Within medicine today, patients receive care in doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals. Typically these rooms are staid, predictable and interchangeable. An examination room in a North Carolina hospital or clinic probably appears quite similar to an examination room in a hospital or clinic in New York, South Dakota or Texas. Where this model departs is in Psychiatry, where the room itself plays an important role, as it becomes the physical “holding environment” where the therapist conveys to the patient that he or she is safe to explore those areas within him/herself that are threatening or causing distress.
As a Psychiatry resident on the verge of setting up my own practice, I photographed 28 therapeutic spaces and interviewed 12 of these providers about why they configured their space in the way they did. It was informative and rich to see the range of spaces, from the more traditional “blank slate” position, trying to keep the space as neutral as possible to invite all kinds of fantasies and projections from the patient, to the rooms where therapists intentionally made their space very personal.