Therapist office feature: Stacy Donn Cristo, LMHC
Giving careful consideration to my office aesthetic has been important to me ever since I started working within mental health agencies. It made sense to me from the beginning that the environment plays an important role in healing. I brought in small bits of furniture, lamps, and lots of plants to reduce the institutional feel of the provided office and create an environment that was warm, welcoming, and would put my clients at ease. My hope was for clients to sense they were walking into a safe and nurturing space. If we nurture our environment, chances are good that we nurture ourselves, and chances are even greater that we nurture our clients. From the beginning, clients told me that they appreciated my efforts and that the office environment made them feel more relaxed.
I’ve been in private practice for over 11 years now, and in my current space I have a lot more control over the aesthetic. For the first few years I was in private practice, the office walls were painted a vibrant yellow that invoked hope and warmth — like we were gathering around a hearth. Recently, I chose to repaint, as much for myself as for my clients. I felt it was time to simplify, to reduce the clutter that had gathered over the years, and to keep what matters most: healing objects. This time around, I wanted my office to feel more like a spa, but still intimate. I wanted to bring in the quiet in order to support introspection and contemplation. As the world is often loud, so is the interior of our minds, and this can make the task of holding the quiet very challenging for many of us. As such, I try to conceal paperwork in drawers or if I must, keep it in tidy piles.
I’ve kept my love for plants, and over time I’ve added even more. I decided to make plants more of a central focus in my office, as they clean the air and offer the courage to grow. I always have tea and water in the waiting room; even if clients don’t make use of it, it sends a welcoming message. Often clients just hold the warm mug and use it as something to gaze into as they prepare for the sometimes harrowing journey of gazing into their own mind and heart. Psychotherapeutically, this warm mug and gift of tea represent the caretaker that is needed and longed for.
Holding space is not only about how we show up as providers; it is also about the space, the shelter, the container we create that supports our clients on their healing journeys.
Stacy Donn Cristo is a holistic psychotherapist in Providence, RI who specializes in working with students, young adults in their 20s, artists, and adults navigating midlife changes. Clients often come to Stacy’s office for support with anxiety, depression, trauma, life transitions, exploring questions of identity, and challenges related to family of origin and current roadblocks.