Safe Space: For Behavioral Health Settings, Design Solutions by Dyer Brown

For the best ideas in designing care environments to treat diverse people with behavioral and mental health challenges, the starting point is simple: The very specific needs of patients and caregiver, including their needs for safety and a sense of relief.
With a mix of creativity, empathy, and evidence-based design principles, Dyer Brown has nurtured a strong track record in creating effective environments for behavioral health care. The team draws on work in varied project types to champion every patient’s outcomes, merging technical expertise and a sensitivity to how places both protect and heal. Recent projects include treatment centers and therapy spaces for both adolescents and teens, as well as enriching support zones.
Based in Atlanta and Boston, Dyer Brown’s leaders in the sector include senior interior designer Maggie Mitchell, an associate with a degree in psychology, as well as project manager Molly California. Their design solutions bring together:
  • Comfort and control for users: These elements allow for privacy, safety, and minimized anxiety. Eased orientation, plenty of controlled natural light, curated artworks, and settings for social interaction are vital, too.
  • Operations understanding: “Behavioral health designs begin with the flow of treatment — inpatient vs. outpatient — and they culminate in support for the caregivers’ young clients, often joined by their parents alongside,” says Maggie Mitchell. “Analysis of proposed sites and facilities is critical, not just to maximize usage but also to boost openness and ventilation, and create favorable adjacencies for homework areas, cafés and break zones, and places for parents to hang out.”
  • Safety, both perceived and physical: This is a key design criterion for behavioral health clinics. Examples of these features, says Molly California, protect patients from self-harm or accidents: safe stairwells, anti-ligature hardware, “break-away” products such as shower hoses and drapes, and fixtures designed without sharp edges. “Just as important, we look to craft welcoming and therapeutic interiors that are truly healing places,” says California. “Furnishings in behavioral health settings should be commercial grade but avoid looking institutional.”
Projects for Dyer Brown include a three-year relationship creating varied care environments on one provider organization's 13-acre campus for adolescent residential treatment, offering animal assisted therapy, recreational therapy, trauma focused therapy, horticulture therapy, as well as dialectical behavior therapy, a unique offering in the region.
Dyer Brown was referred to this provider by another ongoing client, a nationally recognized nonprofit behavioral health treatment organization with several campuses throughout the Atlanta area. For them Dyer Brown provides interior design services including new furniture and accessory specifications for their latest campus, which serves primarily adolescents and includes a 30,000-square-foot building with spaces for conferencing, clinical staff, dining, art therapy, music education, and fitness.

About Dyer Brown

Dyer Brown is a team of architects, interior designers, graphic designers and strategists. We bring our collective training and expertise to our clients’ branded and built environment challenges. As thoughtful problem solvers, we partner with our clients to thoroughly understand their goals and aspirations. We continually ask questions and craft design solutions where culture, space, brand and experience meet. Our projects range from workplace to hospitality, from labs to institutional, and from higher education to residential. No matter the project, we focus on human experience. Culture. Drives. Design.

Feature Image Courtesy of Dyer Brown

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