Behavioral Health Design Guide: Everything You Need To Know

When designing a behavioral facility, it can be hard to know where to start. You have to take into account the patient’s needs as well as your desired aesthetic. If you’re having trouble balancing the two and are overwhelmed by the design process, don’t worry! This guide will provide an overview of key design considerations for creating optimal healing environments in behavioral health spaces.

Starting the Process

As you begin your design process, there are a few things you should keep in mind. The type of room you are designing will determine what furniture, decoration, and colors it should utilize. Identifying these distinctions early on enables you to make strategic choices that align with the needs of the room. Once you’ve defined the space, there are a few elements we will talk about to help you create a positive environment. 

Type of Room and Facility

The room’s use greatly impacts how design elements should be incorporated. For example, a low-supervision common area requires a different design approach than a high-supervision patient room. Design is extremely influential to clients and care should be taken to ensure you are treating your facility accordingly. Identifying the main uses of the room will help you guide your overall design down the right path. To get you started, here are some common factors that determine a room’s use:

Waiting Room and Common Areas

If you have identified the space as a waiting room or common area, then you should focus on connection and community in your design. This should be a space where patients come together and spend time with visitors. Try to keep the space feeling open to encourage a calm and relaxed atmosphere. Be sure to pay attention to how you lay out the seating, too. Vary the distance between seats so that clients can interact with each other but easily have space for private conversations.

If you want more information about how to design a waiting room, check out last month’s blog, Designing a Waiting Room: Everything You Need to Know.

Supporting Positive Social Interactions

You want to design a room that encourages positive social interaction between patients, doctors, and visitors. The best way to do this is by offering a variety of ways to sit in a social setting. Chairs that are moveable can be a good idea to allow a patient to move to a place in the room they enjoy best. Space can be an important factor for patients in behavioral health facilities. All rooms should have an easy way to create personal space, whether that be with strategically placed tables or multiple chair options. 

Connecting to the Outdoors

You never want a patient to feel trapped in your facility. Use your design to emphasize the outdoors while inside. Large, open windows that bring in natural light are a great way to achieve this! Natural decor, colors, and artwork can also achieve a connection to the outdoors. If you have the ability to provide an outdoor space, that can be very effective. An outdoor area, such as a courtyard or fenced area, provides therapeutic benefits to patients by allowing them to enjoy the outdoors for themselves. However, they require special safety measurements. The type of fencing, landscaping, and furniture should be secure enough for patients to interact with.

Create a Calm Space

Lastly, no matter the type of facility, the design should be centered around creating a calming space. A medical facility can be a scary place and we should always do our best to combat that. We can do this through simple, clean design choices. Neutral colors, natural light, and large windows can all add to the relaxing atmosphere of your space.

The Basic Requirements

When designing a treatment center, there are three critical elements that should be at the forefront – safety, comfort, and emotional healing. These three components come together to make a beautiful and functional facility. Let’s go over each one to see how we can best achieve them.


Safety will always be the top priority in designing for behavioral health. The necessary precautions must be taken to ensure patients will not get hurt under our care, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Always take the time to assess the risk level of an area and take measures to secure furniture and other equipment as necessary. 


It is also important to cater to the comfort of patients. Not just mentally, but physically. Every patient should feel comfortable sitting anywhere in the facility. Consider the unique needs of behavioral health patients, many of whom have underlying medical conditions that require accommodating support. Seek pieces with flexibility to allow for individual adjustments, finding the right fit for each body. Prioritize durability and stain resistance to withstand long-term use and cleaning. 

Emotional Healing

Always try to keep the environment uplifting and positive! Soothing artwork and a cohesive design aesthetic can do wonders to heal a patient mentally. Treatment centers often default to a stark, neutral palette in the name of safety and practicality. However, it is possible to strike a balance between safe and aesthetically vibrant. Seek creative ways to incorporate visual interest through patterns, textures, commissioned art pieces, and scenes from nature. Uplifting spaces improve mood and outlook, becoming an active ingredient in therapeutic processes.

How We Can Help You

At Thentic, we bridge the gap between interior designers and furniture manufacturers. Our purpose is to help you design environments where patients feel understood, uplifted, and secure. We guide you in choosing furnishings that treat the whole person, turning spaces into catalysts for change. 

If you want to learn more about how to curate the healthiest environment for patients with the right furniture, download our Behavioral Health Selection Guide!

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