How to create a WINNING professional space for high functioning clients

If you’re like most therapists starting a private practice, you want to work with high functioning, professional clients who can pay private fees. Does your space support this type of work?
Think of your space as extended body language.

Just like you wouldn’t greet clients in your sweatpants and a stained shirt, you should not greet clients in an environment with scuff marks on the walls, a plant that has (any!) brown leaves, a desk that’s overflowing, an empty tissue box, etc. What about the hallways leading to your office, if you’re in a larger building? Are those walls clean and painted? Are there cobwebs or a dirty residue in any of the air vents; or any “subtle” (read: not really subtle) scuff/dust/dirt marks on the window sills? Could your door benefit from some WD-40 if it squeaks? Hopefully the points above are 100% basic for you. If they’re not, then practice good self care by hiring a good housekeeper or at least setting aside a dedicated time to tidy up each day, whether you think your office needs it or not.

Now, let’s go beyond the basics above. Consider the colors and fabrics in your office. Are the colors coordinated, including with the colors used on your website so that new clients who have only visited your website feel a sense of continuity when they visit your office? Are the fabrics high quality? Sophisticated and professional clients should not feel as if they’re taking a “step down” when they step from their workplace into yours. In order for you to set a tone that you are the expert in social signals, your own social signals (such as your office space) must project your expertise. What about the art on your wall? I see many therapists make the mistake of choosing art that is really weird or even outright depressing! Choose something tasteful and that expresses yourself- it can be vibrant or understated, modern or classic, original or not– whatever you like- but please make sure it isn’t depressing, dusty, or unsuitable for your space in any way. Get feedback from friends and colleagues on these choices to make sure you’re setting the stage for success. Speaking of your art, when is the last time you dusted it? I mean actually got up there on the couch so you could dust it all over? Believe me, high functioning people notice these details, and these details do unconsciously communicate traits like professionalism and conscientiousness. Do you have several lampsto create a calm mood (many studies have shown people open up more in slightly dimmer light unless it’s a “bright lights interrogation” situation), or are you using overhead fluorescent lights? Are your tissues encased in a tasteful holder, or did you just plop a box of kleenex on the table and call it a day? Do your pillows sag as if they’ve been leaned upon by a thousand people? Do you change them by season, or at least annually? Do you have an absolutely well stocked supply of pens and paper pads, in case clients want to make notes? Are those pens and paper branded with your name and contact information? Don’t miss these relatively easy opportunities to brand your space and silently communicate your professionalism. Once you have your space the way you want it, consider having it professionally photographed when you have a photographer come to take a photo of you (yes, you should have a professional photograph of yourself for your online profiles and website!). Even if it’s just your hobbyist brother-in-law, get a nice photo of your space so you can share it online. There’s something called a “buyer’s journey” in marketing literature where potential customers visit your website and being able to see your space helps many consumers to build trust and feel comfortable booking an appointment. Your professional space is an important piece of your professional identity, and you’re in the business of helping people navigate social signals– so the time you spend on your own space and the signals it sends is always worthwhile.  And of course there is your video therapy session setup as well!  Dr. Chloe has published in US World News about how to choose an online therapist, as well as other media on the subject.  She is happy to help therapists select the right social signals for success whether in your physical or online office.

Action Plan:

Take a good hard look at your space. Make a list of anything that must be revised immediately, and get to work on it. Also make a list of things you will change or update as your budget allows. Invite 2-3 friends who are good at decorating to visit and beg them for their 100% unadulterated feedback. If they say there’s nothing they’d change, tell them to name at least one thing they’d add if they absolutely positively had to spend $300 on improving the office somehow. Keep the list of “future improvements” as inspiration for you to continue enriching your environment as your practice thrives and you continue attracting more sophisticated, professional clientele. If you see clients online, ask a friend to do a test appointment and share with you about how you’re coming across.  Just like you present yourself differently on TV than you do in “real life”, there are a few keys to making your video presence feel truly professional. The right details make you someone clients from all over the world will seek for online sessions, just like they do Dr. Chloe! You don’t have to do it all in one day– just keep a list and work towards it step by step, just like you got through graduate school or any other complex accomplishments. Give yourself time, and work your way through the list as your practice grows more profitable.

Would you like to share photos of your space and get feedback? Want to talk through ideas of where to get affordable yet truly tasteful decor? Or even just celebrate your victory  by creating a beautiful sanctuary where your practice will thrive? Your desire for community is a healthy one- feed it! Join as a paid member for more tips, videos, support, insight, and community from Dr. Chloe Carmichael, who built her practice that grosses over $1 Million Dollars in revenue per year! Yes, that’s right. Dr. Chloe is a certified member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where you must prove at least $1 million in annual revenue in order to join. Why not learn from her expertise? She’s now ready to show you how she built her practice from scratch, right out of graduate school. If you book even one client who sees you even a handful of visits from taking her course, you’ll likely cover your entire cost of the program!

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To Your Success,
Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD


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Read the article written by Delia O’Hara for the American Psychological Association (APAPsycIQ) here.