Soundproofing a Psychologist’s Office [Case Study]

Updated March 27, 2024

We often receive messages from individuals, businesses, and organizations describing their noise problems and asking about applicable solutions. Every space has unique soundproofing and sound absorption needs but, more often than not, there are materials available to mitigate their issues.

One such letter comes from a psychologist in Missouri who’s worried their clients might be audible from other rooms. We’ve included the message here, along with some key techniques for preventing psychologist office noise transfer. Whether you’re worried about excess sound in an office, clinic, or any other setting, these solutions can help prevent noise transfer and are applicable to a wide variety of spaces.

A Concerned Letter from C.C.

I have a psychological office in St. Louis. Mostly our clients do not talk loud, however, sometimes our clients are brain injured and they make quite a bit of noise. In other rooms, counseling might be going on. We are in a three story building with regular tiles above, and when we moved in, they put extra insulation over the wall joists, but I knew that wouldn’t do it.

We are getting busier, and I don’t know what to do. I’m thinking of white noise, I don’t know if we have enough money for new tiles, and I don’t think I want to change the foam stuff that I would put in, instead of the landlord, who would probably nix the whole idea. We have four offices that are affected, all about 9×12 or a little larger. Do you have any ideas or persons I could contact in st. Louis? Or types of companies? Or heavy materials that maybe I could put on top of the tiles between the rooms? I feel like I can only whisper when I talk about things/people because they might be able to hear us. Looking forward to your post.


St. Louis, MO

First Off, Identify Escape Points

The first step in quelling sound transfer is to find out where it’s escaping from. Noise in a room works a lot like water in a fish tank—with even the slightest hole, it’ll keep spilling out until there’s nothing left.

Since C.C. is specifically asking about a psychologist’s office, we considered the general design of clinics, offices, and exam rooms and identified some main points of sound transfer:

  • The ceiling – Far more often than not, offices and clinics have standard drop-in ceiling tiles. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this design, such tiles are generally outdated and have minimal sound-reflecting qualities.
  • The walls – Pull out one of those drop-in tiles and check your interior walls. Oftentimes, they won’t reach from floor to ceiling—leaving a major highway for sound to cruise through between rooms.
  • The door – Darken your room and see if any light leaks in from the hallway. Even the smallest air gaps can lead to significant noise transfer, so you’ll want to seal them up.

Check all of these common culprits for potential sound loss. Then, when you’ve isolated the issues you have in your space, you can move on to “patching the holes,” so to speak, and remedying your noise issues.

Keeping Sound Within the Walls of a Psychologist’s Office

Once you know the source, you can find a solution. Below, we’ll break down potential issues and explain some effective products that can solve your noise problems once and for all.

Prevent Noise Transmission Through Your Ceiling with a Barrier-Decoupler

As mentioned in the letter, C.C.’s office has a regular drop ceiling with traditional, non-noise-blocking tiles. Such is the case with many offices, classrooms, and clinics. Instead of replacing the entire ceiling (mentioned by C.C. to be cost-prohibitive), there are simpler solutions.

A barrier-decoupler is a kind of noise barrier that can go in between your drop ceiling and the structural ceiling above. It comes in 54-inch wide rolls in either 20- or 30-foot lengths. To cut it to size, simply grab a pair of sharp scissors or a utility knife and slice right through.

Installing a barrier-decoupler is just as easy as cutting it—simply lay it atop your current tiles and you’re ready to go. They work because the mass-loaded vinyl significantly increases the weight of your ceiling and adds an extra layer of dense material to absorb sound. Density makes it difficult for noise to move through a surface. It’s the same reason why the traditional insulation around C.C.’s wall joists, which is mostly air, isn’t doing much to prevent sound transfer.

A few quick tips to note before pulling down your ceiling tiles and rolling out your barrier-decoupler include:

  • The mass-loaded vinyl has a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 26, so it’ll stop an average of 26 dBa from passing through—about the same amount as a well-built wall.
  • The added mass of a barrier-decoupler will significantly weigh down your ceiling so, for those with 2-foot by 4-foot tiles, you may need to add a T-bar across their center to prevent bowing.
  • For spaces where the interior walls only go as high as the drop ceiling, this solution is a great start in preventing most major noise transmission between rooms—especially when paired with the next couple of solutions.

Seal Your Doors to Prevent Noise Transfer

Using an adjustable door seal kit is a quick and cost-effective solution for minimizing sound transmission through your entryways. If noise transfer is a major concern in your space, you’ll want these surface-mounted seals in every room.

To install, first determine whether you have hollow-core or solid-core doors. Then, simply grab the standard kit (½-inch thick) for a hollow core or the heavy-duty kit (⅞-inch thick) for a solid one and cut them to fit perfectly around your door (a carbide-tipped saw blade will slice through them like butter).

Soundproofing and Acoustics for Every Application. Browse our Collection!


Slide the gaskets into place and make sure they’re tight, but the door still has enough space to open and close. Screw the gaskets to the door’s frame starting with the hinge side, then near the handle, and on top. The foot-level seal should slide in last and make solid contact with the floor while still clearing any carpeting or raised segments. For a more detailed look at installing our door seals, you can check out this video.

Our door seals have been put to the test in one of the loudest clinical environments possible—St. Boni Pet Hospital, where they were installed on the doors to keep the barks and meows contained.

Other, roll-and-stick style door kits may be slightly easier when it comes to installation, but they don’t provide the tight seal of our heavy-duty gaskets and, ultimately, allow for more noise transfer.1 So, bust out the miter saw and screw gun—confidentiality is well worth the effort.

Utilize White Noise to Increase Ambient Sound

Ambient sound from a white noise machine makes it more difficult to discern what others are saying—especially when it’s already muffled by noise-absorbing materials. The soothing tone they create is similar to a fan or air conditioner and each covers a 12-foot by 12-foot room.

The best part? There’s no installation required. Simply plug them in and enjoy the added privacy they bring.

Silence Sound Issues in Your Office, Clinic, or Elsewhere with Acoustical Surfaces

If you’re dealing with sound issues in your home, workplace, or anywhere else, there are plenty of materials available to help contain and minimize the noise. Barrier-decouplers, door seals, and white noise machines are exceptional choices for clinical environments—but they’re just the tip of the sound control iceberg.

From acoustic panels to soundproof curtains, Acoustical Surfaces is here to help with all your noise issues. Contact us about your sound problems and we can help create a custom solution that fits your space and budget.





    • Ted W

      Hi Whitney,

      Thanks for the question. I would be happy to help you determine the best way/ways to approach the situation. I will need a little more information, though. Can you provide me with a bit of information about the spaces in question and walk me through a bit about the nature of the problem?


  1. Terry Diebold

    Hi–After reading your information, I realize I don’t squat about preventing conversations from being overhead on either side of a joint office wall. We don’t have ceiling tiles and our doors open onto two separate hallways but what we DO have is cheap drywall between our two offices that butts into a joint, antique brick wall. We have stuffed insulation into the spaces where the wall meets the antique brick but still, as stated in one of the letters you’ve already received, some clients are very loud. 1) Would a wall hanging or covering the walls with fabric make a difference (the wall is 8′ x 11′)? 2) If not, could you use green glue and foam board instead of green glue and drywall? Thanks–Terry

    • Ted W

      Unfortunately, a wall hanging or fabric covering is not likely to offer any reduction in the sound getting from one room to the other. That might absorb a very small amount of echo in the room in which it is added, but that doesn’t sound like the problem you are trying to reduce. Additionally, foam board is not a sound barrier, most foam products are used to control echo.

      Without being in the space to see the problem I have to make some assumptions, so you’ll have to forgive me if I miss the mark, but your mention about “stuffing insulation into the spaces where the wall meets the antique brick” tells me that this was an open air space/gap in the wall. Again, insulation being light, soft, and fluffy makes it not a noise barrier. To block the sound you first need to make your room as air tight as possible. I would do this by adding some acoustical sealant/caulk between the antique wall and the new drywall partition.

      Sound is like water — and imagine where the water would leak from office A to office B if the room were filled with water from floor to ceiling. That is where the sound goes first as well. I would start here and after the gap is sealed properly, step back and listen.


  2. John P

    in a commercial style building i have sheetrock walls between offices filled with cellulose blow material. The walls do not go past the suspended ceiling grid so I have installed R30 insulation on top of the wall plate to the bottom of the concrete floor above. It seems the sound is coming from where the office wall meets the metal in between the windows.

    What can I do?

    • Ted W

      The sound pressure in these offices are going to use the path of least resistance to get from “point A” to “point B” which is always any common air gaps between the two offices. It’s quite common to see office build outs where the walls meet at a window and leave an airspace. The only way to start to reduce this is to use some kind of caulk or sealant and make that joint as airtight as possible. You could use a locally available closed-cell foam and finish it with sealant. Airtight is critical.


  3. Fountain Yount

    Hi Ted
    I am moving into an office in April that is being built out into 3 small offices and a lobby area- there is already an existing wall- which will be cut into to create a door- we are also adding three walls- I find different ideas on the best way to soundproof the walls so that patients conversations are not heard in the lobby – also one therapist sees kids and we want to contain that noise as much as possible. I am planning on doing solid core doors- making them as air tight as possible- but was curious about adding insulation to the walls – I also found vinyl sheeting- or even the idea of doing double sheet rock on the walls- bit new and adding to existing- I am on a tight budget so was trying to find the most bang for my buck – these walls will be built all the way to the ceiling.

    • Ted W

      As long as the walls go from the floor to the ceiling and are as airtight as possible and as long as you have the doors in mind, the only other question is the HVAC system. If these rooms share common duct work, that could potentially be a problem.

      For the walls, I would suggest using the most cost-effective fiberglass insulation you can find. I would double-layer the drywall on the studs, and use a product called Green Glue between two layers of 5/8″ sheetrock on each side. I would also suggest taking a look at the installation instructions for the doors (look at page 10) that we have on our website and follow them for getting your solid-core doors into the rough openings.

      I would also strongly suggest a heavy-duty door seal kit around the perimeter of the doors as well as a few white-noise machines to subtly increase the background noise in the offices and waiting areas, which will help to distract listeners from hearing conversations.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions or if you would like to discuss the situation further. Thanks,

  4. Polly

    Hi Ted,

    Recently moved into a 4 office suite in a commercial type building. I can hear the neighbor next to me so I know he can hear me- and worst of all- my clients (I work as a psychologist). We are also in the middle of two other businesses and we are trying to maintain our clients privacy. Would it help to play white noise in the ceiling, since you say it is where most or the sound travel comes from? Thinking of getting a speaker set and putting the speakers up in the ceiling and hooking it up to a device that will play an mp3 of white noise continually while seeing clients. Any other suggestions are welcomed, thanks for your help!

    • Ted W

      There are a lot of potential areas for sound to leak from one room to the next in offices because the build-outs are so different. It’s really tough to try to make absolute recommendations across the board. I was just in an office a few weeks ago where the majority of the sound was getting from “A to B” which was a gap between a recently built wall and a window that connected the two rooms. But, making a generalization, I would suggest taking a close look at the ceiling.

      White noise will likely offer some relief, so I would absolutely suggest starting there. It is a cost-effective and non-intrusive way to try something. You might want to price out a few of our SoundScreen machines for each office relative to the cost of a system up in the plenum (above the ceiling tiles) just to find which is the best for your situation. I would also suggest backing the ceiling tiles with drywall/sheetrock and see what that does. Most of the time, those two steps will reduce the problem enough to be acceptable. If they don’t, I will need to explore it with you specific to your building and problem. The next step is usually a door seal kit to seal the air gaps/cracks around and under the door and maybe looking at modifying the HVAC system if you have either a plenum return or a common return or supply line.

      Let me know if you have any specific questions or if you need additional information.


  5. Marsha

    Hi, Ted — Another psychologist here… We have a three-office suite. When we did our original build-out, the contractor actually did most of the things you’ve talked about here. Walls all the way up; good construction of interior walls; taking care to reduce noise transmission via studs and HVAC ducts; coverage of door gaps using a kit similar to yours; built-in white noise machines. He also installed a double door for the office directly off the waiting room (two doors facing one another in a single frame – one opening in, the other out – making a sandwich with airspace in between). All in all, the sound conditioning has been great.

    Except – we only did the double door for the office off the waiting room; the other two office doors didn’t seem to be a likely problem. Now, ten years down the road, we’ve had some changes (including a tiny kitchenette near where the single doors are) and we find that we need double doors for the other two offices. The doors have already been sealed and gasketed (and replaced recently), and they’re solid core.The landlord has told us that the current door frames would have to be completely removed and replaced with different (deeper?) frames to accommodate two facing doors. He has said (rather predictably) that this makes it too expensive, and refuses to do it as part of our lease renewal negotiations… Insight? Suggestions? Thank you!

    • Ted W

      Considering what you’ve already done (solid-core doors, proper seals, white noise system), it would likely be quite expensive to tear out the framing that is there and modify it for a double-door setup. If you went with one of our Studio 3D doors, the rough opening would also have to be modified (strengthened significantly) which would be about the same cost as the other option above. Also, our soundproof doors are in the $3500 ballpark.

      The only thing that comes to mind would be to get some kind of movable acoustical quilted curtain panel that could be rolled into place when a patient was in the room in question and rolled out of the way when someone needed to get in/out of the space. These are basically industrial-grade moving blankets with a sheet of lead as a center layer. We don’t use actual lead – we use a dense, heavy viyl, but it has the same density and weight of lead. We could put a small window in them as well, if needed. Considering these are industrial-grade, we do have a few different choices of facings to “dress them up” a bit.

      Here is one I did in a customer’s residence a few years ago:
      Quilted Curtain on track


  6. Armando

    Hi Ted, not a psycologist but a Graphic Designer living in an apartment with what seems to be a paper thing door. For a long time I’ve been looking for a solution regarding sound liking from the living to the hallway, (where my neighbors pass by all the time). Unfortunately my door is at the end of the stairs so everyone who passes by can hear whatever I do or say.

    Would you recommend a product or series of products that could help with this particular situation?

    My thanks in advance.


    • Kyle Berg

      Hi Armando,

      The tough part to your noise problem is, with apartments, these aren’t always owned. If this is your case, you will want to talk to your Super before any changes are made. There are a couple ways to go about this problem to help keep the noise outside from coming in, and vice versa.

      The first step is to see if the door that is currently installed is a solid core door. If so, this is good! This means that the sound is being blocked by the dense, solid core door, but is simply flanking around the door and entering/exiting through the perimeter. This can be solved by adding an Adjustable Door Seal Kit around the perimeter of the door. These have an adjustable bottom, that lifts itself up when the door is being opened, and drops itself down when the door is almost closed, so that it does not wear down the finished flooring or the mechanism due to rubbing on the ground. This will seal the perimeter of the door, so that sound may not pass through. A 1% gap will allow 30% sound through, and a bigger gap, even more! Look at it like when you are driving down the road in your vehicle. When the windows are up, you barely hear anything from outside the car, if at all. Crack your window open just a little bit, and it gets quite loud. Same rules apply in this situation. Granted, your car is traveling down the highway at 65 MPH, but you get the idea.

      If the door isn’t a solid core door, and cannot be replaced with one, there is another option that will help. This option is not as effective as the first option, but will still help with the transfer of noise. Our Quilted Curtain with a mass loaded vinyl barrier, can be hung over the door so that it covers the door completely. I suggest making this curtain roughly 2-4&PRime; larger than the door (to keep the flanking to a minimum). These curtains are very dense (the key to soundproofing) and have both an absorptive face, plus a mass loaded vinyl barrier to help block the transfer of noise from either direction. These curtains are fairly heavy, and cannot be scrunched up or tied to the side of the door. They weight about 1.5lbs/square foot, so your average door curtain would weigh between 30-35lbs. They can be made with grommets along the top side so that it can be hung with hooks, or hang from a track system. The track system would need to be 2 times the width of the door in order to give clearance of the door from the curtain.

      If you have other questions, or would like my help in more detail, please feel free to let me know.


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