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Am J Psychiatry. 1994 Nov;151(11):1584-91.

Restraint and seclusion: a review of the literature.

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  • 1New York State Office of Mental Health, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Queens Village.



The author reviewed the literature published since 1972 concerning restraint and seclusion.


The review began with a computerized literature search. Further sources were located through citations from articles identified in the original search.


The author synthesized the contents of the articles reviewed using the categories of indications and contraindications; rates of seclusion and restraint as well as demographic, clinical, and environmental factors that affect these rates; effects on patients and staff; implementation; and training.


The literature on restraint and seclusion supports the following. 1) Seclusion and restraint are basically efficacious in preventing injury and reducing agitation. 2) It is nearly impossible to operate a program for severely symptomatic individuals without some form of seclusion or physical or mechanical restraint. 3) Restraint and seclusion have deleterious physical and psychological effects on patients and staff, and the psychiatric consumer/survivor movement has emphasized these effects. 4) Demographic and clinical factors have limited influence on rates of restraint and seclusion. 5) Local nonclinical factors, such as cultural biases, staff role perceptions, and the attitude of the hospital administration, have a greater influence on rates of restraint and seclusion. 6) Training in prediction and prevention of violence, in self-defense, and in implementation of restraint and/or seclusion is valuable in reducing rates and untoward effects. 7) Studies comparing well-defined training programs have potential usefulness.

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