Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to disguise sound and have privacy in your healing space

Many helping professionals – psychotherapists, massage therapists, hypnotherapists and others -- struggle to find effective ways of sound-proofing their working spaces when they see clients.

Sound proofing not only protects the confidentiality of your client, it prevents interruptions when you are working with a sensitive issue or want to assist your client to focus or relax deeply.

Many of these ideas have been gathered by Mark R. Young, LCSW, a full-time psychotherapist ( who is also a part-time professional musician in Iron Mountain, Mich. Here is Mark’s list, augmented with a few other tips.

If you are still in the “looking” phase of setting up your practice space, be sure to listen into the sound-proof capabilities of your space, as well as annoying noises from the outside that may interrupt a session where focus, quiet and relaxation is paramount.

Check to see if there is thicker or solid door to your consultation room, versus a hollow one.

Bring a friend with you so you can practice conversing, or even talking loudly, to notice how voices carry from one room to another.

Notice if your space is near a police or fire station or hospital and determine if sirens and noises of emergency vehicles or other outside noise will cause interruptions or discomforts.

Ask if nearby offices or businesses (telemarketing firms, music stores and the like) will be making noise that will interferre with your sessions.

If you are in the construction mode, or have opportunities to remodel:

Add a thicker or extra layer of drywall or some type of insulation between joists. If new construction, you can slightly stagger (double the number of) studs so that the drywall on each side is never attached to the same studs.

Replace your consultation door if it is flimsy or hollow.

Special thick paints are designed reduce sound by up to 30 percent, but can be costly. Learn more at this link; there are many more online resources.

Fabric wallpaper will absorb some sound.

Apply cork tile squares to one or more walls. Cork has a higher air content which helps it absorb sound, and it can be covered with wallpaper if you want a more decorative look.

When you have your space established, here are several ways to reduce noises and prevent eavesdropping:.

Determine where to place the seating in your waiting room so the client or family member who is waiting is sitting farthest from your consultation space. If possible, do not place the seating against the same wall of your consultation room.

If you can make the path between lobby and therapy room staggered or indirect path, it will reduce sound transmission; a separate waiting room is better yet.

Use wall hangings, hanging quilts and rugs, bookcases and other materials which can absorb sound as part of your décor.

Install an affordable door sweep ($2 or so) which you can get from your favorite home center or hardware store. Apply it so it rubs or sweeps against carpet; see YouTube instructions.

Additional options can cover, blur or disguise the noises that may travel from one space to another.

Mount a small pair of white speakers (under $40) with white wall-mountable brackets and placed them strategically for optimal coverage in your waiting room, near ceiling, pointing down. If your walls are white or another light color, they will be very inconspicuous. You may run the wires up inside a dropped ceiling – which is even easier and less invasive.

Place a portable stereo (glorified boom box) in your waiting area or a nearby area where it can be heard. Make sure this stereo has: CD changer player that plays MP3 files from your iPod or computer; input jack that will accept a cable from your iPod (or equivalent), if you choose to use one; and output jacks that will connect to any speakers you bought if you are not using the originals.

Burn 150 to 175 songs per CDR, and it holds 6 disks. Mark, who is a part-time musician, set it to play ONE disk on RANDOM, REPEAT, so it goes forever, and the listener probably never hears the same song twice. He chooses to only play the ONE disk RANDOM (versus all six disks randomly) to avoid gaps of SILENCE when disks are swapping, where dialog in the session would be more audible. I find this far superior to playing single CDs that only hold 10 to 18 songs typically.

If you use other “white noise makers” or sound conditioners. listen to them first. Some may be unpleasant at best, obnoxious at worst since many are short digital "loops" of recording that play over and over. Marpacs ($50-65) are probably much more even, nicer sound quality that the cheap, but adequate ones are available for $20-40. Google “sound machines” and you’ll also find CDs that offer relaxing sounds.

Start and end your sessions on time.

Have a 10- to 15-minute gap between clients helps avoid next person hearing last person's session.

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