Designing Mental Health Facilities for Privacy and Dignity

The History of Mental Health Treatment

The treatment of mental illness, and thus mental health facility design, have been evolving since ancient times. Advances in chemistry, medicine, psychology, and science have helped fuel these changes, and will continue to do so as new discoveries are made and more is learned about the nature of mental illness and the most effective treatment strategies. The evolution of how mental illness is perceived has directly affected both behavioral health facility design and treatment programs.

Today’s Approach to Behavioral Health

Today, the focus on treatment options has shifted from ancient and unproductive methods to the use of drug therapy and counseling, acknowledging that behavioral health is as important as physical health and eliminating the stigma that dictated so many approaches to treatment.

With this new attitude, mental health facility design has begun to focus on creating homelike environments for patients that offer both privacy and dignity for the person dealing with a mental illness. With the shift to providing a continuum of care that helps individuals reintegrate back into society as productive citizens, behavioral health facility design has come a long way. How does this shift influence facility design requirements?


  1. Dignity. Today’s modern mental health facility design is focused on providing patients dealing with mental illness and behavioral issues with the dignity they deserve by creating a non-threatening environment where they feel comfortable, overcoming skepticism and ambivalence with genuine care and attention to details. Large windows offer greater access to natural views and light when patients are indoors, while functioning windows in individual rooms offer an opportunity to let in fresh air and natural light at will. Easy access to walking paths, gardens, and courtyards allow patients to exercise or simply sit and enjoy the warmth and comfort of sunshine and being outdoors.
  2. Privacy. Mental and behavioral health facility design today also includes a focus on patient privacy and confidentiality, with unobtrusive entrances and exits that balance hospitality and privacy, check in procedures that include individual kiosks that help ensure confidential information is not exposed to the public, and the incorporation of smaller, more intimate group facilities and meeting rooms. By doing away with the “ward” design and offering more semi-private rooms for patients with separation anxiety as well as private rooms for those who require seclusion, healthcare facilities are seeing shorter visits and increased success rates once patients graduate from treatment programs. Greater emphasis is being placed on outpatient care throughout the healthcare industry, leading to an increased need for outpatient facilities.
  3. Comfort. Increased comfort, soothing colors and materials, homelike design features, natural light, and a less institutional, more residential feel is transforming mental health facility design for the better. Hardwood floors, comfortable furniture, pocket seating areas, and community kitchens where residents can prepare their own meals are just some of the innovations in today’s behavioral health facility design. Acoustics are even being taken into consideration to help preserve patient privacy, with sound masking between rooms, sound absorbing doors, and ambient music being used to avoid sound leaking into a hallway or public area where a passerby might overhear a private counseling session or conversation.

With much of the stigma of bygone days regarding mental health and its treatment gone, today’s facilities are seeing a greater influx of patients seeking both in-patient and out-patient programs. To accommodate the increase in numbers of people seeking help, we need more mental and behavioral health centers designed to treat patients holistically while offering them the dignity and privacy they deserve.

Apex Design Build is a team of visionary leaders in today’s design, architecture, and construction of modern mental health care facilities. Contact our healthcare design team today and follow us on social media to learn more about our services. We’re here to help you achieve the healthcare facility you’ve always wanted and to assist you in serving the members of your community.

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