GIVES YOUR THERAPY CLIENTS?
I am hopeful that the office provides comfort and a sense of acceptance to people the second they walk through our door. I want the space to reflect that this is a place where clients can feel safe doing the hard work of therapy.
Ultimately what I love about our space—and the vibe I want clients to get when they are here—is that there is something in the way it feels to be in our office, that goes beyond the aesthetic. Our intention is for Sycamore to be a place where each person that comes to us can feel relaxed and can be themselves. We want our clients to feel valued and protected.
It’s important too to note that we are a group practice and each of our therapists has their own niches. This means that we work with a clientele of all ages and with a wide range of presenting problems, so we want to keep the space inviting to all.
There is a sense that our space is less-than-perfect, and yet, comfortable and inviting in a way that makes you want to sit and make yourself cozy because you feel accepted, cared for, and able to be vulnerable.
The imperfection in the various pieces of décor around the office represent not only what I already mentioned above, but also our approach to therapy in that we see potential in brokenness and beauty in things that others would see as messy or having no purpose.
Our office and our therapy are about hope.
I desperately want our clients to be able to cling to this hope and we instill this feeling into people, not only through our exemplary clinical and therapeutic skills but also by providing a feeling and a culture within the clinic that allows people to sense that our team—their therapist—truly has compassion and a genuine care for and commitment to them as an individual. We have received feedback from many people that this is truly the case.
I also want clients to understand that they are never alone in their journey. We don’t present ourselves as perfect, because we aren’t. We actually have a slogan or tagline for Sycamore that says, “always improving, while we help you do the same.”
I think sometimes it is easy for clients to see their therapist as “having it all together” and we want people to know that we have had to work hard to achieve healthy functioning too. When they see evidence of our joy, our strong marriages, our self-confidence, our healthy communication, we want them to know that it is because we have learned the skills and worked hard, just like they are being asked to do.
Nobody gets to the point of a high level of life satisfaction and well-being without some effort.
We are all works in progress.
I want clients to feel that it is possible to achieve their goals and to know that, as a team at Sycamore, we are dedicated to our own continued professional and personal growth and learning so that we can best partner with them in their own journey and help them achieve their own goals.
3) DO YOU HAVE ANY CREATURE COMFORTS IN YOUR OFFICE FOR CLIENTS?
Since opening we have kept a supply of buttons with the words “You Are Loved” on them and we keep these in the waiting area for clients to take. Many people have remarked that they really enjoyed these and some clients have even taken some to give to others.
We also designed and printed magnets that we have available for clients to take that show the ratio 5:1 within a heart; this is a little takeaway for clients that they can put on their fridge to remind them to engage in positive interactions with their spouse and children because, as we know from research, strong relationships require four or five (depending on the source you consult) positive interactions for every negative interaction.
We like to invest in these types of small mementos that contribute to making our clients’ experiences memorable and special.
We also have some of the typical stuff as well such as mints and customized pens with Sycamore’s logo and number for clients to take and, of course, we have a fully stocked coffee bar with a large variety of flavored teas, coffees, and hot chocolate.
I am very intentional about buying the fun and fancy flavors too because I believe that every small detail contributes to making our clients’ experience at Sycamore the very best that it can be.
4) WHO DESIGNED AND DECORATED YOUR THERAPY OFFICE? DID YOU GET HELP FROM PROFESSIONALS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS, OR FAMILY?
I am very proud of the fact that my husband, Sean, and I designed the space together. I am very blessed to be married to another counselor, to own this business with him, and to have been able to decorate it together.
Thankfully we have similar tastes and agree on the style that we like so the process was really easy and fun. I had some help from a couple of my colleagues with painting the suite and everything else Sean and I did together.
When we first opened we had a smaller suite with only our waiting room and two offices and we had to paint the entire suite when we moved in, and then because we were growing fast, we had to move to a bigger suite in our building after only four months and had to repaint all over again!
Creating our space has been a lot of work, but is very rewarding.
I have more ideas of ways that we want to continue to improve as we move forward and it is always so enjoyable to me to add new décor and improvements that will benefit my team and our clients.
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?
My advice would be to not neglect your physical space or overlook the role that your office space plays in the overall client experience. It can be tempting when someone is starting out and worried about their budget to want to minimize costs and to often look to your physical space as the first place to cut.
I would caution against this however there’s an invisible quality about your office that sends a powerful message to people. It’s your brand. It reflects your passion.
My advice for someone starting out is, if at all possible, to do the design and decorating work yourself; invest into the process and put yourself into it. It helps not only your clients but also impacts you and can result in you feeling more connected to the space. I think this allows us to do better therapeutic work. So, have fun and make the space reflective of your personality.
Take the excitement and passion that you feel for helping your clients and pour it out into the physical space of your office.
Your office should reflect who you are as a therapist and the overall client experience you wish to provide for your clients.
Jamie McNally is a Limited Licensed Psychologist (LLP), Licensed Professional Counseling (LPC), & a Certified HIPAA Compliance Officer (CHCO)…
Her husband, Sean McNally, is a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor (LLPC). They have two office locations in Livonia and Trenton, MI.