In a world that’s starting to pay more attention to mental health, 20% of U.S. adults grapple with these challenges each year – a number on the rise since COVID-19. Fortunately, mental health spaces are transforming to offer better support.

Today’s designs focus on making spaces comfortable and empowering, blending aesthetics with recovery. Plus, the market is now better at understanding risk and creating spaces that match what people need.

This means those with milder mental health issues don’t always have to go to hospitals where people with more severe issues are treated. This change comes from a teamwork effort between architects, interior designers and clients. In this blog, we’ve talked to industry experts to explore this shift.

waiting room common room furniture behavioral health

Architects, Interior Designers and Clients: A Triad of Influence

Collaboration is key for successful design, especially in behavioral healthcare. Architects, interior designers and behavioral healthcare clients all play crucial roles in this united effort, each contributing their unique perspectives. By understanding and combining different viewpoints, they create designs that truly meet the needs of the people involved.

Here’s the breakdown of characters: 

  • The Architect plans and designs the building ensuring that all code and safety issues are considered and creates spaces to meet the client needs structure. 
  • The Interior Designer adds the creative touch to ensure a perfect look and feel. 
  • The Client, who will use the space, provides specific needs and preferences. 
  • The Furniture Dealer, uses their expertise with Behavioral Health products and coordinates these products with the visions of the Architects and Ddesigners to meet the requirements of the client and their clientele.

Real World Collaboration: Teamwork in Action at FSGC

Let’s look at an example of teamwork making a difference: the recent transformation of the Family Service Guidance Center (FSGC) in Topeka, Kansas. In 2018, Architect One, led by Architect Scott Gales and by Senior Project Manager Jacquelyn Rakoski-Diediker, set out to create a better space for children and families needing behavioral healthcare. The goal was to make a space that is both safe and humane.

Through collaborative discussions with various stakeholders, data was compiled into recommendations, emphasizing the need for a new facility for the growing child population. Faced with the limitations of the original facility, including limited space, inadequate private areas, cramped offices and issues with privacy, the team decided to leverage an opportunity to build anew.

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Here’s how Architect One approached the task of making a more humane space: 

  • Thoughtful Design: They started from scratch, making sure the new building served its purpose without being burdened by the issues of the old one. 
  • Safety First: The design included safety features like safety glass, impact resistant walls and padded rooms, ensuring crises could be managed without sacrificing kindness and dignity. 
  • People-Centric Materials: Choices like fixtures resistant to self-harm and materials built to withstand force were made with safety and warmth in mind. 
  • Versatile Spaces: The center now has different areas for group activities and quiet zones, providing flexibility for various therapeutic approaches. 
  • Well-Being Focus: The design prioritizes well-lit, welcoming spaces to promote wellness for both visitors and staff. 
  • Proactive Healing: Special areas were created to defuse tension before it escalated. 
  • Team Effort: Success depended on smooth teamwork, bringing together everyone involved, including Scott Rice Office Works, with the shared goal of saving lives through a conducive recovery environment.

The result? Extremely positive, especially for the young people under their care.

The kids’ ability to personalize spaces is a big plus. They can change and adjust things to match their likes and needs.

Travis Freed, Director of Crisis and Recovery Services, mentions a noticeable, welcoming atmosphere, unlike typical mental health facilities. The youth often describe it as having “color” and “flavor,” making it a much more inviting place. Ramon Chavez, Crisis Operations Manager, talks about the impact on the staff.

The colors and design choices create a safer and more pleasant work environment. The furniture, designed to be heavy and secure, not only makes things safer but also reduces the need for extensive room searches, making it quicker to get spaces ready for new clients. 

This is the power of teamwork in design.

bedroom behavior health furniture image

A Holistic Approach

Creating a mental health facility design that focuses on humanization involves a mix of design skills and vision. Success comes from trust and understanding, ensuring designs meet the specific needs of clients. Based on our discussions with industry experts, let’s highlight a few key things we focus on when designing for behavioral health facilities: 

  •  Safety: A top priority is addressing uncomfortable furniture and emphasizing cleanliness alongside traditional comfort to ensure the well-being of everyone. 
  • Tailored Solutions: Tailoring responses for various behavioral health issues involves committing to innovation through diverse furniture lines, prioritizing safety and flexibility. 
  • Adaptability: Essential for the shorter stays common in these facilities is striking a balance between durability and adaptability. The goal is to provide comfortable and adaptable furniture, creating positive experiences for both staff and patients. 
  • Empowerment: Choices are empowered by offering comfortable seating options, reducing anxiety and recognizing the crucial role of staff in shaping positive experiences. 
  • Balance: Striking a harmonious balance between aesthetics and practical considerations such as maintenance and cleanliness in mental health treatment environments is crucial. This not only makes the place look nice but also makes it feel better overall.

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Designing for Differences

Effective mental health care requires personalized approaches, recognizing that each person’s needs vary, whether for substance abuse, schizophrenia, PTSD or beyond. Facilities like forensic psychiatric units understand that furniture can impact care solutions and safety. Preventing concealment of harmful items is crucial. 

In children’s facilities, the demand for durable yet malleable materials match their dynamic energy, while adult centers balance safety with preventing contraband risks.

Traditional furniture doesn’t fully address these needs, often being uncomfortable, unsafe or difficult to clean. The evolution towards furniture that combines comfort, security and ease of maintenance is a leap toward supporting recovery and enhancing patient well-being.

What caused this change? Talking about:

  • Shared Goals: Working together with everyone involved to create a design that makes sense and works well. 
  • Open Communication: Breaking down barriers so that architects, interior designers and clients can share their thoughts and make the design better. 
  • Looks and Function: Creating spaces that help people recover by designing them to be both useful and attractive. 
  • Diverse Perspectives: Combining the diverse ideas of manufacturers, interior designers and clients to create furniture that lasts and fits the needs of different stay lengths.

students kids common area healthcare

Real World Innovation: ModuForm’s Mental Health Furniture

Committed to meaningful dialogue and custom solutions, ModuForm’s approach exemplifies how collaboration and innovation can truly humanize design in the real world of mental healthcare. Through continuous discussions since 1976, the company has developed furniture that tackles how facilities are set up, the level of care for patients and important issues like self-harm and hygiene. This has led to significant breakthroughs, including: 

  • Advanced Dip Molding: Tough, cleanable furniture for dynamic mental health scenarios.
  • Advanced Rotomolding: Tough, cleanable furniture for dynamic mental health scenarios. 
  • Ligature Resistance: Proactive patient safety measures embedded in design. 
  • Innovative Materials: Comfort meets sanitation with soft, safe polyurethane foam for child-friendly options. Comfort meets security with soft, safe polyurethane foam for noise mitigation and child-friendly options. 
  • Durability and Cleanliness: High-use furniture designed to be easily sanitized, sustaining a secure and clean healing atmosphere. High-use furniture designed to be easily sanitized, sustaining a welcoming, clean and healing atmosphere.

Join the Conversation with Scott Rice Office Works

The evolution of mental health spaces and furnishings stands as a testament to the transformative power of collaboration and innovation. Join us to redefine behavioral healthcare with compassionate design. Together, we can forge a path towards healing environments that prioritize comfort and safety, dedicated to serving individuals on the journey to recovery with profound humanity and dignity.

Don’t miss our upcoming symposium where experts will share insights on the future of behavioral and mental healthcare environments. Contact us for details and be part of this important conversation, helping shape a future where design heals. 

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