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A New Kind of Healing Space: Transforming a Mesilla Home into My Therapy Practice




Entrance to 2691 Calle de Principal
Home-based office in Mesilla NM

Since I retired from the Air Force, I've noticed that finding the right environment for my practice has been less about a destination and more of a work in progress. I started my practice in New Mexico because it was one of the few states I could continue to prescribe as a psychologist after I left the military. For a short minute, I worked as a co-director at NMSU's psychopharmacology program but decided that the stress of working in administration was a recipe for disaster. And speaking of disasters, I started my solo practice in Mesilla, NM in early 2020 - just in time for COVID.


While my colleagues were all zigging over to phone and video-therapy, I was zagging into an old-fashioned, brick and adobe office.

Front of office with brick pavers, blue door and fountain
The Old Commercial Office

Ever since college, my nickname was "Wrong Way" because whenever I am tragically appointed as navigator, there is no doubt that I will ALWAYS pick the wrong direction. Some might poetically call it "choosing the road less traveled". I like to think of it as keeping life interesting.


My decision to zag came with just a few penalties. Like watching my peers float to work from bed on the cloud, wearing pajama pants below the desk and living the dream of monitoring their little ones between sessions. In the meantime, I was researching and writing hardcopy COVID protocols, wearing a mask and nitrile gloves, and feverishly disinfecting touchable spaces between appointments.


Fast forward to the summer of 2024, and the time to zag is here once more. I've researched legal and town zoning issues and made the decision to relocate my office from a commercial setting to an office in the home - still in Mesilla. I made the decision to sell my office because I've moved my primary residence to Santa Fe. I'm still holding on to the house in Mesilla mostly out of a love for the community. Here in Mesilla, you can dance to the music of the the plaza with its crowd of dancers, tourists and vendors selling pecans, honey; paintings, sculptures, woodwork, handmade ponchos, jewelry, and pottery (to name a few). But, just within minutes, you could be walking along a hidden acequia with only the sounds of birds singing from the trees. 


I've decorated my new home office to mirror my community's spiritual and traditional folk-healing practices. Because of my background, I combined complementary/alternative healing with allopathic medicine. Picture Don Pedrito Jaramillo meets Sigmund Freud. I've got fresh herbs and plants, spiritual icons (Virgin Mary and St. Francis) in the nichos aside our front gate which is an homage to my parents. I'm using essential oils and sage for aromatherapy. At the same time, I keep a mortar and pestle, and an old-fashioned doctor's bag in my office for vital signs and basic physical examinations.


Moving my practice into a residential building meant giving up a space that was solely my own, no small sacrifice for someone who decompresses though time alone. I also had to be thoughtful about reconfiguring the home to create a professional space that is welcoming while remaining HIPAA-compliant. This included creating a private area for patient sessions that masks conversations. I had to buy two sound machines in order to pull that off. I also purchased a beautiful film for the windows to maintain privacy. I think it adds a hint of beauty to the space, plus my shade-loving plants are really enjoying the change.


window with colorful film occluding waiting area from the street
Window film used to enhance privacy


So far, my budget is liking this move. No extra rent. No extra wifi/telephone/electric bills/water/trash bills. No extra landscaping fees. If I forget my lunch, my fridge is stocked. I even found out that my malpractice insurance covers my work in the home so no changes needed there.


Well, I think that just about covers how I feel about the move at this early stage of the change. I can’t help but marvel how this move brings me back to the first time I saw a psychologist in Manhattan. His practice was in his home apartment. I was attending NYU at the time and he was close to school. It was my introduction to therapy and therapists so I never questioned his decision to maintain a home-based practice.


While the transition to a residential office has required many changes so far, I expect there are still a number of other rewards and challenges to come. Please share your comments/stories in the comments below. I’m especially curious to hear from anyone who has balanced work between two distinct places or has shifted from a traditional workspace to a home office. How did you manage the transition, and what impact did it have on your lifestyle and work?


For those in therapy or considering it, how do you feel about attending sessions in a home-based office versus a commercial setting? Does the setting change how you perceive the therapy experience?


Join the conversation! Your insights not only enrich our discussion but also help others navigate their own road less traveled

 

 


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