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Build Your Career Office Life

Analyze This! Shrinks Should Rethink Messy Offices

Analyze This! Shrinks Should Rethink Messy Offices The highest rated offices had decorative touches. / Credit: Saul Robbins



Your therapist might tell you that looks don't count, but they'd be wrong about that. It's not just store fronts and corporate offices that get the once-over from potential customers. It seems shrinks, too, are the subject to people's tendency to judge a book by its cover.

That's the finding of new research that found that therapists with neat and well- decorated offices were considered to be more organized, professional, friendly and experienced than those with messy offices, based solely on study participants having viewed their work spaces.

After viewing only photos of offices, study participants gave higher marks to psychotherapists whose offices were neat and orderly, decorated with soft touches like pillows and throw rugs, and which featured personal touches like diplomas and framed photos, the researchers said in a review of their findings.

“People seem to agree on what the office of a good therapist would look like and, especially, what it wouldn’t look like,” said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University. “Whether it is through cultural learning or something else, people think they can judge therapists just based on their office environment.”

Nasar said his research findings could, theoretically, apply to professionals of all types: lawyers, accountants, even professors.

"I suspect the patterns we found would hold," Nasar told BusinessNewsDaily. "The mix of orderly, soft, friendly would hold for any professional," he said, though he pointed out that the research focused on therapists only.

Researchers showed study participants photographs of 30 Manhattan therapists' offices taken by photographer Saul Robbins. The photos showed a view of the therapist’s chair and surrounding office from the perspective of where the client would sit.

Participants said they would be more comfortable and expect better care in offices that had been rated as more orderly and that had more personal touches, such as pillows, diplomas hanging on the wall or photos. They also thought more highly of therapists whose offices had a “softer” feel — those that had cushioned chairs, carpeting, table lamps, plants and throw rugs.

“The top-rated offices also pointed to the importance of softness and order,” Nasar said. “For the top five offices, participants most frequently described the office as comfortable, nice, clean, warm and inviting.”

In contrast, the bottom five offices were described as cluttered, cramped, messy, uncomfortable and unprofessional.

However, there were also gender stereotypes associated with the offices, Nasar said. The therapists in the top-rated offices were more likely to be seen as men, whereas those in the bottom-rated offices were more often identified as women — even though their genders were not identified.

Nasar said therapists should take these findings to heart.

“I would tell therapists to keep their offices soft and friendly looking. Put up your diplomas and personalize the office. Arrange everything in a neat and orderly way and keep it that way.”



Jeanette Mulvey
Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.