So many of our patients come from unsafe family backgrounds where they were subjected to psychological or physical abuse. Or deprived of essential emotional nurturance. With these patients it is especially important that we move away from the model of the emotionally distant professional. Their wounded or neglected psyches are in hiding. They need to feel from us a welcoming warmth and a compassionate caring. Then we are offering them an invitation to come out from that self-protective hiding space. By our open-hearted warmth and acts of loving kindness we are saying,"This is a safe place no harm will come to you. You will be treated with respect and genuine caring."
For this reason it is also important to pay attention to the physical ambience of our office space. So much of what we communicate to our patients is transmitted non-verbally and at non-rational levels of consciousness. Some practitioners have offices that are cold and impersonal. The lighting is harsh, the furniture uncomfortable, the artwork is neutral and there are few personal objects reflecting the personality of the therapist or counsellor. The office may look professional - it may even be well decorated - but something is missing. It is important to ask ourselves: Does my office communicate to patients that they are entering a safe space in which they will be treated with warmth, kindness and dignity? Of course how we answer that question will be unique, fitted to our individual personalities and the limitations of the physical space.
This blog entry is based on the Sanctuary chapter of my book, Working From the Heart: A Therapist's Guide to Heart-Centered Psychotherapy