Fourteen years ago, we at the Networker moved offices, toting computers, file cabinets, style manuals, and other editorial accoutrements from one part of Washington, DC to another. Overall, the move was a smart one, but the prospect of putting together my own office daunted me. I’d never been particularly conscious of my immediate environment, but now it became unavoidable. When I peered into my new, pristine, eerily empty office, I hadn’t a single clue what to do next.

I certainly couldn’t model it on my old office, a cramped cave teeming with books and papers, with the floor reserved for unsteady, Pisa-like piles of Networker back issues. So I availed myself of the services of an expert, who patiently guided me in creating a new space that made me feel—magically, it seemed—at home. The first thing she did was talk to me about the position of my desk and how it determined my relationship to the rest of the room. She advised me to make sure I had a direct view of the door as well as of the windows.
As we played around with different arrangements, I soon got what she meant. Being able to see the door directly and observe everyone’s coming and going, gave me a quiet sense of command. This was my space. Seeing the light stream in from the windows in front of me, I was reminded that, even though I’m a usually oblivious city boy, there was an effulgent world of life and nature surrounding me.
Many of us overlook our physical environments, and perhaps especially our work spaces, which may be so familiar to us that we no longer really see them. In this issue of the magazine, we explore the power of our offices to trigger a sense of safety or distrust, generate a feeling of welcome or indifference, encourage creativity or stasis.
If this issue succeeds, it will open your eyes to a dimension of your everyday world that, out of professional busyness, drab design, or sheer habituation, you may have come to take for granted. You may well find yourself on a tour of various installments of your career. Perhaps you’ll recognize what one author calls Design Siberia, offices that are “barely nicer than a garage and painted with a color specifically labeled ‘nondescript.’”
You may find yourself enchanted by images of cozy spaces that exude a special poetry, where clients feel safe and can share freely with a sense of being contained and cared for. Or you might get a kick out of the fantasy of practicing in a space with a breathtaking view of a city pulsing with activity and neurosis. Or maybe you’ll be drawn to an entirely different kind of setting, one that provides an alternative to the usual face-to-face therapeutic encounter: a walk with a client through a peaceful park.
Indoors or outdoors, spare or plush, colorful or neutral, our therapy environments can’t help but influence the unfolding of our work with clients—more than we might expect. So right now, as I race to make this particular deadline, I pause for a moment to gaze at the welcoming doorway of my personal space and look out my window at the glory of a late autumn afternoon. So how am I feeling right now in the midst of the usual Networker hubbub? Come to think of it, pretty damn good.
Rich Simon

Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.