Thursday, June 01, 1995

Choosing Inpatient Treatment: When Good Choices Help and Bad Choices Hurt

Choosing Inpatient Treatment: When Good Choices Help and Bad Choices Hurt
Reprinted by Permission, © (1995) Nancy Shaufele, MS 

When Susan began having flashbacks of her traumatic childhood, she tried to handle them alone but soon became overwhelmed. In desperation she looked for psychiatric hospitals in the phone book and chose one with a big ad.

After verifying her insurance, hospital personnel whisked Susan away to a locked unit with psychotics, drug addicts, and worst of all, perpetrators. During the next few days she repeatedly begged for help with the flashbacks that continually plagued her. fortunately, Susan left the hospital before her insurance benefits were depleted; however she was afraid to seek other treatment.

How can you prevent yourself from having a situation like Susan's? This article contains some guidelines that can help you select inpatient care. Although it's important to seek the help of qualified professionals and referral services, the decision rests on you. Therefore, you need to become an informed consumer.

Understanding Your Needs.
There are two times when a survivor is most likely to consider inpatient treatment. The first is during a crisis period, when she/he is having trouble functioning in his/her life; safety and stabilization are the critical objectives of this type of stay.

The second occurs when a survivor has been in therapy awhile and feels blocked in his/her progress. He/She may choose to enter inpatient treatment to work intensely o specific issues for a limited time. This is most helpful when the survivor already has a good support system and a trusted therapist.

If you're questioning your need for hospitalization, it's important to know why you are thinking about inpatient care. Be as specific as possible. Ask for objective opinions from people you trust: your partner, therapist, and friends. You will need this information when you talk to an intake counselor.

Interviewing an inpatient facility is the same as interviewing a therapist. You are requesting specific services from qualified professionals. If you want your house painted, you interview painting contractors, ask about references, and sign a written contract. You must be at least as careful when you make mental health decisions, that can affect the rest of your life.

The Interview Process
Gather your referrals and begin the interview process. No matter how much you trust the person who gave you the referral, you need to conduct your own interview with each facility. After you complete every interview, take notes about it, including your feelings and impressions. Continue this process with each facility.

The process may seem daunting-- and can be. If inpatient care is a possibility in your recovery, you can empower yourself by making preliminary decisions now -- before you are unable to make them with the care and thoughtfulness they require.

In a crisis, you may not be able to make these decisions for yourself so it's important to have a trustworthy advocate. Select that person before you need them and educate them about selecting inpatient treatment.

There are two major considerations for inpatient care. The first is the program's credibility. You need to understand the quality and type of care you'll receive, as well as the training and experience level of the care provider.

The second consideration is financial. You need to know exactly what the program will charge you and how much of that charge your insurance will cover. Two ways to upset the stability you achieved in the hospital is to be discharged suddenly and/or receive a enormous bill that you cannot pay.

Here are something's to look for when interviewing an inpatient facility:
1. How many individuals and group sessions will you have? Who will lead them?
2. What specific programs will you be in?
3. What will your overall treatment plan be?
4. How much input will you have into your treatment plan?
5. How many survivors have they treated?
6. What programs do they offer specifically for survivors?
7. What credentials and training do the staff have in abuse issues?
8. What is the setting?
9. Is the facility locked or unlocked?
10. How long have they been operational?

1. What is the cost per day?
2. What specifically does that cost include?
3. What costs are not covered by your insurance?

1. How do they handle discharge planning?
2. How much input will you have into your discharge plan?
3. How can they help with your transition to home?
4. Do they offer aftercare resources?

Remember that inpatient care is a tool, not a cure. Many survivors receive treatment, only to feel disappointed when they return home and realize that their healing is not complete.

If you are gathering information now in preparation for possible future hospitalization, you don't need to reveal information to the hospital. Do not give them insurance information or let them pre-certify you for admission. If you are pre-certified at too many inpatient treatment facilities, you may trigger a red flag at your insurance company. At this point, all you have to say is, "I'm shopping, thanks".

Verifying Your Selection
Once you have narrowed your selection, and before you make a final decision, consult with a professional or counseling referral service. They may have updated information about the facility that you need to know.

The decision to seek inpatient treatment has the potential to be a life-saving, growth-enhancing process or another source of victimization. By making a thoughtful, well-informed decision, you can empower yourself and be a strong advocate of you own recovery.

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