Behavioral Health Design: A Thoughtful Approach to Wellness

Architectural and design teams have led the way in transitioning from the impersonal design of behavioral healthcare institutions in favor of thoughtful designs that better accommodate the needs of the staff and patients of these organizations. Here are some of the ways architects and designers are using behavioral health design to improve wellness.

Creating a Healing Environment

The design of behavioral health facilities previously focused on observation and evaluation. The design was very task-oriented. Design is now starting to focus instead on creating a healing environment. Designers are opting for calm colors and design elements that promote relaxation. This is true not just for rehabilitation facilities but also observation and evaluation facilities.

Rethinking Nursing Stations

In the past, the nursing stations at behavioral health facilities were closed off, causing patients to feel isolated. One of the goals of contemporary design teams has been to find a way to create nursing stations that are open and hospitable while still ensuring the safety of the nursing staff. We’re learning that secure boundaries can be created without closing off the spaces or alienating the patients. Creating deeper nursing stations allows designers to make nursing stations feel more open while still establishing boundaries.

Creating Family Spaces

Another design challenge with behavioral health institutions is creating family-friendly spaces. 1 in 59 children are autistic, while almost 1 in 7 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. The design of a facility can make it easier to diagnose children early. A family-oriented space will have many soft spaces and easy staff visibility. Designers are choosing design elements that help lower stress. Diagnostic sessions can take hours, so these spaces need to be thoughtfully designed. Spaces need an abundance of natural light, but they also need to have the option to lower the lighting for patients who have light-sensitivity.

Emphasizing Research

Consistent research will allow architectural and design teams to find new strategies to facilitate a healing environment. For example, right now a lot of research is being done on design elements that can help dementia patients. They’re testing the effects of having a multi-sensory environment. Things like aromatherapy, lights that change colors, and music can affect memory, stress, and a patient’s state of mind.

The biggest trend in behavioral health architecture is a shift to design that focuses on the patients. The goal of design when it comes to behavioral health now is to reduce stress, promote the comfort and wellness of the patients, and ensure the safety of both patients and staff.


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