What Can I Expect at a Psychiatric Hospital?

Find out how a stay could help your borderline personality disorder

Female depressed patient reclining on the bed in a hospital ward
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It is not uncommon for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) to sometimes be treated at a psychiatric hospital during a mental health crisis, such as thoughts of suicide or self-harm. The idea of being hospitalized for BPD may be scary for you if you have never experienced it. This article will give you some idea of what to expect during a psychiatric hospital stay for BPD and how it can help.

What is a Psychiatric Hospital?

During a mental health crisis, you may need a higher level of care than can be provided on an outpatient basis. If this is the case, you may be admitted to either an inpatient psychiatric hospital or a partial psychiatric hospital.

The Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital

An inpatient psychiatric hospital is what is most commonly thought of when people think about being hospitalized for mental illness. At an inpatient psychiatric hospital, you will stay at the hospital during the day and sleep there at night. You will be provided with daily treatment and your movement will be restricted to some degree. For instance, you may not be allowed to leave the unit when you first arrive.

Usually, the purpose of an inpatient psychiatric hospital stay is to provide stabilization for someone who has experienced a mental health crisis, such as someone contemplating suicide. Inpatient programs are designed to provide intensive treatment in a secure environment, but these are relatively rare.

In the past, inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations lasted for months or years. However, no research suggests that long hospitalizations are helpful for BPD, and hospital stays are now much shorter.

The Partial Psychiatric Hospital

A partial psychiatric hospital program, also known as a day hospital, is a step down from inpatient hospitalization.

In these programs, you generally attend the treatment program only during the day but do not stay there overnight. 

There are usually two purposes for a partial psychiatric hospital stay. First, many people attend a partial or day hospital program when they are discharged from an inpatient hospitalization. The partial hospital provides a more gradual transition back to the normal daily routine. Second, many people attend the partial hospital because there is a concern that they are headed toward a crisis, such as the potential for future self-harm. The partial hospital program is intended to help get the person back on track.

How to Find an Inpatient or Partial Psychiatric Hospital

If you are interested in finding an inpatient or partial hospitalization program for yourself or a loved one, the best place to start is to ask your current therapist or psychiatrist about a potential referral. If you do not yet have a therapist or psychiatrist, start by finding one that you can work with to get you into one of these programs.

Find A Therapist

If you or a loved one is in a mental health crisis, such as the risk of suicide, call “911” or go to your nearest emergency room. If the mental health staff at the hospital feel that an inpatient hospitalization is necessary, you will either be transferred to the psychiatric unit of the hospital or you may be transported to a psychiatric hospital.


Linehan MM. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford, 1993.

Karterud S, & Wilberg T. "From General Day Hospital Treatment to Specialized Treatment Programmes." International Review of Psychiatry, 19:39-49, 2007.

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