“Have you ever wondered why you “feel” more comfortable in certain environments? Is it the people in the space? Is it an aesthetic? The type of work that’s being done? Perhaps the music? Maybe it’s the lighting, the colors, the furniture placement, the art on the walls, or could it be our own energy and what we bring to the space? My response would be Yes!”
All of this and more help to support an environment and tap into its inherent potential, it’s therapeutic nature.
Therapeutic space could be defined simply as space designed and created with intention and purpose, an environment that supports the well being of those utilizing the space. Each room at TCR has been thoughtfully and carefully developed to support and enhance the personal and collective experience of our children, teens, and families. As the largest bereavement center in the northeast, The Children’s Room is recognized by many as a model in the community, reflecting the importance and value of therapeutic space planning.
Creating a warm, inviting, grounded space begins with a trust of the space itself, a “felt sense” for the energy in the space. The concept of Therapeutic Space Planning is based on an understanding of valuing and respecting the environment, being aware of the purpose of the space, and then, with intention, supporting it to its full potential. In turn, the space reflects back the feeling of purpose, care, and the relationship it offers to those of us using and experiencing it.
Oftentimes, the energy experienced in interior space is subliminal, more of a “felt-sense” than a visual one. Sometimes it can be misunderstood as an environment that is simply “organized” or “well designed.” However, there is an important philosophical underpinning, a foundational framework, an intentional structure, that has been created to support and hold the therapeutic space. The value is found in the parallel process: the environment reflects the same care and support we offer our families. Everything and everyone seeks to be respected, and “have a home” in order to feel safe and to embody it’s best self and fulfill it’s potential, all aspects of the environment are being held safely.
At The Children’s Room, a sofa does its work in welcoming families, as does the tea kettle, and the clock that keeps the time…the pillows that hold the space and welcome children to the circle all have an important role in the “felt sense,” a warm invitation to the intentional purpose they provide. Everything in the environment is interconnected and works in relation to everything else. As energy enters space it often shifts, alchemy occurs, moving the energy from resistance to flow. Actual proof of reflection…the self-care we practice and teach in our model is mirrored in the environment.
The house safely holds our families, staff, interns, and volunteers, as well as, warmly hosting private tours that provide our community an insight into the importance of the work being done at The Children’s Room.
Laurie Moskowitz-Corrois, LMHC, REAT
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Registered Expressive Arts Therapist
Laurie is an Associate Program Director–Family & Expressive Arts at The Children’s Room in Arlington, MA. Laurie has integrated her life’s work, living and practicing her theories of creating therapeutic space from inside-out and outside-in. She brings with her more than 30 years of professional experience as an entrepreneur in art, design, business and space planning. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University in the Expressive Therapies Division. Laurie holds an AA from Stephens College, a BS from Lesley College and an MA in Intermodal Expressive Therapy from Lesley University.
Tufts University Students and Professor responses on their experience at The Children’s Room
For the fifth consecutive summer, The Children’s Room hosted students from the Tufts University’s course Designing Educational and Therapeutic Environments at Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development for a site visit and a workshop focused on The Value of Therapeutic Space Planning.
Their professor, Kerri Modry-Mandell, Ph.D., writes:
“As we reflected on the meaning of therapeutic space planning, the importance of the term “value” played a key role in our understanding:
1) The integral value placed on space by its being thoughtfully designed and cared for
2) An inherent value for the people welcomed into the space (inclusive of cultural sensitivity, developmental age- appropriateness, wayfinding, and accessibility), and
3) A deeply embedded value for the creation and cultivation of a felt-sense derived from intentional design (e.g., meaning making, legacy building, etc.).”
The class reflects on the visit, by sharing a word they take with them, as well as, reflections on their experience, “feeling” the environment at The Children’s Room.
In one word…How Did It Make You Feel?
Passionate, Peaceful, Inspired, Grateful, Secure, Whole, Steady, Comfort, Comfortable, Understood, Appreciate
“A space is therapeutic when it allows for the individual to be reflected, welcomed, challenged, and celebrated in the space. The Children’s Room, like its physical location, offers a place of comfort for children, in the business of the child’s life as well as the world around. The Children’s Room acts as an oasis of peace in a busy world.”
“What makes a space therapeutic? When a space feels comfortable and supportive in a way that encourages one to open up. Walking through The Children’s Room, I see myself walking around in slippers and being my true honest self. That is what a therapeutic space evokes in me. What did The Children’s Room mean to me? I want to work in related fields in chronic illness and grief comes into that. I felt the passion in my soul light up to create more environments like this to support those experiencing what those who enter The Children’s Room do. The space provided feelings that I want to be able to give to others.”
“A therapeutic space has comfortable seating and multiple options when possible (modular). Warm colors, interactive “tools” (e.g., rocks with inspirational words, mini zen gardens, or fidgets); option to have soft music; comfortable lighting – not too bright or too dim. The Children’s Room was very comfortable, welcoming, respectful, and a place to feel heard. There was intentionality of space; I felt understood and that the other people were experiencing what I am going through.”
“A space is therapeutic when there is intention and attention to color and lighting. The unseen but felt value the room has to the person/people preserving the space to others; the meaning behind the name of the room/space and the space itself. (I wish I had this space growing up. I grew up with lots of loss and to have a space to grieve and to be valued in my grieving would have meant a lot).”