Displaying certificates and diplomas in your office

Jeff Guenther on Mar 21, 2017 in Physical Office

Displaying certificates and diplomas can be a polarizing topic that extends beyond pride in one's education. Some feel it's a necessity, while others feel it clashes with the rest of their therapy office aesthetic. 

Thankfully, there has been a fair bit of research that can help guide the way. Participants in a study were shown images of therapist offices in order to measure perception of the therapist's qualifications and energy level. The number of credentials displayed in the study varied from none, up to nine. 

More qualified and energetic?

The results were overwhelming. Not only were therapists with at least one certification displayed judged to be more qualified than those with none, but apparently - the more credentials, the better, up to having nine frames on the wall. 

Furthermore, those offices with more credentials displayed also correlated to participants believing the therapist also having more energy. It's believed that having licenses and other professional primes can help both clients and therapists prepare for a productive session, serving as a uniform of sorts to craft expectations of the experience.

It seems that in the case of displaying diplomas and certificates, more is more.


Of course, none of this has any effect on how qualified one actually is, as a therapist. And, over time, the effects of the environment will most likely fade as the client gets to know the therapist more, and initial impressions give way to the personal relationship that has been built. Although just a matter of perception, for some clients, it could help start things off on the right foot.

Source: A. S. Devlin, S. Donovan, A. Nicolov, O. Nold, A. Packard, G. Zandan, “Impressive?” Credentials, family photographs, and the perception of therapist qualities, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 503-512 (2009). 

Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.

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