Creating an Intentional Space with Trauma-Informed Design

By Chelsea Haverly | December 19, 2022

Creating an Intentional Space with Trauma-Informed Design 

Trauma-informed design requires recognizing that the physical environment has an impact on attitude, mood and behavior because there is a strong link between our physiological state, our emotional state and the physical environment.- Neha Gill

Trauma-informed is a word that has been used to describe business practices, treatment approaches, and for us at Anchored Hope Therapy, it is the way we continue to create a sense of calm and safety in our physical environment and how we think about every layer of our business operations. Our desire is for our offices to feel like a home away from home and to promote a sense of peace and healing for folks who arrive in our space. The foundations of trauma-informed care guide every aspect of Anchored Hope, from our intake process to our office suite. We designed our physical space using trauma-informed design principles. The wall colors, the physical layout, the sound proofing between offices, and the choice of natural light, plants and decorations are ALL intentional.

Neha Gill, a passionate advocate for gender equality and the Executive Director of Apna Ghar, Inc. in Chicago stated in an article with FORBES magazine, that “trauma-informed design is about integrating the principles of trauma-informed care into design with the goal of creating physical spaces that promote safety, well-being and healing.”

In the full FORBES Article, Neha explains that trauma-informed design  requires realizing how the physical environment affects identity, worth and dignity, and how it promotes empowerment and supports the feeling of safety. When you enter a space, it should feel safe and warm. Trauma-informed design requires recognizing that the physical environment has an impact on attitude, mood and behavior because there is a strong link between our physiological state, our emotional state and the physical environment. It also means that intentionally designing and maintaining healing environments leads to empowerment and resists retraumatizing those who have already experienced so much trauma. Connecting the indoor space to the outside natural world is also important. Including plants, nature objects, and natural light in an office space brings the beneficial elements of the natural world inside. To a link of the full FORBES article


We researched colors and calming accents that are woven throughout our space. Color psychology and the science behind the emotions that colors evoke is a fascinating area of exploration!


  • The main wall in our waiting room is called “meditative blue” and the walls in our kitchen and conference room are also “sleepy blue”. The color blue represents both the sky and the sea and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, inspiration, and sensitivity. 
  • We accent with orange which represents Energy, Happiness, and Vitality and greens which represents New Beginnings, Abundance, Nature . Gray is the color of our therapy office walls. In color psychology, gray represents neutrality and balance, it supports the feeling of calm and composure in chaos


  • Ever been to a doctor’s office/provider’s office and heard through the wall to the next room? Us Too! We NEEDED to ensure this did not happen in our office. 
  • Our office walls are insulated with sound dampening insulation and the ceiling also has insulation between the doorways and walls to ensure conversations shared in our offices are not shared between the walls.


  • Each therapist brings their own personal touches to their therapy space. This includes plants, decorations, chairs, pillows, art, etc. We believe every space should feel specific to the provider, it should support their work, it should feel like you are chatting with someone in an environment they also love being in. 


  • Spaces with clear sight lines to entryways/exits and windows is important. Spaces with limited clutter and few barriers to the doorways feel safer and more calming. Being able to see outside is important for feeling grounded. Being able to see the doorway and know the door is accessible and you may leave at any time is also important to feeling safe in a space. 


  • Harsh overhead lights can create feelings of stress and for folks who are light sensitive, have migraines, experience sensory overload, or disorientation with bright lights, overhead lights can trigger negative physiological changes. Most of our offices have a window in them and our waiting room offers natural light as well. We have a quiet corner with lower illumination for anyone with extra sensitivity and we also have a separate area for children to attend sessions. 


  • Bringing the natural world inside a healing space is not just calming, but it’s grounding and beneficial to decrease cortisol in our bodies. Having living plants and nature objects throughout the office grounds our physical presence with the outdoors, it also increases oxygen in the office and creates connection to nature while remaining indoors. 


  • We carefully curate our resources provided throughout the office and in common areas. We do not use sensationalized images and/or resources that depict humans suffering from mental health issues. We are an anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice. We believe in social justice advocacy, community partnerships, and collective healing. We only offer resources in our practice that are vetted, local, collaborative, and are aligned with our core values as a business. We believe depicting mental health and general health disparities using sensationalized images perpetuates suffering without acknowledging resilience and re-traumatization patterns. 


  • We are always open to feedback if something does not land in the way it was intended. We acknowledge intentions and impact aren’t always aligned. We don’t know our own gaps in awareness until they are brought to our attention. While we intend to create a safe space for all people, we are open to any feedback to support these goals if something does not feel right for you at any time.

Trauma-Informed Design is a nuanced approach to creating safety in physical spaces. We are committed to continuing to create physical spaces that promote safety and enhance healing, discovery of self, and embodied awareness. If you are interested in more information about how to make your business trauma-informed, we offer Trauma-Informed Business Consulting through our affiliated professional training company

About The Author

Chelsea Haverly

Chelsea is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C) and the Co-founder of Anchored Hope Therapy, LLC. She is a Maryland Board Certified Supervisor for Social Workers and Professional Counselors. Chelsea believes that a strong therapeutic alliance can be supportive and helpful in the healing process and that everyone is able to make changes in life.