The behavioral health unit (sometimes called the psychiatric unit) is an area of the hospital designed for mental health care. This handout explains what you and your family can expect while you’re in an Intermountain behavioral health unit. Along with the care you receive, this information will help you feel safe and supported during your time in the unit.

Why is it needed? What’s the goal?

There are many reasons why a person might need care in a behavioral health unit. In general, people are admitted because their symptoms are serious and unstable, or because they’re at risk for harming themselves or others.

The main goal of the unit is to provide a safe, secure place where people can receive treatment to move beyond the immediate crisis.

After your stay in the unit, ongoing treatment is vital to continuing your recovery. It’s very important to make and keep follow-up appointments with an outpatient mental health provider.

How is the behavioral health unit different from other hospital areas?

Unlike other hospital units, the behavioral health unit has a lot of open and communal space. This promotes interaction between patients and staff, creates areas for group meetings, and generally supports therapeutic goals. Patients often eat meals together in a dining room.

Behavioral health unit procedures are also different from other hospital areas. For example, the unit is kept locked. Also, patients can bring in only a limited number of belongings. Staff members will explain what is allowed. For example, you can bring paperback books and additional clothes, but you will probably need to use hospital toiletries. Limiting who and what comes in and out of the unit makes the space more secure and helps everyone focus on the well-being of each patient.

Privacy and a calm, lower-stress environment are very helpful in a behavioral health unit. For this reason, visiting times are limited, and callers and visitors need a special security code to speak with patients or enter the unit. This practice helps reduce interruptions and distractions, so patients can focus on their treatment.

Your safety is very important, so unit staff members check on patients frequently, around the clock. Our staff is here to assist you. (If you have any questions during your stay, please don’t hesitate to ask.)

What kind of treatment can I expect?

Although treatment is tailored to your individual needs, you can expect your care to include these basic elements:

  • Work with a multidisciplinary team. A typical care team includes people with different training and specialties, for example a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, psychiatric tech and social worker or therapist.

  • Medication. Medication is an important part of treatment for most patients. As with patients in any area of the hospital, staff will double-check your identity before giving you medication. This is to make sure the right person gets the right medication — and it usually just means asking you to confirm your name and birthday and checking your responses against the information on your wristband or other ID.

  • Plan of care. The team will work with you to develop a plan of care based on your needs. The plan includes medication assessment, physical assessment, individual and group therapy, and planning for discharge.