For people who want to better their mental health, therapist’s offices are often seen as places of vulnerability and raw emotion. The act of opening yourself up to a stranger and delving into deep trauma or even just the minutiae of daily life can leave you feeling more sensitive to your surroundings than usual. Bright lights, noise, and uncomfortable seating are irritating enough, but office designs that force you to interact with a receptionist, wait in a room full of fellow patients, and have your name called out in front of everyone don’t exactly put most people in the mood to be open and honest.
Even choices in room décor can influence the way a patient feels about their experience. Studies have found that everything from the formality of the office to the color of the curtains has an effect on a patient’s comfort level, trust in their therapist, and desire to make another appointment. Spaces that feel too institutional or uninspiring can even impact the therapist’s energy levels and morale.
Harry Ritter, a former Vice President of Care Delivery at startup insurer Oscar, heard many of these complaints from the providers he worked with and began to envision something different. The result was Alma, a co-working space for independent therapists and a variety of other wellness practitioners like nutritionists and acupuncturists.
Set up to launch these experts into their own practices in an environment that will help both them and their patients succeed, the facility offers 16 stylishly outfitted soundproof session rooms, meditation pods, a waiting room that prioritizes privacy with seating that all faces the same way, and an easier check-in process facilitated by touchscreen devices.
Each of the therapy rooms is identical down to the smallest details, since familiarity has been shown to help patients feel more at ease and they may not be given the same room every time. Interior designer Lauren Spear carefully selected hues, patterns, shapes, and textures for them that promote feelings of peace of tranquility.
For the therapists who work there, having daily contact with other people in the same field can boost both their professional outlook and their own mental health. Members participate in Alma-hosted networking events, continuing education opportunities, and a vetted referral network in addition to enjoying an environment that encourages them to always be bonding with each other.
Alma’s first community co-working space opened on Madison Avenue in the heart of midtown Manhattan in 2018. Today, that facility hosts over 25 therapists and plans to expand its reach with a network of similar communities around New York and beyond.
Ritter hopes that creating a beautiful space for therapy will help erase the stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment and encourage people to keep coming back.
“From the moment you look for a provider in Alma’s community, book your first visit, or step through our doors, our hope is that you feel like you are entering an experience that is welcoming, professional, and results-oriented,” he writes on Medium.
“With Alma, we’re building a business that respects the gravity of our industry, the professionalism of our community members, and the sanctity of the work that happens inside the provider-client relationship.”