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How Important is Space?

The importance of space has been researched for decades, but very little research has been conducted on school counseling spaces. Below is a very brief exploration of why space is important and how it can impact your work with students.

Professional counselors believe that the relationship is the foundation to developing meaningful change with clients. Spaces are one of the first ways that counselors begin to establish and maintain their relationship with clients. Through recent research to research done 70 years ago, we can see that space has an effect on the people within them. Though this research typically only focuses on one or a small handful of elements of space at a time, the outcomes of these studies indicate that space can influence the way a client views their counselor's professionalism, their kindness, and other attributes that might influence client self-disclosure. 

Space and the Counseling Relationship

Space's Influence on Clients

Early research indicated that space can influence energy levels, feelings of well-being, and the perception of others as pleased or displeased. (Maslow & Mintz, 1956). Since then, studies have indicated that room size can and color can influence feelings of comfort and stress, room lighting and windows can influence the likelihood of self-disclosure, and the layout of furnature can influence social interactions in groups and client perception of their therapist (Chaikin et al., 1974; Ching, 1996, as cited in Pressly & Heesacker, 2001; Goelitz & Stewart-Kahn, 2008; Gutheil, 1992). 

Other Significant Elements of Space

The SCOFFEE used past research to build a survey that touches on what prior research has found to have a significant impact on people within spaces. This includes room size and color, lighting and windows, furnishing and layout of furniture, privacy, personal photographs/belongings/credentials, and tidiness. You might not have control over all of these things, but that does not mean you should not do what you can to augment what you can to make the best environment possible for your students.

Supportive Design in Schools

This research is based on Supportive Design (Ulrich, 1991). The three key concepts of Supportive Design when applied to schools are as follows: 

  • School facilities should not raise obstacles to coping with stress or contain features that are stressors.

  • School environments should be designed to facilitate access and exposure to features and situations that have stress reducing influences.

  • Target groups should include students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

Works considered.

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