It is 8:00 am on Monday morning. You have had a wonderful three-day weekend with your family. You are scouring around your office pulling together your pen, notepad, and the things that make your office your office. Your 8:15 client is already at your office waiting, which makes you feel a bit more hurried. You over booked today so that you could see three of your clients that you would have seen on Friday. You invite your client in. You take your place and get yourself into your therapist mode.
Today, however, is a little different. You get into your client’s session about 15 minutes, when something catches your eye. You see a bug. Not a little tiny bug, but a big bug. This bug is so big that you want to run out of the room as you absolutely hate bugs. You continue listening to your client, processing what they are sharing, all the while, there is that bug. You think to yourself, “I sure hope that bug is not seen by my client.”
Five minutes go by, you are still focused on your client, yet every few moments, “that Bug!”
Finally, your session is complete. You notify your next client that you will be a few moments, returning to your office. You now can freak out in your own way over that ugly, scary, monster bug. You take a few minutes to muster up your courage to go find that hideous beast to get it out of your office. After all, that bug is not paying you for therapy time, nor is it paying you rent for the space it is taking up.
All of a sudden “EEEK!” You run out to your waiting room and Miss Jones is hysterical! “Bu-bu-bu-bu,” she just cannot get the word out of her mouth. She points across the room where you look and there is the bug. It is much bigger than you initially thought. It’s two feet long and 12 inches tall! (I exaggerate when I see a bug too. Don’t worry.) Now you have to really pull it together in front of your client go over and pick up the cockroach, and discard of it the best way you know how. (One may squish it, while another may set it free due to their beliefs.)
You return to the waiting room to find Miss Jones hyperventilating. You remember that Miss Jones has a phobia about bugs from her childhood. This has not come up in several sessions. You calm Miss Jones down, offer her a water, tea, or coffee. Politely apologize for this embarrassment. Recall suddenly that you forgot to take out your trash on Thursday. (The temperature has been over 100 for the past four days. You have been away from your office and there has been no air conditioning for the past 72 hours.) You excuse yourself for a moment and run to your office. You go to grab your trash can and realize that it very well may have been what attracted the monster bug.
Many times, we as therapists have our own behaviors that we constantly are working through, just like our clients. There is not one of us who is perfect. (If you are, please, tell me the trick on how it is done so I can master it too.) Some people are raised in strict environments in which their parents required daily cleaning. Others did not have that strict of a home life growing up.
We have all heard of Spring cleaning. That ONE time of year we freshen up our environment. As a therapist, I believe we need to do this much more often. I am not suggesting every month, just once per season. This is a time to freshen up your office. Unless you have a cleaning service that is thoroughly cleaning everything, then there are going to be things you may not think of doing every week or two when you do your regular cleaning. Did you dust everything, or just the tables around your seating for the client? Did you dust off your lamp shades? Did you vacuum under the throw rug? How about vacuuming inside the furniture to make sure that the clients have not spilled anything in there that more bugs could find? These are all regular cleanings we all should be doing if we must clean our own offices.
The wonderful thing about season cleanings is, you can find the things that are not aesthetically pleasing and remove them. You can change out that painting of the winter farm and replace it with a springtime scene in Holland. You can add or reduce colors to your room. These are some of the simple things to change. Have you ever thought of the following inside your therapy room though?
Your lighting – When you are thinking about a variety of changes, lighting should be on the top of the list. If you are using incandescent bulbs, some of the lighting can be harsh. If you are using halogen, it can increase the heat in the room. Then there are CFL bulbs. Some people have adverse reactions to CFLs. Think about your client when placing lighting. Is it too bright? Too dim? Try to also utilize daylight bulbs. This helps those who suffer from seasonal affect disorder.
Colors – When choosing colors, we all have our different tastes. I personally love the color orange. It is vibrant, adds a great splash of color and is fun. Yet, I know that if I were to decorate a room in orange, many people would not be able to handle that much brightness. A simple picture or trinket with your favorite color, that is not in your therapy room color scheme will brighten up the room not only for you, but your client as well.
Throw rugs – When utilizing throw rugs, recognize that people actually look at them for a reason. There is a mental attraction to patterns and colors. If your therapy room is not full of geometric patterns, yet your rug is covered in blocks of different shapes and sizes, this is going to negatively grab everyone’s eye, even your own. You may love the pattern, just remember, if it does not fit with your room scheme, it probably will detract from the therapy session.
Throw blankets – Just like our offices and homes, our personal thermostats are all different. I may enjoy my office at 75 during the summer and 72 in the winter, but Miss Jones gets cold in the summer if the air is below 80, and hot in the winter if the room is above 68. Should you consider and provide throw blankets in your office, recognize that some people may not ever realize that they are bringing other visitors in with them. If one works with a lower income population, there could be a higher chance of a bed bug or even lice being brought into your office. Make sure to regularly wash your throw blankets, and even any stuffed animals you have, on a hot setting, or better yet, sanitizing setting if your washing machine has one.
Finally, staying bug free – This is a challenge for all businesses. When Gottschalks was still open, Visalia’s store was on Mooney Blvd. Mooney is for some reason a mecca for water bugs. It was not uncommon for employees at Gottschalks to find dozens of water bugs closer to Mooney than the mall entrance. Consider either hiring a professional bug service or treat your office yourself if your owner does not provide a bug service. If you are more environmentally friendly, find out the things you can do to keep bugs away without doing harm to the environment. Then treat your office space to it’s weekly or monthly spray always on a Friday afternoon after your last client, or after your last client of the week.
Now that we have looked at a variety of ways to enhance your therapeutic space, let’s return to Miss Jones. She is slightly calm, but still a bit shaken. We obviously want to process this with her since it triggered some trauma. We can apologize, yet we know that will not get rid of that memory. Just remind Miss Jones that bugs are something that everyone deals with. We can do our best to keep our offices clean, however, once in a while a stranger may come for a visit. “Miss Jones, I can promise you this. I recently read a blog post that encouraged me of ways to help keep the critters away. I will be implementing those in my office to have a healthier and bug free office.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Crile, MA, MA, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist, OL
Michael Crile, MA, AMFT, is a registered associate marriage & family therapist and organizational leader. He currently is on a break from working as a Student Counselor with Comprehensive Youth Services, under the supervision of Lisa Brott. He takes the challenges and experiences from life to assist the clients he has worked with, to provide the best therapy for each client. He has worked in forensic environments working with individuals who had been in the state mental hospitals and with sex offenders on parole and probation. He enjoys a variety of therapeutic techniques, being extremely eclectic in the therapy room. He is scheduled to take his Clinical MFT Exam in August to become fully licensed. In his off-time, he serves on the CAMFT-CSJV Chapter board as Secretary and on the Visalia Toastmasters board as Sergeant-at-Arms. He enjoys a plethora of music, cooking, writing speeches, is a Disneymaniac, and loves nature, walking and jogging.