Lisa Mitchell

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Does your therapy office support your creativity? How your office is like an artist’s studio.

Lisa Mitchell | Nov 6, 2014 | 5 comments

Does your office support your creativity?

Have you ever watched a pianist sit down to play?

He takes his seat with exactness as if it was a centering ritual he’s done ten thousand times.  A head bow to the keys, a quiet moment as he settles, a wave of his hands to perch them just right…..and then he begins.  He and his piano are one, inside a magical musical space.

Have you ever watched an artist work in her studio?

Everything in the studio is an extension of her.  She and her surroundings blend together in one fantastic image.  The sacred space she’s created spurs her to paint. You watch her dance in swaths of light as her painting comes to life. 

Our offices are our artist studios.

They are the places in which we create powerful therapeutic relationships through which healing and growth occur.  So, it is vital, when we enter our offices, we feel as if we are entering a sacred space.  Like the painter and the pianist, our bodies should react with a physical recognition and centering response.  When your environment supports this engaged response, you are set to do your best work.

There’s been a lot of focus lately on how to set up our offices to convey a sense of calm and luxury for our clients.  Casey Truffo has some excellent practical tips that include: Koerig coffee machine, free Wi-Fi, and Tip Sheet carousels.  The parents of many of my clients love to be lulled asleep by the soft music and comfortable atmosphere of my waiting room. It’s important to focus on our clients and give the best we can provide. 

But, setting up your studio to provide the kind of environment you need in order to be the best therapist you can be is important too. Just like an artist or musician, you need a space you can call your own. If your office isn’t your artist’s studio, isn’t your sacred space, your art will be negatively affected.

Here’s a great example:

When artist, William Salit  moved into his new artist’s studio everything was in its place.  Michael Yochum of SF Art News said, “William has a love affair with order.  Everything has a place and everything is in its space.  This is true in his home, his office and his studio.  However, strangely enough, he found that this need for order in most of his life was stifling his art.  He was not able to “let go” in his ordered spaces.  At [the new studio space], he had given himself the freedom to allow chaos into his studio.  He is not quite there yet.  But, he envisions very shortly carving out an island of chaos where he can have the freedom to let his art take him wherever it wants to go.”

Artist studios provide the following:

Privacy and freedom from interruptions.

The ability to pick up where you left off (rather than cleaning up and packing it away).

A place where solvents and other potentially toxic materials are kept (rather than in your living space).

A context for your role as an artist.

Your office provides the same:

Privacy for you and your client.  A place where you can think quietly alone and a place where you can work confidentially with your client.

Can you close your door, relax on your chair or couch and know that NOONE is going to interrupt you?  Can you sit with a client and have zero outside distractions?

Allows you to picking up where you left off.

When you talk to a client week after week, does it feel like your space holds the relationship so you can pick up where you left off?  When you come to work is everything there for you—ready to go for the day?

A place where toxins are kept.

Difficult emotions are aired in your office.  You can’t not have them be part of the therapeutic process. You hear tragic stories and work through trauma laden issues.  Your office keeps this for you so you don’t have to be exposed to it in your living space.

It puts you into a role

In your office, you are a therapist.  You see yourself that way and others see you that way.  Because of this, you are supported in your role and committed to it.

 

I asked some therapists to tell me how they treat their office as an artist’s studio and how this supports them to be a better therapist.

Here are some wonderful examples:

 Arianna Gray

“I did a remodel on my office and put in a high window that I see from my chair while I’m in sessions. It’s high enough to keep a sense of privacy in the room, and it shows me a beautiful view of the every changing Arizona sky and clouds. Looking out of it always reminds me to relax, be expansive, and breathe. It’s my “self-care” during sessions!”

Pam Dyson

“I keep a photo on my desk of myself as a child. It’s the first thing I see when I step into my office. It keeps me grounded and connected to my inner child. I often ask her what it is that grown up Pam needs to do today. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen to your younger self.”

Dawn Friedman

“I have different versions of Wonder Woman throughout my waiting room and office spaces. I have different artist interpretations of her as an African American woman, as a fat woman, as an older woman, laughing, battling, etc. I also have some Wonder Woman toys (a mini stuffed doll and the Fisher Price version). I do this for me, because I get a kick out of her and her various forms, and as a reminder for both my clients and myself that we are all strong and powerful no matter our experiences.”

Lisa Mitchell 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share about my studio.  It is in fact a studio, and I’ve made sure that it gives me the feel of coming home when I walk in the door.  Things are homemade and comfortable.  It’s the just right version of mess.  In my main workroom there are 2 walls designated as the painting area.  The walls’ vibrant colors are evidence of many, many years of creative expression.  It is always a treasured moment to share this pleasant surprise with new clients.  They, as I do, walk in and stare or gasp and sigh with relief.

Then next time you arrive for work, walk through your door and see how it feels.

Do you have that sense that you have arrived and can settle into your sessions like a pianist does at his piano?

How does your office/studio support you to be the best artist/therapist you can be?

For more ideas about how you can think of yourself as an artist, read: The Art of Permission. And get the free worksheet that goes with that post.

You might also consider getting on the early notification list for Artfix.  This is my online course for therapists who want to learn to work more with their creative process and teach their clients to do the same.  Registration will open early next year!!

5 responses to “Does your therapy office support your creativity? How your office is like an artist’s studio.”

  1. the seeker says:

    This is my first time viewing your site, I find it refreshing. I have been a Registered Art Therapist since the late 80’s. During the time I studied to be a therapist I was also working on my MFA in studio art. With me the art always came first, because of my caring nature I wanted to learn about counseling so that I could combine the two together to have unique workshops, because I learned very early in life the importance of creativity. I am now retired as for as an everyday job with the therapy, but I still use both mediums/skills to do workshops.

  2. the seeker says:

    my home/studio truly support my creativity. I could never imagine my life without creativity/art. I am one of those individuals that must create, I truly can’t help myself. Although I never want to force my creativity on anyone, I love sharing my skills and helping others to discover or enhance their creative side.

  3. I am just starting out as an art therapist (at age 52!) and pretty much from the very beginning. I have to rent space for now that is shared with other therapists. As a result, I have to contend with things I don’t prefer until I can afford to have my own dedicated space. That said, I use sound bafflers for privacy outside the room I use. I also have added some natural found items that create a “softness” in the space like driftwood, acorns, beach stones and shells from the nearby lakes where I live.I also try to arrange media in such a way that it is inviting and not overwhelming…sometime less is more. I always have extra items in lovely boxes in case a client asks for something specific that isn’t out.I play a little bit of unobtrusive music softly in the background and I’ve tried to add some ambient lighting to offer alternative to the harsh overhead fluorescent lighting in the space. But most of all, I get myself centered, retain my self-care practices and focus with compassion and intention on my clients booked for sessions each day. My clearness and good energy faciltates an attuned space from the heart that allows for openness, growth and insightful healing to occur.

    • admin says:

      Lenore, what a wonderful description. It’s sounds like you have considered so many important things–both for you and your clients! What a wonderful start for you.

  4. […] Does Your Therapy Office Support Your Creativity?  How Your Office is Like An Artist’s Studio […]

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