Voluntary Check In
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Going Inpatient for You Right Now
When deciding whether or not to check yourself into inpatient voluntarily, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Of course these will always be individualized for yourself in your specific situation, but here we’ll go over some of the common pros and cons for a starting place:
PROS of voluntarily checking yourself into an inpatient facility:
- Professional support 24/7. Inpatient facilities provide direct and constant support for patients which can be massively beneficial for those struggling with mental health issues, addiction, or chronic health conditions that require ongoing treatment.
- A structured environment. Inpatient facilities have a structured environment, so if that’s something you struggle to maintain in your daily life or cannot control in your life but do benefit from, that’s something an inpatient facility can help with. It can help patients establish healthy routines and habits including regular meal times, group therapy sessions, and scheduled positive and non-destructive activities that will help assist and promote self-care and recovery.
- Reduced distractions. By removing the daily stressors and distractions of daily life, inpatient facilities can help patients to focus solely on recovery. This can be especially helpful for those struggling with mental health issues or addiction.
- Community support. Inpatient facilities contain a community of peers who are going through similar experiences. This can help with a sense of belonging and to help people feel less alone or ‘different’.
CONS of voluntarily checking yourself into an inpatient facility:
- Cost. Inpatient treatment can be expensive and not all insurance will cover it. This can be a significant barrier for many people.
- Time commitment. Inpatient facilities often require a significant time commitment to treatment, ranging anywhere from a few weeks to several months. This can be incredibly difficult for those with work or family responsibilities.
- Limited freedom. Inpatient facilities often have strict rules which can feel restrictive to some people.
- Stigma. There is stigma in our society surrounding mental health and addiction, and choosing to get treatment for it can be hard do to that stigma.
- Fear of choosing an unethical or ‘bad’ facility. We’ve all heard horror stories of facilities who mistreat their patients. The important thing is to do your research ahead of time – which we will cover below, to make sure you know you are choosing the best facility and putting yourself in the best of care.
Choosing the Right Facility
If you’re voluntarily checking yourself in for inpatient care, you want to set yourself up as best you can for success and choose the best facility you can. Here are some tips for choosing the best inpatient psychiatric facility:
- Consult with your doctor and/or therapist. They can provide you with a list of facilities they recommend and determine what kind of care you may need/what to look for in a facility.
- Research the facility. Look for information online including reviews from patients who stayed there. Check the facility’s licensing, certification, and accreditation. You can also check with the state’s mental health department to see if the facility has had any complaints or violations.
- Consider the location – do you want to stay close to home so you can have friends or family visit you, or are you willing to travel?
- Check the staff-to-patient ratio. This is very important in determining the quality of care you’ll receive while there. Look for a low staff-to-patient ratio, ensuring you’ll receive individualized attention and care.
- Ask about the treatment approach – different facilities will have different approaches. Make sure this facility’s approach aligns with your values and beliefs. Ask about the types of therapy and programs they offer (individual, group, and medication management, etc)
- Ask about aftercare. A good inpatient facility will have a plan for aftercare once you leave the facility. What support will they provide to help you transition back to daily life such as outpatient therapy/support groups/etc?
- Tour the facility. Before you decide, schedule a tour to see what the environment is like. Check the cleanliness as well as the amenities they offer.
Remember that making the decision to prioritize your mental health is a very brave choice and a huge step towards healing and recovery.
What You Can/Cannot Bring
Every facility has different rules and regulations regarding what is and isn’t allowed so check your facility’s regulations. For example pretty much no facility will allow clothing with strings so any clothing with drawstrings will have those drawstrings removed upon arrival. However facilities rules on other things will vary on a case-by-case basis on things like spiral bound notebooks.
- Ensure bras you bring have no underwire
- Bring clothing with no drawstrings
- You cannot bring pencils or often pens, but you can often bring markers and crayons.
- Some facilities will not allow jeans
- Some facilities will not allow spiral bound journals
- Any products you bring (lotion, shampoo, soap, etc) must be unscented.
- Some facilities will not allow stuffed animals with bead/hard eyes.
- Most facilities will not allow you to bring your phone.
Involuntary Check In
- Ask someone to bring you things from home. The facility will provide you with essentials, but it can be comforting to have your own items with you. Having a friend, family member, or loved one bring you things like your own pillow, clothing journals, stuffed animals, books, etc. (Make sure these things fit regulations for the specific facility – for example no clothes with drawstrings and some facilities might not allow spiral bound journals).
Once You’re There
What to Expect
- Do not let yourself create or get drawn into issues with other patients. Everyone there is struggling and going through intense changes, med shifts, etc, and if things escalate it could get you in trouble even if the other patient is responsible for the escalation.
How to Set Yourself up for Success
- Be open and receptive to trying things. You’re there to heal and get better and to do that you need to gain new skills, potentially try new meds, try new treatments and therapy styles, and more. Even if it’s something you’ve tried in the past and it hasn’t worked, be open to trying it again because it might be done in combination with something else or in a different style this time or in a more controlled environment. You’re there to devote true dedicated time to healing so being open to trying things is very important.
- Don’t spend all your time in your room.
- Set up visits if allowed. Loved ones may be allowed to come visit and this can be very helpful but ensure that you only have people who are going to positively impact your healing process. Don’t bring anyone into the facility who is a source of stress or toxicity in your life no matter what attachments you might have to them.
- Be honest with the therapists, doctors, and nurses. Avoiding talking about it for fear your stay will be extended is counter productive because you’re actually extending your stay because they’re waiting for you to finally open up. You’re there to make progress and get a chance to get better, it’s worth it to work with them. It’s costing them money to keep you there, they want to work with you to figure out what’s going on and help treat you and be able to get you out of the facility but they can’t do that until you speak to them about what you’re dealing with. It’s scary and that’s very understandable but don’t just try to wait it out because you want to be stubborn.
- Do not lie about substance use. Including vaping. Do not lie about it. They need to know – with vaping and smoking especially they’ll have to give nicotine replacement so you don’t go through withdrawals. Don’t lie to them.
It’s important to set yourself up for success when you leave an inpatient facility. You want to transition back into life in the outside world and take the skills and new treatment plans and any new medications and continue utilizing them to try and ensure that they have a positive impact on your life and that you don’t need to return to the facility in the future. Here are some steps to take to set yourself up for success upon leaving inpatient…
- Follow the discharge plan set for you. This could include therapy appointments, medication instructions, and self-care routines.
- Build a strong support network. Surround yourself with friends, family, loved ones, and/or support groups who can understand what you’re going through. This can help the feelings of isolation, especially after leaving a facility where you were constantly surrounded by people.
- Continue therapy. If recommended, continue attending outpatient therapy in an engaged and active way.
- Take medication as prescribed.
- Maintain open communication. Stay in touch with your team after you’ve left the facility. Tell them about your progress, challenges you face, and any changes.