How do you feel when you walk into a space? From obvious qualities like light and layout, to small aspects like textures, signs, or books, the physical details of the spaces we find ourselves in have an impact on our internal experience.

At Two Chairs, we know what goes on inside the therapy room can be difficult and uncomfortable. We know that many clients are entering our space in a state of vulnerability. With this in mind, our clinics are designed to feel welcoming, warm, and familiar, like the living room of a beloved family member: elevated enough to feel slightly aspirational, but never out of reach. A place of sanctuary and retreat, but still real enough that you could project yourself onto it on a regular afternoon, on a regular work day.

At the same time, our clients also enter with a deep sense of bravery. Even showing up is a radical and strong step forward in each individual’s unique mental health journey. As such, we also aim to design spaces with details that celebrate the individual identities and journeys of our client community. While it is impossible to create a space that fills every need and every perspective, we hope that through our decisions on art and decor that we start to do that more fully.

We do this through the books we choose to include in our waiting areas — art books featuring artists we admire like Agnes Martin and Kehinde Wiley and books from authors like Sherry Turkle, who have influenced our approach to therapy. In every clinic, we include books with stories of the local community, from accounts of historic downtown Oakland to the communities in Silicon Valley. On top of that, photography and design books that have been recommended by our internal team as favorites that capture their unique experiences, like To Survive on This Shore by Jess Dugan, or honor their favorite topics, like California Design.

Increasingly, we are also bringing this focus to the art we hang on our walls through the Two Chairs Art Program (TCAP). TCAP elevates and promotes diverse and up-and-coming artists through collaborations for clinic art and design pieces.

Creativity and mental health have a long, well-documented connection. For many, myself included, art is part of a healing process that encourages self-reflection and acceptance — a process that can be incredibly empowering — and outcomes that are similar to what many hope to find through therapy. While Two Chairs does not currently build this into our therapy product, we do represent it by what we choose to put on our walls.

By promoting artists with personal connections to mental health, we are able to tell positive stories of healing and thriving, despite past or ongoing struggles. Inspired by our clinic interiors and their own therapy processes, our TCAP artists create pieces unique to and designed for our Two Chairs clinics. Our collaborations allow us to bring more diverse perspectives and representations into our spaces with the goal of making our spaces more inclusive of all clients.

Over the coming months, we will be highlighting our first few TCAP artists through our #TalkTherapy interview series. We’re excited to share on ongoing collaboration with Bay Area native, Adrian Kay Wong in addition to our interview with local printshop owner James Tucker, with even more to come. If you are an artist interested in collaborating, I’d love to hear from you. Reach out directly to me at [email protected].