Patient and Family Education Services


Patient and Family Education Services is a program contracted through Pierce College.  Instructors are licensed and certified teachers for the State of Washington and provide education to patients throughout the Hospital.

Western State Hospital prioritizes patient education.  Within a few days of admission, each patient is assessed for literacy levels and to identify areas of educational need and interest, possible barriers to learning, and preferred learning styles.   Education materials are thoughtfully designed with the patient in mind and focus on teaching and reinforcing skills necessary for recovery and reintegration to the community.  Instructors use a variety of evidenced-based practices to reach and engage all learners while carefully assessing for understanding and application. Academic, certificate and degree programs are offered at no cost to patients. 

Technology and Digital Inclusion

Education goes beyond the basics of reading and writing.  To address our technologically-driven society, the Hospital dedicates resources to move patients toward digital inclusion as technology increasingly connects individuals to education, employment, health care information, support networks, and other critical services.  Exposure to the technology available in our computer labs allows our students to become familiar with, and proficient in the use of, the tools necessary for employment and quality of life. 

Education and Recovery

Nearly 30 percent of patients report they did not complete high school and more than 45 percent assess as functionally illiterate.  Studies have shown that people with mental illness often have difficulty accessing and completing secondary and post-secondary education.  Without educational achievement, individuals increasingly face poverty, isolation, increased risk of addiction, and deteriorating mental and physical health.  When patients go to classes, they have opportunities to expand their knowledge on a wide variety of topics of interest, and also have a chance to work on social skills, complete tasks, and graduate from courses which can give a sense of pride in personal accomplishment and aid in recovery.

Education is a key to recovery, and recovery is a profoundly social process. Much of what is recovered is learning positive and socially appropriate ways of being in the company of others. Active participation in education classes teaches and reinforces these skills while encouraging their application to the patients’ personal, social, and professional lives.

Family Education

In addition to the academic classes, our program is here to support friends and family members of WSH patients.  We understand that when someone you love lives with a mental illness, the effects can extend beyond the individual and impact the lives of family and friends. Having a support system in place can be a critical factor in a successful recovery.

Family education helps those supporting people with mental illness to stay courageous in the face of what may seem to be insurmountable challenges. It is a field of psychiatric rehabilitation that provides families with information about mental illness and teaches coping and management skills necessary to best support their loved ones. Also, families often find comfort and support in knowing other families are experiencing similar situations every day.

The hospital’s quarterly education events provide family members an opportunity to learn what mental illness is and how it affects their loved ones. Family members can also gain a better understanding of what symptoms to look for so they can help a loved one access appropriate services sooner, potentially avoiding an unhealthy situation. During family education sessions, participants also learn techniques for fostering hope and recovery, which can reduce stress, improve communication and strengthen relationships.

If you would like to attend one of our education events, or if you have questions about our services, click on the link provided at the bottom of this page.  When contacting us, please remember, we make every effort to protect our clients’ privacy and cannot discuss a patient’s presence at the hospital or his or her plan of treatment.  For questions regarding treatment, discharge planning and visiting, contact the ward treatment team or call the Switchboard at (253) 582-8900.

Health Education Library and Patient and Family Handbook

We maintain a health education library that is available to patients, staff, and family members.  Topics vary from diagnosis and medications to diabetes care and smoking cessation.  We also update the annual Patient and Family Handbook (a link is provided below).  This handbook gives an overview of Hospital services, DSHS policies, and patient rights, as well as Hospital contact information.

All classes and resources are free to patients and their families. 

Questions or comments?  Send us an email.

patient and family handbook                                                                         

2018 Patient and Family Handbook