Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Healthcare / Facilities design

European Healthcare Design 2016

Beyond the counselling workspace: spaces of significance in treatment of self-harm

By Stephanie Liddicoat 03 Aug 2016 0

Outside of the counselling workspace, what environments are significant in the treatment of self-harm? Why are these significant and what are the implications for clinical practice and architectural design?


This paper explores the significance of environments outside the counselling workspace in the treatment of self-harm. Using literature of therapeutic practice, and feedback from research respondents, this paper discusses the importance of a de-escalation space post counselling to quell dissociative traits; an urge room to keep individuals grounded in the present and help quell urges to self-injure; and a natural mind-space adjacent to the counselling workspace.

These spaces assist in promoting a sense of safety, comfort and containment for individuals who self harm and provide escapism from the intensity of the counselling session. This helps to better foster mental processing and therapeutic efficacy. The research on which this paper is based also found that a metaphor of the journey of counselling is important to have manifest in physical space.

This paper discusses the importance of the physical environment in relation to therapeutic outcomes and implications for clinical practice. A series of design initiatives are proposed to enable integration of spatial concepts into the development of care. Consumer consultation is also emphasised to best understand how these spaces are perceived by individuals who are undergoing treatment for self-harm.

It is recommended that therapists and architects give consideration to the three spaces outlined in this paper. Suggestions are provided for how to design and integrate these spaces, alongside the integration of a user-centred design methodology.

Organisations involved