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About the Building

The Dunn Center Building (DCB), is a model of modern, state-of-the-art psychiatric design. Built upon the traditional model of an academic medical center hospital, the facility is designed to serve patients and train the next generation of clinicians. With UTHealth Houston education and research woven into every aspect of the DCB, each element is carefully considered to provide maximum benefit.

The 240,000 square-foot building includes 264 new inpatient beds, support space for staff and student education and research, and an therapy mall to support healthy recovery. The building integrates the healing features of nature through the use of strategic views from the unit and carefully planned courtyards designed for therapeutic benefits. It carries the name of the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center in gratitude for the  generous gifts that supports innovative health research, education, and patient care.

The DCB accommodates multiple levels of treatment and multiple patient populations including Pediatric, Geriatric, Acute, Residential Treatment and other populations with access to medication management, group and individual therapy, educational and life skills training. The facility also includes space for ECT and TMS therapies for inpatients and returning patients as ongoing treatment.

Dunn Center Building courtyard rendering

The heart of the facility is the internal courtyards allowing access to nature for both patients and staff. The West Courtyard is surrounded by patient focused spaces including the Cafeteria, Patient Clubhouse and Therapy Mall. The courtyard itself is programmed to include both meditative and active uses. With winding walkways allowing for calming through motion, patients have the option to walk in a variety of self-determined pathways to explore the beautiful plant life available in the Houston region. Seating areas provide areas for respite along the walk. Active areas created out of soft playground surfaces encourage movement and exploration of the body’s capabilities.

The East Courtyard can be used to allow patients to access the extensive greens of the adjacent UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center gardens. Along the way is an outdoor play court for basketball and other activities apart from the activities of the West Courtyard. When not in use for patients, the East Courtyard becomes a place for staff to enjoy fresh air, feel the sun on their faces and experience the outdoors in a shaded and carefully landscaped setting.


The first floor of the facility also includes therapy space for a variety of patients. With rooms for music and art therapies as well as a salon, sundry store and clubhouse, patients who are stabilizing in their therapy and medication management can further explore a variety of evidence-based treatments that will prepare them for their next step in the recovery process in an intensive outpatient or residential treatment environment.

Teaching and training

Just down the hall from the therapy mall, the DCB incorporates an entire wing dedicated to the teaching and training of new clinicians including doctors, nurses, therapists, and researchers. With teaching space flexible enough to accommodate didactic learning and Grand Rounds, students and faculty have a tremendous level of support in the important work they are doing as part of the UTHealth Houston curriculum.

On the upper levels, each unit is carefully crafted to keep patients safe in a therapeutic environment designed to reduce agitation and support treatment in a dignified humane space. The social spaces are crafted around the latest science in social interactions. With ample access to daylight and views, primarily into the beautifully landscaped courtyards, patients have the opportunity to maintain a well-balanced circadian rhythm. Carefully tuned acoustics and lighting create an ideal environment for the important work of getting better and beginning the recovery process.

Patient rooms

As soon as they enter a unit, patients will experience one of the simplest and most powerful aspects of the building: easily accessible customization panels. That is a fancy way of saying “chalkboard paint.” Patients have their own writable surface in their bedrooms in addition to the available chalkboard walls around the social spaces in the unit. The ability to explore self-expression when inspiration hits can be freeing to the mind and therapeutic to the soul, primary goals of the UTHealth Houston treatment program at the DCB.

Group rooms

Each unit also has a Group Room used for group therapy sessions, art and music therapy and recreation and relaxing. Filled with daylight and set against a wall-sized mural of a beautiful Texas landscape, the group room is an inspiring place to work on healing.