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December 1995

Perceived Coercion in Mental Hospital Admission: Pressures and Process

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh (Pa) (Drs Lidz, Gardner, Mulvey, and Roth); the School of Law, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Drs Hoge and Monahan). Ms Bennett resides in Bronx, NY.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1995;52(12):1034-1039. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1995.03950240052010

Background:  Patients' perceptions of coercion in admission may affect their attitude toward subsequent treatment, including their inclination to adhere to treatment plans. This study looks at the determinants of patients' perceptions of coercion.

Methods:  A sample of 157 patients admitted to a rural Virginia state hospital and a Pennsylvania community hospital were interviewed within 48 hours of admission about their experience of coming to the hospital. All subjects were 17 years or older. Diagnoses were diverse, and 42% were involuntarily committed. The interview gathered an openended description of the admission experience followed by a structured interview that included several measures.

Results:  Perceptions of being respectfully included in a fair decision-making process ("procedural justice") and legal status were most closely associated with perceived coercion, and a significant relationship was found with perceived negative pressures, ie, force and threats. However, only procedural justice was related to the perception of coercion at both sites and with both voluntary and involuntary patients.

Conclusions:  Patients' feelings of being coerced concerning admission appears to be closely related to their sense of procedural justice. It may be that clinicians can minimize the experience of coercion even among those legally committed by attending more closely to procedural justice issues.