Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Name of Hospital: Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Partial Hospitalization Program

City, State/Province, Country: Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Number of Stars: 4

Comment: I spent four days attending Pine Rest’s partial hospitalization program, and overall it was a positive experience. There was lots of tea/real coffee available in the lounge, the classes were helpful, and the case managers who ran group therapy sessions were really good.

The psychiatrist was very knowledgeable about different treatment options, but he was also pretty crotchety. One thing I appreciate is that the PHP is considered a backup and if you can’t find an outpatient psychiatrist to write refills, they’ll call in refills for you.

Pine Rest is not subtle about the Christian aspect: there’s Christian inspirational posters, Bibles, and Christian pamphlets everywhere. This was pretty off-putting for me (I’m Jewish) and I think that this will deter people in the area from receiving care.

The food in the cafeteria is good, but after the first day (you get a meal ticket the first day) you have to pay for all meals yourself.

The discharge planner did some legwork on my behalf after my discharge when I was having difficulties coordinating my outpatient care, which I appreciated.

Overall, it’s a program I’d recommend, but I wish Pine Rest would dial back the Jesus stuff by ten percent.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Day program

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Jewish

Year(s) : April 2017

Austen Riggs Center

Name of Hospital: Austen Riggs Center

City, State/Province, Country: Stockbridge, MA, USA

Number of Stars: 5

Comment: The Austen Riggs Center helped me save my own life many times over. I was a patient at Riggs 16 years ago for 4½ months. My pre-admission interview was on my 31st birthday. I was offered an opening in their residential treatment program three weeks later. The wait seemed like an eternity at the time and caused me great anxiety but it was also an important part of my preparation for the treatment experience. Riggs often has a wait for admission that can be a few weeks long. For patients in immediate crisis, waiting for admission can be problematic. Shortly before going to Riggs, I voluntarily admitted myself to a locked psych unit for 72 hours, an experience I hope to never repeat. After the unpleasant but vitally necessary experience of being “trapped” in a locked unit, I was ready and eager to begin work as a Riggs patient learning to appropriately exercise my own authority.

I went to the Austen Riggs Center struggling to get an upper hand on bipolar disorder with suicidality for over 12 years. While I managed to graduate from college with great achievement, success later eluded me in graduate school, and I had dropped out of two different master level programs prior to going to Riggs. I had been in regular outpatient therapy and was seeing a separate psychiatrist for medications for well over 5 years prior to my admission to Riggs. My therapist described Austen Riggs as a place for “high functioning individuals” where patients learn to manage the significant problems that impede them from living a fuller life. Had I not chosen to go to Riggs, I question whether I would be alive today, or be grateful to be alive and healthy today. For me, the Riggs experience marked the start of a new beginning in my life. I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

Austen Riggs definitely did not cure me of my problems and I didn’t leave Riggs “fixed”. However I left Riggs functioning much more within acceptable parameters, with a better sense of how to confront the challenges of both my illness and life in general so that I could function out in the world more independently. It took many, many years of additional outpatient therapy and medication management to reach the healthier, more resilient state that I now feel I have earned with a lot of personally insightful work. I still see a therapist (now going on 20 years) and a psychiatrist. Riggs provided me with a safe, nurturing, dignified place to begin that process of learning how to manage my own personal authority within a therapeutic community setting where I felt held and valued as a individual.

Every member of the staff I interacted with—from the nurses to the food services personnel to the doctors to the business office staff–had a level of commitment, respect and caring for me during my treatment. Staff maintained this atmosphere of respectful caring without squelching my individual authority. This is one part of what make the Riggs open setting unique. The other aspect of the open setting is being part of a therapeutic community where respect for others (both fellow patients and staff members) is paramount to the community’s wellness. This respect for others occurs without stifling one’s ability to speak one’s mind or personal concerns. Examined living is a powerful process to experience and to engage within a relatively self-contained environment. The power of examined living readily becomes salient after discharge from Riggs upon returning to the outside world. As a patient at Riggs, one is constantly challenging and being challenged by others in this environment in a way that respects differences, healing and the primacy of individual authority. Community meetings are a big deal at Riggs. I don’t know of any other treatment programs that fully recreate the sense of environment and community like Riggs does in combination with all the services that it provides. And the Riggs program is even better today than it was 16 years ago!

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Residential treatment (open setting) and day-treatment

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?:

Year(s) : 2000-2001

Sheppard Pratt Hospital

Name of Hospital: Sheppard Pratt Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Towson, MD, USA

Number of Stars: 4.5

Comment: I showed up at Sheppard-Pratt in crisis (depression, anxiety, eating disorder, suicidal ideations). Waiting room was impersonal and cold, and I nearly broke down and fled while waiting in the crisis center. But once I saw a nurse, she saw how bad off I was and called a doctor immediately. When (between sobs) I made it clear that I had no insurance and no money, they waived the crisis center referral fee and immediately referred me to the Resident Outpatient Program. $5/half hour to see a last-year psych resident who could prescribe medications. It was a literal lifesaver in my case – I guarantee I’d be dead without it.

I kept going to the ROP for about two and a half years until I moved out of state and though having the psych docs cycling once a year sucked, they were all fairly solid. They were also forgiving about payment, accepting payment in spare change and/or late when necessary. When I moved, my ROP therapist went out of her way attempting to find a similar program in Cincinnati to no avail.

That said, I’ve had a friend involuntarily referred to the inpatient program here back in the 90s and it literally left her with PTSD. Though my experience was excellent, other people’s may not be (especially PoC – I’m white, and that may be why I had a good experience and my friend did not).

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Outpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Female, Bisexual

Year(s) : 2010-2012

Canyon Ridge Hospital

Name of Hospital: Canyon Ridge Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Chino, California, USA

Number of Stars: 4.5

Comment: The nirses were kind and attentive, the food was decently good, and they did a good job keeping up with cleaning. Some drawbacks included being understaffed (one florr staff for 19 people more than once), and that the nurse-led groups didn’t always happen, as well as geoups on the weekend. The partial hospitalization and outpatient groups operate together with the only difference the number of times a week. The outpatient is a good program as well, with a lot of good therapists that one can get to know better.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: I am transgender and pansexual. The hospital asked my sexual orientation during one evaluation (which was something I believe each patient was asked). I didn’t notice anything discriminatory. I wasn’t open to the staff about my gender and sexual orientation, but I feel like I could have been.

Baycare Behavioral Health

Name of Hospital: Baycare Behavioral Health

City, State/Province, Country: Brooksville, Florida, USA

Number of Stars: 2

Comment: I was in here as a teen. Most of the other patients there were teenagers with a few younger kids. There was one group counseling session a day for an hour, the guy was nice but nobody made any progress. We had an hour of indoor gym time with therapeutic activities included, which was truly the highlight of my experience, because then you could talk to the other patients and have the freedom to move around.

Outside of that, there was family counseling that some people were chosen for (myself included) and that was a little more helpful; it was the same therapist from the group session and he was really kind. The other staff, the nurses that spent the whole day with us, were impatient and uncaring.

Outside of therapy the day consisted of watching TV and, if you were lucky and a nurse was feeling generous, coloring. We weren’t allowed to walk around or stand, we had to stay seated, and we had to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. If we took too long doing those things they wouldn’t let us get up for the rest of the day. If you talked to the person next to you, they would move one of you to the other side of the room.

Trying to find support from anyone besides your roommate meant getting yelled at about how you’re not there to gossip and make friends. The therapists were wonderful but we saw so little of them that it didn’t make up for the verbally abusive and rude nurses. As far as the head doctor goes, you saw him for maybe five minutes every day and he would ask 1-2 questions before sending you off.

Being in there made me worse off than I was because I became desperate for the freedom to stand, walk around, and get some fresh air. There was no outdoor time and the windows had blinds behind glass or were facing walls. The best I could do was sit on the floor in my room and look through the slits of the blinds to see a tree outside the window. When I got out, I swore to myself that I would never tell someone I was suicidal or hurt myself if I thought I’d get sent there again. It made me hide those thoughts and feelings out of fear of having to go back.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Outpatient

Western Psychiatric Bellefield Clinic

Name of Hospital: Western Psychiatric Bellefield Clinic

City, State/Province, Country: Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Number of Stars: 4.5

Comment: I was in an outpatient program that included group therapy, personal therapy, and personal psychiatric consultations. The staff were very attentive and the therapy was very engaging and organized. They handled the group sessions fairly well even when frictions occurred between group members; I was in an all-female group, which was much more comfortable for me than a co-ed group.

The hospital offered several options for therapy (single gender, mixed, different tiers of care so that you could adjust to more or less time in the hospital as needed). The psychiatrist was more distant but still listened very well; they took my concerns about medication seriously and were very clear about why specific medications were chosen for me, including side-effects, risk of addiction, etc.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Intensive outpatient (9 hours/week)

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Ciswoman in an all-female program

The Meadows

Name of Hospital: The Meadows

City, State/Province, Country: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

Number of Stars: 4

Comment: I went to the Meadows for outpatient treatment. Most people go through the Meadows inpatient treatment, then transition to Outpatient. However, I opted just to do outpatient because I had had a horrible experience with inpatient elsewhere. The outpatient program was several hours per day several days per week. Overall, I would say it was a valuable (but pricey) experience that helped me get back on my feet.

Many of the people who go to the Meadows go for addiction, but I went for bipolar depression. I found this difficult at first, because I struggled to connect to other people’s experiences with substance abuse. The group therapy and the materials were heavily focused on addiction. I struggled to connect with this because I suffer from bipolar disorder, and have never struggled with substance abuse. Eventually, I found that many of the other patients in my program had underlying mental health struggles like PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder, and I was able to connect with them on that.

The program also requires that you attend 12 step meetings several times per week. While “Bipolar Bears” exists, I did not feel comfortable attending 12 step programs. After I tried a few out, I had to advocate for myself and negotiate other kinds of outside treatment to fulfill this requirement. The most profoundly impactful part of group, is when you bring in your family. You are allowed to bring in family members, if they are available, once each week.

After you have been in the program for a while, you can elect to do work with your family in front of the group. Essentially, your family gets homework to fill out, think about in advance. Then, in group, you sit looking them in the eyes, while they talk about why they love you, times they have enjoyed with you, how you have scared them, and how they have been negatively impacted by your disease. It was a frightening thing to do, but most people find it is a cathartic release that brings them closer to their family and opens a line of communication that can heal old wounds.

The Meadows combined several kinds of therapy for the program. We had several hours of group each day, where we would go over CBT lessons, personal inventories, or the things we each needed to process through. We did an hour of yoga/meditation each week. We did an hour of art therapy each week, where we were encouraged to explore our feelings and past experiences through art. We also went to an hour long group each week with program alumni, who talked about their struggles and successes after the program.

The Meadows also provides a few consultations with a psychiatrist, but I had my own outside of the IOP that I preferred. I had individual therapy each week, where you can do talk therapy, EMDR, or somatic experiencing. I liked my individual therapist. In addition to the core IOP, the Meadows offers a few other good opportunities to come in each week. I had two hour-long sessions of “Brain Paint” each week. Brain Paint is a type of neurofeedback where electrodes are pasted to your skull. If you have the chance to do Brain Paint, do. I walked out of my first session feeling a tranquility, peace, and most importantly, silence in my brain that I had never experienced before. It was profound and incredible. Unfortunately, Brain Paint is not a commonly used program and is expensive to seek on my own outside of this program. The Meadows also offered the opportunity for patients to sign up for additional yoga, hikes, and acupuncture each week.

I struggled with how Christian the experience was. I don’t think the program was supposed to be Christian, but the therapist who led our group brought up Christianity, God, and faith every day, sometimes going on 20 or 30 minute tangents about religion. While religion is very powerful for some people, I was frustrated because Jim told me that I would get better, I would not recover from my depression, if I did not find a higher power and connect with a faith.

As a person of a more abstract, non-denominational faith, I found his focus on Christianity and religion at all to be inappropriate. I was offended that he believed I needed to adopt religious faith to be healthy. He often said “Let go and let God,” and told us we had no control over our lives, just God did. He spoke as if we could cop out of responsibility because it was all God’s plan. He also spent a lot of time talking about how great he thought he was. The man has a strong personality and is not great when you want to challenge his ideas/perspective.

Overall, I found the Meadows to be a good experience, and I believed it helped get me back on a positive path.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Intensive outpatient program

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: white, cis woman, bisexual, bipolar