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Inclusive Art in Therapy Rooms

4 Feb

I spent a lot of time touring mental health care facilities last month, and many of these sites – especially university counseling centers – demonstrated a clear commitment to decorating their walls in a culturally inclusive way. I saw Peruvian wall hangings, portraits of African-American jazz artists, a Buddha painting, Frida Kahlo prints, and West African masks. One training director explained the rationale for her site’s decor as she shepherded me and other internship applicants through the building: “We want everyone to feel represented here.”

I also spent a lot of time sitting around in airports last month, which provided ample opportunity to sort through my own ideas about what makes “good” therapy room decor, and what I might do to make a room feel inclusive. If I get an internship this year, it’s likely that I’ll be given a space to decorate. And I really like the idea of channeling the ol’ creative juices into making a therapy room my own. I am, after all, a person who guiltily and avidly follows a bunch of craft and decor blogs, feverishly pinning projects to a Pinterest board to make “eventually.”

Prior to my trip, I had always imagined myself decorating in a soothing, blandly nature-themed way. And while I certainly still want my theoretical room to have a positive vibe, and I like things that are shaped like branches far too much to abandon the idea of nature-themed decor entirely, I think I could accomplish more with art that conveys inclusiveness.

A small (and not at all exhaustive or fully inclusive) selection of art I’d love to put in a therapy room:

Pakistani Girls Show Their Hands Painted with Henna Ahead of the Muslim Festival of Eid-Al-Fitr by Khalid Tanveer; from

Unite with Pride; image from

Peaceful Moment, by Monica Stewart (from

Disability is an Art, from the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability

Balloons, Mexico by David J. Negrón (see the artist’s site here)

Cherry blossoms painting, identity unknown – I came across this one here and loved it, but I can’t find its name or the artist who painted it anywhere. Does anyone recognize it?

**Note: A friend informs me this is Chinese Painting by Jun Wan. Thanks, Wes!

The Path of the Shapeshifter, by Helena Nelson-Reed (artist’s website here)

Any sculpture by Shelly Tincher Buonaiuto (below: Wind)

To other future psychologists or current therapists: do you ever daydream about therapy room decor? If you already have a room of your own, how have you chosen to decorate it?

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