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Psychotherapist Puts Home Decorating on the Couch

July 22, 1999|JOSE CARDENAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What do the couches, pictures and colors in your home have to do with your career, relationships and general self-fulfillment?

Cheryl Pappas says the choices people make in decorating their homes are indicators of their psychological readiness in other areas of life.

Pappas, a Beverly Hills clinical psychotherapist, also practices "psychodecorating," a term she coined to mean "what people do to define themselves through their homes."

During readings at clients' houses, she analyzes decorating patterns, then offers her analysis of what their choices mean psychologically.

"There's a direct connection between who they are inside and what I see when I go through a home," she says. "Some people will tell me they absolutely have not chosen anything in their house. What that tells me is that they are not making choices in the rest of their lives."

But that description does not fit Jill Daniel, a freelance magazine writer who recently invited Pappas to do a reading. Wanting a creative aura in her writing room, Daniel painted it purple, a color that encourages creativity, Pappas says. Hanging over Daniel's desk is a tray with inspirational messages from Cosmopolitan magazine founder Helen Gurley Brown.

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To Pappas, Daniel's decorating choices--the specific colors she has painted each room and the personal items in them, such as a chandelier her husband brought back from his hometown of Topeka, Kan.--are indicators of her general drive. Specifically, that Daniel is creative, focused on her writing career and happy with her marriage.

According to Pappas, people--like Daniel--who begin their days in a place of personal inspiration carry those elements with them long after they walk outside and close the door.

Pappas' ideas are not entirely new. Feng shui--the ancient Asian system of building and decorating the home to preserve and balance "life energies"--is a similar concept. But Pappas says her method is different because feng shui uses a standard system of rules, whereas psychodecorating explores the Western world's focus on individualism and each person's particular psychological characteristics.

"In the language of dreams, the home is but a symbol of ourselves," she says, quoting Swiss psychologist Carl Jung.

A therapist for more than 20 years, Pappas says she has always had an interest in home design and architecture, and that over the years she noticed the connection between people's life situations and the physical order of their homes. She began the psychodecorating portion of her business seven years ago, and now performs about 10 readings each month.

The length and cost of her appointments depend upon the size of the home and how much an individual can afford, but generally ranges from $200 to $1,000.

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