Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit

What to Expect on the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit

COVID-19: What to Expect for Your Child’s Safety at In-Person Appointments

We’ve made a lot of changes to our facilities to protect our patients, families and staff from Covid-19.

Visitor restrictions at all our locations

At all of our clinics, we recommend that only one parent or caregiver accompany a patient to their appointment. However, if two caregivers need to come along, we will allow it at this time. Siblings who are younger than 12 months are also allowed to come along. Siblings of any other age are not allowed to come along, and we do not allow more than two caregivers without an exception.

  • When you come for your appointment, you will see that we’re requiring everyone to wear masks at all times, cleaning check-in and registration desks between visits, screening for symptoms at all entrances and have set up our spaces to encourage social distancing.
  • Watch what to expect at your clinic visit during COVID-19 (video).
  • Learn more about the rest of the safety measures we have in place.

The Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) serves children and teens between the ages of 3 and 17 who are in psychiatric crisis. Our goal is to help stabilize your child's behavior by dealing with their immediate crisis. After that, we work on returning your child to the community.

Solution-Focused Interventions

The focus of the hospital stay is on solution-focused interventions. This includes developing new skills to cope with stress and get a better understanding of what is driving your child's behavior. Children, teens and families can learn how to manage emotional and behavioral problems in a safe and caring environment.

Average Hospital Stay

A stay on this unit is usually about 8 days. This means most children and teens still have symptoms when they leave the hospital. Some will continue to struggle at home and in the community.

Our hope is that the struggles lessen over time. This will be more likely if the work we start here continues with your community providers. For some families, follow-up care includes a referral to our Behavioral Health Crisis Care Clinic.

You can visit your child during their stay Monday-Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

What is the PBMU program philosophy?

We use a program based on a behavior-management system of natural and logical consequences. Staff are "coaches" and promote three life standards and values:

  • Respect self.
  • Respect others.
  • Respect community.

Staff will teach, coach and reinforce emotion identification and regulation. This means being able to identify, name and control emotions. They also will teach distress-tolerance skills like anger management and relaxation.

What are the risks of a PBMU stay?

Our unit serves children and teens who struggle with emotional and behavioral problems. Your child may see behaviors you might find distressing and would prefer they not see. This may include the use of curse words; aggression; and psychiatric symptoms like self-harm, purging, mania and psychosis.

When will my child go home?

Every patient is different. The length of stay depends on your child's situation. Most stays are about 5 to 7 days, but it depends on your child's situation.

From the moment your child is admitted, we will talk with you about what we need to do before your child may go home. We will answer your questions and provide you with all of the resources you need. The specific requirements your child will need to meet before they may leave are called "discharge criteria." Your healthcare team will work with you and your child each day to meet these criteria.

Are there other things that might affect the length of my child's stay?

Yes. Your child may not show the same distressing behaviors on the unit that they do at home, school or in the community. We cannot work on behaviors we do not see. We may have to send them home without addressing your concerns. This is often frustrating to parents and caregivers.

Sometimes children and teens do not feel like their problems are as concerning as you and the outpatient providers feel they are. Because of this, children and teens sometimes refuse to participate in the treatment process. This can make it hard for us to accomplish as much as you or we would like.

How do we set goals for the hospital stay?

When you arrive on the unit, we will ask you to share your immediate concerns about your child. Your child's treatment team will work with you to decide what your child can accomplish during this short stay. They also will work with you on goals that will take longer to reach. Some goals require ongoing outpatient care.

Our goals are to:

  • Stabilize your child's immediate crisis.
  • Offer education about your child's diagnosis and behaviors.
  • Assess if a medication might help manage your child's symptoms.
  • Help build skills to manage crisis behaviors outside of the hospital.
  • Help your family access resources in the community.

Keeping Your Child Safe on the Unit

All items brought to the PBMU must be searched by staff. Please limit items to those that are most essential and comforting for your child

These items are allowed on the PBMU:

  • Clothes (enough for five days)
  • Swimsuit
  • Shoes and slippers
  • Comforter, blankets and pillow
  • Pictures and photos (not in frames)
  • Books
  • MP3 players/iPods (as long as they do not have Internet access or a camera)
  • Small, portable CD players
  • Electric razors
  • Hair dryers, curlers, straighteners
  • Hats
  • Paper and cloth bags

Please note that there is limited storage space in your child's room. We may ask you to take some items home that might not fit in your child's storage space.

These items are NOT allowed on the PBMU:

  • Sharp items, such as knives, razors, scissors, tweezers, pencil sharpeners and metal utensils
  • Breakable items, such as glass, mirrors and ceramic dishes
  • Lighters and matches
  • Aluminum cans
  • Latex balloons
  • Patient’s medications, the hospital pharmacy will provide all medications for your child
  • Plastic bags of any size
  • Glass or metal water bottles

Visitors to the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit may bring cell phones. We provide parent lockers in the Family Reception Room to store other items that are not allowed on the unit until they can be taken home. Parents and caregivers can also store personal items in the locked cabinet in your child’s room. The hospital is not responsible for lost or stolen items.


Welcome to the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit

The PBMU serves children and teens between the ages of 3 and 18 who are in psychiatric crisis. Our goal is to help stabilize your child's behavior by dealing with their immediate crisis and develop a plan to return your child to home, school and the community.

Treating Patients With Eating Disorders: What to Expect

Parents and staff share what you can expect from Seattle Children’s Eating Disorders Refeeding Program on our inpatient PBMU.