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A Therapeutic Community: Rethinking the Mental Health Rehabilitation Model

Part 2 Project 2014
Rachel Slater
Krystyna Griffiths
University of Liverpool | UK
In recognising the poor quality of institutional environments that prevail in the provision of mental healthcare this thesis questions how the design of mental health rehabilitation environments can be improved to promote mental wellbeing.

This thesis was prompted by our Masters dissertations which explored therapeutic design in healthcare facilities and multi-sensory design from a visually impaired perspective, focusing on methods of improving the quality of life for significant, and increasing, portions of society. Combining the knowledge gained from these studies with the desire to understand how the design and sensory experience of architectural space can affect the behaviour and wellbeing of its occupants, this thesis concentrates on the effects on mental health.

The proposal is a new urban typology for mental health rehabilitation which focuses on the multi-sensory and therapeutic qualities of architecture to stimulate psychological, social and physical recovery. The centre acts as a stepping stone to assist transition back into society for young adults leaving psychiatric care. It aims to encourage independence, the learning of new skills and the provision of appropriate support to restore users’ personal and professional identities.

Contrasting the traditional rural model, this proposal seeks to bring the positive natural aspects of the rural environment into the urban environment, providing an oasis which people can visit to rebalance their lives. The proposal regenerates existing buildings integrating itself into the urban fabric whilst retaining familiarity for its occupants. The centre consists of a sequence of contrasting spatial experiences for rehabilitation, relaxation and reflection to accommodate, and respond to, the users needs and functional requirements.

The urban location and design of the centre enables families to engage with the rehabilitation of family members, whether in-patient or out-patient. Those requiring mental healthcare will be able to feel part of society whilst undergoing rehabilitation, rather than being excluded from it, as is the case currently. Re-engineering of mental healthcare provision in the heart of the community will not only improve outcomes for users of the service, it will serve to raise public awareness of mental health to relieve political and social tensions surrounding mental illness in society.

Rachel Slater
Krystyna Griffiths

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