Treatment For Depression

What Can You Expect From Inpatient Treatment For Depression?

I never intended to go through inpatient treatment at a psychiatric clinic. In fact, I didn’t choose to do it and just, kind of, ended up there. In the midst of an intense major depressive episode, my psychiatrist checked me in. I was at such a loss for what to do that, even though I hated the thought of it, I did not resist it.

I would have never chosen to do inpatient treatment for depression because I did not know it was a possibility. When I heard about psychiatric clinics, I thought about mental illnesses like schizophrenia and dissociative disorders. Those are the conditions you see treated in clinics on TV shows, not your run-of-the-mill depression.

After three weeks of inpatient treatment, my perception of psychiatric clinics had changed completely. Depression treatment gave me a new lease of life, and I can’t imagine having missed out on it. Many people resist inpatient treatment for depression because of misconceptions and stigma.

So, to help you decide whether it is right for you, here is what you can expect from inpatient treatment for depression.

Like-Minded, Empathetic People

One major misconception about inpatient treatment is that the people getting treatment are unstable, dangerous, broken, or merely ‘basket cases.’ Well, my idea of what a basket case is has changed drastically. The people I met during inpatient treatment were all struggling with mental illness, but they are some of the best people I’ve ever known.

It is important to note that psychiatric institutions do not put all their patients in the same program. Whereas TV shows will have catatonic patients, patients with schizophrenia, and patients with depression all in the same group, this makes no sense in real life. That would be like giving the same treatment to people with liver failure as people with heart disease.

You will rather be placed with other individuals with mood disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. They are all sensitive people, just like you, and that makes them particularly empathetic. While conflict does sometimes occur, you are more likely to get along with these people who you understand so deeply.

The people I met in inpatient treatment made the process fun and exciting, even as we faced our demons.

Compassionate Mental Health Professionals

Another trope from books and movies is ‘Nurse Ratched’-type staff at mental health institutions. People who treat residents as enemies rather than patients. The reality couldn’t be any more different. The mental health professionals you meet in inpatient treatment are compassionate. They are there to help you, and are bound by the same standards that bind any health professional.

Mental health care today is very different to how it was a few decades ago. Therapists place more emphasis on building warm relationships and are not the cold analysts of the past. You will work with the mental health professionals to prepare yourself for going back into the world.

A Science-Based Program

Inpatient treatment for depression consists of more than individual and group therapy sessions. Rather, you enter a program backed by science which provides a systematic way of confronting depression and learning to manage it. Different institutions offer different programs. I was trained in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) which combines mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.

During the program, you learn to cope by regulating emotions. You also learn methods to manage distress, so that you have ways of hanging on when times get tough. Individual and group therapy sessions help you explore your personal experience on a deeper level, as well as helping you put the core program into practice.


Inpatient treatment does not just consist of a short program which you are expected to assimilate. On the contrary, inpatient treatment gives you the support you need to take what you have learned and implement it into your life. It prepares you to face the outside world with the help of your training.

As such, when you leave you continue to get support from the program. This may come in the form of aftercare, which provides continued treatment through visits to the institution, as well as therapy sessions with your therapist.

Many institutions also offer support groups, in which you and your cohort from inpatient treatment meet and discuss what you are going through now that you have returned to your day-to-day life.

Inpatient treatment for depression may seem intimidating and like a last resort, but it can actually be incredibly affirming. It helped me recover after the most difficult time in my life, and I am forever thankful that I was able to give it a chance.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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