Improving Counselling Room Environments: A systematic review

Sophia Helen Lea, Tristan Leslie Snell

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Background: The physical environment of counselling is often overlooked by researchers and practitioners in favour of therapist effects and therapeutic techniques. However, a number of previous studies have identified a variety of features of mental health and counselling environments that predict positive outcomes for clients. Understanding and applying these features may result in better designed counselling environments that enhance therapeutic outcomes. Aim: The aim of this study was to review the relevant empirical research on the physical features of health and counselling room environments and how these features relate to client outcomes. Commensurate with this aim, two research questions were developed: How does the counselling room environment impact on client outcomes? What aspects of counselling room environments result in positive client outcomes? Method: A search of relevant literature was conducted over the last 30 years across the following databases: Google Scholar, Ovid MEDLINE, Proquest, PsychINFO, SAGE Research Methods Online, Science Direct, and Scopus. Studies were included if they were concerned with the relationship between physical features of mental health and counselling environments (light, sound, images, seating, room size etc.) and client outcomes (Symptom reduction, therapist relationship, self-disclosure, etc.). Both mental health and counselling environments were considered due to the limited volume of research solely focusing on counselling room settings. Conclusion: Preliminary results of this systematic review will be reported in this paper. Features of counselling environments that are related to positive client outcomes will be discussed, including lighting, images, decoration, and seating arrangements. The presentation will include images of poorly designed and ideal counselling room environments based on empirical research, as well as a handout with recommendations for improving counselling room settings. This review will lead to practical recommendations for psychologists to improve the physical environment of counselling so that better client outcomes can be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Room Design
  • Environmental Psychology
  • Counselling
  • Systematic review

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