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What to look for in an office

Consider these six questions when you’re searching for your practice’s first office space.

Cite this
American Psychological Association. (2020, March 3). What to look for in an office. https://www.apaservices.org/practice/business/management/first-office

For private practitioners, it can be a daunting task to find a space that works for you, your clients, and your budget. Seasoned practitioners recommend that you ask these questions when evaluating potential offices:

Is it easily accessible?

When it comes to location, make sure the population you’re looking to serve can get to it. If most of your clients will be using public transportation, you’ll want an office that’s near the subway and bus routes. Having plentiful — and ideally, free — parking is also a big plus, says Philadelphia-area child and family psychologist Meghan Prato, PsyD.

“Clients can’t focus in therapy if they’re worried about whether or not they’re going to get a ticket,” says Prato, one of six practitioners at Main Line Counseling Partners.

Office space should also be reasonably accessible for you as the provider, says Jonathan Jenkins, PsyD, founder and CEO of Boston-based Mental Fitness & Psychotherapy, LLC. Before he signed a lease on his office space, he talked with friends and colleagues about his commute time.

“If I need to commute 50 minutes to get to the office and I’m only expecting to see three patients, that probably doesn’t make sense,” he says.

If you plan to serve a population that may have mobility issues, ensure the building is ADA accessible as well.

Is the building and neighborhood safe and inviting?

When scoping out potential office spaces, check out your surroundings, particularly during the times of day when clients will be coming to see you. Make sure the area is well-lit and that the building has security measures in place to help clients feel safe. At the same, time, make sure there’s not so much security that it’s difficult for clients to get in and out when needed, Prato says.

Ideally, your office would also be located close to nearby coffee shops and restaurants, both for your benefit between sessions and for your clients.

“Sometimes we’ll have couples who are doing really long sessions and it’s nice to have coffee shops and restaurants right down the street where they can go if their partner is in a session alone for a while,” Prato says.

Is the office big enough?

While it may seem like providing therapy shouldn’t require much space, it’s important to keep your population in mind when it comes to choosing your office. If you’re planning to serve children and families, or provide group therapy, you’ll need a space that can accommodate more than just two people, Prato says.

The same goes for the waiting area. Working with children often means that siblings may be in tow, so having some extra space in the waiting room — along with some toys and books to help keep them entertained — can help give the whole family a positive therapy experience.

It’s also nice to have room for other comforts, such as a coffeemaker, Prato says. “We really wanted people to feel comfortable in our office and a Keurig is such a small expense when you’re looking at your overall budget,” she says. “It’s totally worth it because our clients love it.”

Is it affordable?

Office space — and all the furniture and equipment that comes with it — is often one of a practitioner’s biggest expenses. So, put together an honest budget in terms of the income you expect to make and estimate how much you can afford in rent, says clinical psychologist Lindsey Buckman, PsyD, who maintains a private practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

When he was looking for space, Jenkins says he looked for office spaces that rented for less than what he planned to earn in the first week of each month.

“My office rent is approximately paid for in about one day’s worth of work, which leads me to never truly have to worry about finding money to pay for rent if I find myself in a month with terrible snow, my son or I get sick, or other unforeseen circumstances inhibit my ability to see patients for a considerable amount of time,” he says.

But don’t choose a space simply because it’s the least expensive, notes Boston-based clinical psychologist Monica O’Neal, PhD. It may be lacking in other needs, such as cell service, she says.

“If you’re renting space in a basement, the rent might be cheap, but you also might be in a dead zone,” she says. “Always make sure you test out your cell service in a space before signing on the dotted line.”

Does the landlord seem accommodating?

Nothing — including the asking price — is set in stone, and this is especially true when you’re entering an extended lease, Buckman says. If you’re leasing for five years, for example, you may be able to negotiate with the landlord to get one month free each year. Some landlords may even be willing to pay for some construction to get the office set up the way you want, or might include extra parking spots in your lease, she says.

“Always ask the landlord for the things you want and see if they’d be willing to do it,” she says. “You never know what they’ll say yes to unless you ask.”

You may also be able to negotiate exclusivity to your lease — meaning no other therapists are allowed to operate within your same office building for the duration of your lease.

“It might not always be something people consider, but the bottom line is that you want a landlord who has your and your clients’ best interests in mind,” Prato says.

Does it fit your style?

Your office communicates the type of provider you are, Buckman says. Is the space somewhere that makes you feel good or does it feel dark and dated? She encourages new practitioners to think about the qualities that are really important to them.

“Making sure you feel comfortable and proud of the space that you’re in is very important,” she says.

Further reading

  • Healing by design
    Research-based design insights for therapists’ offices can be beneficial for clients.