Decorating inner space

The New York Times has a fun article on how psychotherapists decorate their office and what this might portray about the inner life of the shrink.

Psychoanalysts (Freudian psychotherapists) in particular are very careful about what sort of impression they project about themselves, preferring, at least initially, to be as insubstantial as possible so the patient can transfer feelings and impressions onto them, allowing relationship patterns and emotional reactions to be uncovered and worked on.

However, many psychotherapists work from home, using rooms in their house as offices. The NYT piece notes that a recent academic paper in the journal Psychoanalytic Psychology caused a storm by questioning the ethics of this practice, as impressions or even people from the therapists family life might interfere in the crucial relationship forming process.

Of course, the office is also a way of making the patient feel comfortable and at ease and so the tension between how the therapist attempts to express this, and how they express themselves, can be quite revealing.

Freud famously had a painting over his psychoanalytic couch of Jean-Martin Charcot (Freud’s mentor) presiding over the swooning and almost bare breasted young woman ‘Blanche’. No wishful thinking going on there of course.

In the UK, where most psychological treatment happens in the NHS, the rooms are often comfortable but plain outpatient appointment rooms that are shared and booked as necessary.

Occasionally, clinicians will have their own office in which to see patients. In these case, I’ve noticed that psychotherapists and counsellors have a much better sense of interior decoration (all rugs and soft lighting) than clinical psychologists, who tend to go for books and photocopied papers look.

Link to NYT article on therapists’ offices.

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