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Psychiatr Q. 1989 Fall;60(3):253-64.

How physical settings affect chronic mental patients.

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  • 1Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, Wingdale, New York.


A study was conducted at New York State's Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center of the effects of physical changes in the ward environment on severely regressed psychotic inpatients and on the hospital staff who treat them. Two standard wards were remodeled according to principles in the scientific literature, preferences of those involved, and attempts to facilitate treatment goals. Within 8 months of the inauguration of the redesigned setting, there were selective behavior and attitude changes in both staff (N = 27) and patients (N = 37) as compared to four matched control wards (staff N = 44; patient N = 44): (1) staff mood level was raised significantly on a standard scale; (2) staff unscheduled absence rate was cut in half; (3) staff did not report significant improvement on scales of ward atmosphere and patient functioning; (4) patients themselves reported improvement in their self-images, but not in irritability, isolation, or depression; (5) patients reported significantly more satisfaction with the ward dayroom; (6) rate of patient violence decreased almost 50%.

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