How Long is a Voluntary Psychiatric Hold? A Comprehensive Guide

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on July 6, 2023
Our team evaluates mental health products, services and platforms like BetterHelp. If you click a link below and make a purchase, we will receive an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Imagine you’re facing a mental health crisis. You feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, and desire professional assistance. This is where a voluntary psychiatric hold comes into play.

The process through which people voluntarily check themselves into a psychiatric hospital or mental health facility is a voluntary psychiatric hold, commonly called a voluntary commitment.

The team members behind Online Mental Health Reviews have experience as therapists, counselors, and in residential mental health facilities. We can write about voluntary psychiatric holds thanks to our training, exhaustive research, and writing standards.

But how long is a voluntary psychiatric hold? According to Justia US Law, “a voluntary adult patient may leave the hospital, clinic, or institution at any time by giving notice of his desire to leave to any member of the hospital staff and completing normal hospitalization departure procedures.”

Short answer: In most cases, a voluntary psychiatric hold lasts as long as the patient wants and can end anytime if. the patient is capable of leaving on their own accord.

But! The average length of stay is between a few days and a few weeks.

What is a Voluntary Psychiatric Hold

A voluntary psychiatric hold, also termed involuntary care or voluntary commitment, is a self-initiated action where an individual willingly admits to a psychiatric hospital or mental health facility.

  • This decision is often made when someone is experiencing severe symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, among others, that significantly hinder their daily functioning or threaten themselves or others.
  • Voluntary commitment offers individuals a safe environment to receive intensive care and treatment, which in most cases can include medication management, psychotherapy, group therapy, and other therapeutic activities.
  • This intervention aims to stabilize the individual’s condition, help them regain their coping skills, and eventually reintegrate them into their community.

Voluntary Process Steps:

A mental health condition is deemed urgent when an individual experiences a sudden and severe change in their mental status. This can include intense despair, suicidal ideation, or a significant increase in risky behaviors.

In these situations, admitting oneself to a psychiatric hold becomes crucial for receiving help.

Here’s how the process generally unfolds:

  1. Recognizing the Crisis: The first step involves acknowledging that you’re experiencing a mental health crisis. This realization often comes when symptoms become overwhelming and significantly impede daily functioning or pose a risk to yourself or others.
  2. Reaching Out for Help: After recognizing the urgency of your situation, reach out to a mental health professional or a trusted individual who can assist you in seeking help. This could be a psychiatrist, a therapist, a family member, or a close friend.
  3. Psychiatric Evaluation: You’ll undergo a thorough psychiatric assessment conducted by a mental health professional. This evaluation aims to understand your current mental state and the severity of your symptoms and determine the need for hospitalization.
  4. Admission: If your condition requires immediate attention and care, you’ll voluntarily be admitted to a psychiatric facility. Here, you’ll receive intensive treatment tailored to your specific needs.
  5. Treatment: Your treatment plan typically includes medication management, psychotherapy, group therapy, and other therapeutic activities like journaling to stabilize mental health.

Admitting oneself for a psychiatric hold is a profound step towards recovery. It provides a safe environment for you to receive immediate care and initiate the journey toward healing. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a testament to your strength and resilience.

Average Duration of a Voluntary Psychiatric Hold

Now, you may ask, “How long can a person be held under these circumstances?”

The duration of a voluntary psychiatric hold varies significantly based on individual needs and the severity of the mental health crisis. However, according to Mental Health Hope, “someone who enters a treatment program of their own will likely spend ten days to two weeks in the mental health center“.

Remembering that this duration is flexible and can be adjusted based on the individual’s progress.

  • If significant improvement is seen, the stay might be shorter.
  • Conversely, the stay could be extended if the individual’s condition requires more intensive treatment.

Remember again that an adult patient who came to the hospital voluntarily and wants to leave the hospital can do so at any time by telling any hospital staff member and following the normal steps for leaving a hospital.

Factors Influencing the Length of Stay

Voluntarily checking into psychiatric hospital, easy. Checking out? Not so much

Several conditions could lead to shorter or longer stays in a psychiatric facility. These include:

  • The severity of symptoms: Individuals with more severe symptoms may require a longer stay to stabilize their condition.
  • Response to treatment: If an individual responds well, their stay might be shorter.
  • Support system: Those with strong support systems at home may be discharged sooner as they have the necessary support to continue recovery at home.

Please see the video above detailing the difficulties in getting out of ‘voluntary’ holds, which happen occasionally.

While we know stories such as the one above exist, in our experience, most people who go to voluntary or involuntary commitment are released within 24 hours.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Hold: Pros and Cons

Choosing between a voluntary and involuntary psychiatric hold can be a crucial decision. Here are some pros and cons of each option:

Voluntary Hold

  • Pros: The individual has more control over their treatment and can request discharge.
  • Cons: There could be a waiting list for voluntary admissions, and securing a bed in a preferred facility might be challenging.

Involuntary Hold

  • Pros: Involuntary holds ensure immediate care for individuals who are a danger to themselves or others due to their mental health condition.
  • Cons: Involuntary commitment can be a traumatic experience and might make the individual resistant to treatment.

A cost-benefit can help individuals make informed decisions about their mental health care. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You’re taking a crucial step toward better mental health.

What Are My Rights as a Voluntary Patient?

As a voluntary patient at a mental health facility, you possess specific rights designed to protect your autonomy and ensure you receive appropriate care. These rights vary by jurisdiction but generally include the following:

  1. Right to Informed Consent: You have the right to be fully informed about your diagnosis, treatment options, and potential side effects of any proposed treatments and to consent to or refuse these treatments.
  2. Right to Request Release: As a voluntary patient, you can request your release from the hospital at any time, although there may be certain exceptions if you pose a risk to yourself or others.
  3. Right to Confidentiality: Your privacy is protected by law. Except in specific situations, your medical information cannot be shared without your consent4.
  4. Right to Respect and Dignity: You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, free from abuse, neglect, or discrimination.
  5. Right to Communication: You can communicate freely with people outside the hospital, including the right to access telephones, mail, and private visits.

It’s important to know your rights and advocate for them. If you believe your rights are violated, you can typically file a complaint with the hospital or an external regulatory body.

Deciding to Leave the Facility: Know Your Rights

Deciding to leave a mental health facility is a significant decision that should be made in consultation with your healthcare professionals. You can request your release if you entered the facility as a voluntary patient. However, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the process involved.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Right to Request Release: As a voluntary patient, you usually have the right to request your release. Sometimes, the facility may require you to provide written notice of your intention to leave.
  2. Evaluation Period: Once you’ve requested your release, some states allow the facility a period (often 24-72 hours) to evaluate whether you pose a risk to yourself or others. If you do, the facility may initiate an involuntary hold.
  3. Involuntary Hold: If the facility believes you’re a threat to yourself or others, they may change your status from voluntary to involuntary. This typically involves a legal process and a hearing before a judge.
  4. Discharge Planning: Upon release, you should receive a discharge plan outlining your aftercare, including follow-up appointments, medication instructions, and emergency contacts.

Remember, your healthcare team is there to support your recovery. Open communication with the treatment team about your feelings and intentions can lead to the best outcomes for your mental health.

Do I Qualify for Psychiatric Hospitalization?

Determining whether you qualify for psychiatric hospitalization inpatient services involves several factors. These services are typically provided to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis that can’t be managed through outpatient services.

Here are some key considerations:

  1. Medical Necessity: The primary criterion for qualification is medical necessity. No outpatient services can adequately meet your mental health needs, and proper treatment of your condition requires a more intensive level of care.
  2. Acute Symptoms: If you’re experiencing acute symptoms that require immediate attention, such as severe depression, suicidal ideation, or psychosis, you might qualify for psychiatric hospitalization.
  3. Residency: To qualify for additional services, you must be a county resident.

It’s essential to consult with a mental health professional who can assess your situation and guide you through the process. If you’re in crisis, reach out to local crisis services immediately.

Remember, seeking help is the first step toward recovery, and resources are available to support you on this journey.

Longer-Term Inpatient Treatment (304b)

Longer-term inpatient treatment, also known as long-term rehab, is an intensive form of care designed to treat severe or chronic addiction and mental health issues. These programs typically last from three months to a year or more.

The goal of longer-term treatment is to provide a safe, structured environment where individuals can focus entirely on recovery while receiving continuous medical and therapeutic support. This treatment is often beneficial for individuals who have not responded to short-term programs or medications or experienced multiple relapses.

Here’s what generally happens during longer-term inpatient treatment:

  1. Intake and Assessment: Upon admission, a comprehensive assessment is conducted to determine the individual’s needs and develop a personalized treatment plan.
  2. Detoxification: If necessary, the initial stage of treatment may involve medically assisted detoxification to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  3. Therapy and Counseling: Individuals participate in various therapeutic activities, including individual counseling, group therapy, and in some cases, family therapy.
  4. Aftercare Planning: A comprehensive aftercare plan is developed to support ongoing recovery efforts outside of the treatment facility before discharge.

It’s important to note that longer-term treatment requires a significant commitment and may not be the best fit for everyone. It’s always advisable to discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider to find the best approach for your situation.

What Happens After a Stay: Post-Discharge Care

Post-discharge care is a critical part of the recovery process after a stay at a mental health facility or hospital. It involves various services and supports designed to help individuals transition back into their daily lives while maintaining their mental health.

Here’s what typically happens during post-discharge care:

  1. Discharge Planning: A comprehensive discharge plan is created before leaving the facility. This plan generally includes information about follow-up appointments, medication management, lifestyle modifications, and emergency contacts.
  2. Follow-Up Care: Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare providers are crucial to monitor progress, adjust treatment plans, and address new or ongoing concerns.
  3. Outpatient Services: Depending on the individual’s needs, outpatient services such as therapy, support groups, or day programs may be recommended.
  4. Home Care: In some cases, home care services may be provided, especially if the individual requires assistance with daily activities or medication management.
  5. Community Support: Connecting with community resources and support networks can also benefit ongoing recovery and social reintegration.

Remember, post-discharge care aims to ensure that you have the necessary support and resources to continue your recovery journey outside of the hospital environment.

Next Steps After Discharge

After discharge from a mental health facility, the focus shifts to managing your mental health daily. The goal is to maintain recovery progress and prevent readmission. Here are some typical next steps:

  1. Follow Your Discharge Plan: This plan, developed with your healthcare team, outlines your treatment regimen, including medication schedules, lifestyle modifications, and follow-up appointments.
  2. Attend Follow-Up Appointments: Regular check-ins with your healthcare providers allow for ongoing assessment of your mental health, adjustment of treatment plans, and early identification of any issues.
  3. Engage in Outpatient Services: These services range from individual or group therapy to day programs. They provide continued support and resources to manage your mental health.
  4. Practice Self-Care: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and mindfulness practices can help maintain mental health. Avoid substances like alcohol or drugs that can exacerbate mental health issues.
  5. Build a Support Network: Connecting with supportive friends, family, or support groups can provide emotional assistance and help you navigate challenges.
  6. Know Where to Get Help: Keep emergency contact numbers and crisis hotlines accessible. If you feel your mental health is deteriorating, contact professionals immediately.

Remember, recovery is a journey. It’s normal to have ups and downs. The key is to stay connected with your healthcare providers and support network and seek help when needed.

How Long Is A Voluntary Psychiatric Hold Conclusion

A voluntary psychiatric hold is a crucial mental health intervention that allows individuals to seek help during a mental health crisis. The duration of such a hold varies significantly, with an average stay ranging from a few days to a couple of weeks.

However, the hold length can be influenced by several factors, such as the severity of the individual’s symptoms, their response to treatment, 72-hour hold or longer, and their home support system. Also, an individual can request to leave (if voluntarily admitted).

Choosing between a voluntary and involuntary hold is a critical decision, and understanding the pros and cons of each can help individuals make informed choices about their mental health care. Ultimately, it’s essential to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and a crucial step towards better mental health.

Tell us what mental health software to review next on Online Mental Health Reviews. If you have stories about using a particular product or know of a discount code, please share so everyone may benefit!

If You’re In An Emergency

If you’re experiencing a crisis, it’s crucial not to delay seeking help, as waiting for an online therapy session might not be the safest option. In immediate emergencies, dial 911. This is considered a crisis if you intend to harm yourself or others. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is always available if you’re contemplating self-harm – simply dial 988 to reach out. Assistance is accessible around the clock.

Alternatively, contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357). This free and confidential hotline provides individuals dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues access to treatment information and resources 24/7, every day of the year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related Posts