What Is an Acute Psychiatric Hospital?

Psychiatric hospitals are a place for people in crisis who may need safety monitoring and assessment as well as therapy and medication management. As being in the hospital interrupts daily life and is expensive, it should only be used when you need 24-hour care to keep you safe.

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Things you may be wondering about psychiatric hospitalization

How will I get there and what will happen when I do?

  • You may be brought to the hospital or a psychiatric emergency room by a friend or family member, by an ambulance or mental health deputy, or you may be able to drive yourself to the hospital
    • DO NOT drive yourself if you have been using drugs or alcohol; get a ride with a family member, friend or cab
    • Some psychiatric hospitals require you to go to a psychiatric emergency department first
  • When you arrive you will go through a process called “intake” in which you will meet with hospital staff such as nurses, social workers and doctors or other medical providers
  • You will be asked to place your belongings in a secure place for safety reasons so you should write down important phone numbers and keep your driver’s license/ID card and insurance cards with you
  • You will be asked to fill out different types of paperwork including:
    • Medical history forms
    • Consent for treatment forms (so the hospital can care for you)
    • Release of information forms (so the hospital staff can talk to your family and friends or your doctor or therapist)
    • Insurance and billing forms
  • These forms can be confusing so feel free to ask questions
  • If you do not need acute psychiatric hospitalization, the staff will give you information on other treatment options before you leave

What will my stay in the hospital be like?

  • There will be visiting hours
  • You will have access to a phone to make and receive calls
  • Most hospitals will give you a code for your family and friends to use when calling and visiting to protect your privacy
  • You will be included in creating your treatment plan, determining what your goals are while in the hospital and how the staff will help you meet those goals
  • The psychiatrist may prescribe new medication or adjust the dosage of your current medication; medication cannot be given to you without your permission unless it is an emergency
  • You will have access to therapy groups and other types of treatment as well
  • Before you leave the hospital a social worker will meet with you to make a plan and additional appointments for continuing your treatment when you get home

How long does a stay in a psychiatric hospital last?

  • Most hospital stays are only long enough to resolve the most urgent issues, and usually last from a few days to a few weeks
  • The average psychiatric inpatient stay is three to five days