family photoAs a therapist I have seen a variety of inpatient hospitalizations, some voluntary and others involuntary. Colleagues have had individuals who were removed from their homes by the police and taken to the ER of a psychiatric hospital. The reality of this often shakes the core of family members, caretakers, and friends. If you are a therapist, I’m sure this reality affects you too.

Severe or untreated mental illness is extremely difficult and it often appears that everyone involved is the victim. Families suffer as a result of lacking support from the system, caretakers feel uninformed or alone, and friends often don’t know what to say or do to help. In some cases, the hands of a therapist are also tied.

During this time, there are many questions that flow through the mind. As you sign thousands of forms and ask the questions that overwhelm your mind, you wonder if you are doing all the right things, signing the right forms, or asking the right questions. When its time to leave, you walk away, feeling unsure about the whole thing and wondering what the next step is. Many feel guilty about their loved one being hospitalized and others fear they will be hated.

It will be important to separate how angry your loved one may be with you from their severe need of treatment. Thankfully, there are things you can do to make the process of a hospitalization less of a nightmare. Below you will find a list of questions to ask that will aid you in the process of voluntary or involuntary hospitalization.


Before hospitalization

There are many questions families have before they decide to have a family member committed or encourage a family member to sign into a hospital. The first thing you want to consider is how to sustain the integrity and self-worth of your loved one during this process. One way to do this is to attempt to have a conversation about your concerns and symptoms you observe. You want to encourage your loved one to seek treatment themselves. If this fails, you then want to consider how to incorporate professional help without bringing the type of attention that would embarrass your loved one (ambulances, police, neighbors knowing, etc.). It is often best to avoid having the police transport your loved one to a psychiatric ER.

General questions to ask:

  • Will my loved one receive a psychiatric evaluation? How long will it be? Can I accompany him/her?
  • How long will he/she be here?
  • What type of clothes can he/she wear and can I bring my own?
  • Do I need to bring basic care supplies (brush, comb, tooth brush, etc.)?
  • Will he/she be allowed to receive phone calls?

During hospitalization


  • What are the doctor’s recommendations?
  • Will my loved one be forced to take medication?
  • What would justify being medicated against one’s will in this setting?
  • Is my loved one currently on any medications?
  • Can someone speak to me about potential side effects?

Concerns for children and adolescents

  • What can I do about my child/adolescent missing school?
  • Can my child/adolescent bring books or activities?


  • When will billing occur?
  • What type of insurance do you take?
  • What can I do if I don’t have insurance
  • Are there local federal and state programs that can help me get insurance?

After hospitalization and discharge

Continual Treatment

  • Can I petition for my loved one to stay longer if I feel this is needed?
  • Can I have a referral to outpatient treatment centers?
  • Do you have a list of referrals to therapists in our area?
  • Where could I possibly find a listing of local mental health support groups?
  • If I need to petition the courts for assisted treatment, who can I talk to about this?



What’s next?

For information on the legal aspect of mental health treatment:


Stay informed!


Creative Commons License photo credit: myheimu



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    Last reviewed: 16 Mar 2013

APA Reference
Hill, T. (2013). When Your Loved One Needs Hospitalization. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2014, from


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