Restraint and seclusion in psychiatric inpatient wards

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Purpose of review

Despite the controversy over the use of seclusion and restraint, these measures are commonly used to treat and manage disruptive and violent behaviour. This review summarizes recent research on the use of seclusion and restraint, and measures taken to reduce their use.

Recent findings

Lately, prominent international recommendations have aimed to restrict the use of seclusion and restraint, and reminded that they should only be used in exceptional cases, where there are no other means of remedying the situation and under the supervision of a doctor. The use of seclusion and restraint has remained prevalent, but there are serveral innovative programmes that have succeeded in controlling and reducing their use. Staff attitudes about seclusion and restraint have changed little in the last few years.


There is a need for novel methods to treat violence and the threat of violence on psychiatric wards. Violence is a complex phenomenon that needs to be met with a multiprofessional approach. Customer involvement in this work is required. The assessment of the effectiveness of programmes aiming to minimizing seclusion and restraint has been hampered by the lack of parallel control groups and there is a need for cluster-randomized trials. When studying these interventions, the safety of staff and patients should be included as on outcome measure.

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