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What Is Inpatient Psychiatry?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

Inpatient psychiatry is a type of psychiatric care in which patients are typically admitted to a hospital-like facility, where they can receive round-the-clock care and surveillance from a team of psychiatric professionals. These professionals typically include both medical and psychiatric doctors, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, therapists and social workers. Most people admitted to an inpatient psychiatry facility remain there for about two weeks, although longer stays may occur if the medical team believes it is necessary for the patient's health. It's possible to enter an inpatient psychiatry facility voluntarily, which is generally done under the referral of a patient's regular medical doctor. People who are deemed dangerous to others or to themselves may be court-ordered to treatment in such a facility, and will typically be held there involuntary until recovery occurs.

People suffering from acute or severe periods of mental illness are most likely to be referred to inpatient psychiatric treatment, especially when there is a chance of self-harm or harm to others. People with severe eating disorders often benefit from inpatient psychiatry, since health can be monitored and diet controlled more easily in that setting. People with severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, can often benefit from treatment in an inpatient facility. Other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, can also cause temporary periods of psychosis, disordered mood and erratic behavior that may require treatment in an inpatient facility. Inpatient psychiatry is generally designed to offer the patient a safe environment for recovery, where professionals can be on hand constantly to protect the patient and help ease the worst symptoms of mental illness.


Treatment in an inpatient facility generally involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Medical doctors will usually be on hand to ensure that the patient's mental symptoms are not the result of a physical illness. Therapy can occur on a one-on-one basis, as well as in a group setting. Occupational therapy, which typically involves soothing activities like arts and crafts, is often used to help calm and educate patients.

Patients in inpatient psychiatry facilities are generally entertained with numerous leisure activities, such as board games or television shows. Relatives, friends, and spiritual counselors are usually allowed to visit patients inside the facility, and gifts may generally be received. Depending on the nature of the patient's illness and the progress of his recovery, outings into the general community may be allowed, either alone or accompanied. Social workers are usually on hand to advise the patient on re-integrating post-release. These professionals will typically provide the patient with information about mental health resources available in the community, and continuing outpatient treatment.

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