APNA Position on the Use of Seclusion and Restraint

The newly updated Position Statement on the Use of Seclusion and Restraint and the Seclusion and Restraint Standards of Practice were approved by the Board of Directors on April 8, 2014. To supplement these two resoruces, APNA is also offering a continuing education session: Seclusion and Restraint: Keys to Assessing and Mitigating Risks.

APNA Position Statement on the Use of Seclusion and Restraint 
(Original, 2000; Revised, 2007; Revised, 2014)



Psychiatric-mental health nursing has a 100-year history of caring for persons in psychiatric facilities. Currently, nurses serve as direct care providers, as well as, unit-based and executive level administrators in virtually every organization providing inpatient psychiatric treatment. Therefore, as the professional organization for psychiatric-mental health nurses, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) recognizes that the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the safety of both individuals and staff in the treatment environment and for maintaining standards of care in the day-to-day treatment of individuals rests with nursing and the hospital leadership or behavioral health care organization leadership that supports the unit.

Thus, APNA supports a sustained commitment to the reduction and ultimate elimination of seclusion and restraint and advocates for continued research to support evidence-based practice for the prevention and management of behavioral emergencies. Furthermore, we recognize the need for and are committed to working together with physicians, clients and families, advocacy groups, other health providers and our nursing colleagues, in order to achieve the reality of eliminating seclusion and restraint.

Back to Top


In the mid-1800’s proponents of “moral treatment” of psychiatric patients advocated the elimination of the practice of restraining patients. Despite the relative success of this movement in England and Europe, psychiatrists in the United States concluded that restraints could never be eliminated in the United States (Bockoven, 1963; Deutsch, 1949; Rogers & Bocchino, 1999; Strumpf & Tomes, 1993). Until recently, belief in the necessity for continuing the practice of secluding and restraining patients persisted. For example, in 1994, Fisher concluded from his review of the literature that not only was it nearly impossible to operate a program for severely symptomatic individuals without some form of seclusion or physical or mechanical restraint” (p. 1584) but that these methods were effective in preventing injury and reducing agitation. Others, however, concluded that the practice of restraining and secluding patients was not grounded in research that supported the therapeutic efficacy of this intervention, but upon the observation that these measures interrupted and controlled the patient’s behavior (Steinert et al. 2010; Scanlan 2010; Sailas & Fenton 2000; Paterson & Duxbury, 2007).

Reports of patient death and injury (Rakhmatullina, Taub and Jacob, 2013; Berzlanovich, Schöpfer & Keil, 2012; Cecchi et al. 2012) and studies of patients’ experiences in restraint and seclusion (Kontio, 2011; Steinert et al. 2013; Soininen et al., 2013) have prompted psychiatric-mental health nurses to question the benefit of secluding and restraining psychiatric patients. These studies bring to the fore the ethical dilemmas inherent in the use of seclusion and restraint (Cleary, Hunt and Walter 2010; Mohr, 2010 APNA Janssen Scholars, 2012). On the one hand, this practice has the potential for physically and/or psychologically harming individuals (Evans, Wood and Lambert , 2003;, Mohr, Petti and Mohr,  2003;, Georgieva, Mulder & Whittington, 2012) and for violating individual rights to autonomy and self-determination (Bower et. al 2003; Ezeobele et al., 2013). On the other hand, studies of violence on inpatient units underscore the reality that violence often cannot be predicted. Since the nursing staff are held responsible for maintaining the safety of all patients, they often see seclusion and restraint as a necessary last-resort intervention to maintain that safety (Lee, et. al 2003; Barton et al., 2009). Therefore, studies of the impact of assault on those who care for patients must be taken into consideration when developing standards for practice and when addressing organizational strategies to assure equal commitment to worker, as well as patient safety (Flannery et al., 2011; Happell & Koehn, 2011).

Research has highlighted the influence of unit philosophy and culture, treatment philosophy, staff attitudes, staff availability, staff training, ratios of patients to staff and location in the United States on either the disparity in the incidence of seclusion and restraint or the perpetuation of the practice of secluding and restraining psychiatric patients (Ashcraft, Bloss & Anthony, 2012; Chang et al., 2013; Happell & Koehn, 2011; Azeem et al., 2011; Chandler, 2012). From the research, it appears that the key to seclusion and restraint reduction is prevention of aggression by (a) maintaining a presence on the unit and noticing early changes in the patient and the milieu (Johnson & Delaney, 2007; Taylor et al., 2012; Ward et. al,  2011), (b) assessing the patient and intervening early with less restrictive measures, such as verbal and non-verbal communication, reduced stimulation, active listening, diversionary techniques, limit setting and prn medication (Bak et al., 2012; Sivak, 2012; Bostwick & Hallman, 2012; Chalmers et al., 2012; Bowers et al., 2012) and (c) changing aspects of the unit to promote a culture of structure, calmness, negotiation and collaboration, rather than control (Kontio et al., 2012; Bowen, Privitera, and Bowie, 2011; Jones, 2012).

To date, there is some evidence that changes in a unit’s treatment philosophy can lead to changes in patient behavior that will ultimately impact the incidence of the use of seclusion and/or restraints (Delaney and Johnson, 2012; Goetz and Taylor-Trujillo, 2012). There is also growing awareness that inpatient treatment must be shaped by the principles of trauma-informed care and the recovery movement and that these philosophies will create a collaborative spirit that is essential to restraint reduction and elimination efforts (Hammer et al., 2011; Hardy & Patel, 2011; Subica, Claypoole & Wylie, 2012; Bowen, Privitera & Bowie, 2011; Azeem et al., 2011; SAMHSA, 2013).

Despite the best efforts at preventing the use of seclusion and restraint, there may be times that these measures are used. Thus, it is important to be cognizant of the vulnerability of individuals who are secluded or restrained and the risks involved in using these measures (Huf & Adams, 2012; Hollins & Stubbs, 2011; Mohr & Nunno, 2011; Georgieva et. Al, 2012). Moreover, the dangers inherent in the use of seclusion and restraint include the possibility that the person’s behavior is a manifestation of an organic or physiological problem that requires medical intervention and may, therefore, predispose the person to increased physiological risk during the time the individual is secluded or restrained. Therefore, skilled assessments of individuals who are restrained or secluded will not only ensure the safety of individuals in these vulnerable conditions, but also will ensure that the measures are discontinued as soon as the individual is able to be safely released.

Back to Top

Position Statement

APNA believes that psychiatric-mental health nurses play a critical role in the provision of care to persons in psychiatric settings. This role requires that nurses provide effective treatment and milieu leadership to maximize the individual’s ability to effectively manage potentially dangerous behaviors. To that end, we strive to assist the individual in minimizing the circumstances that give rise to seclusion and restraint use. Therefore:

  • We advocate for policies at the federal, state, and other organizational levels that will protect individuals from needless trauma associated with seclusion and restraint use, while supporting both individual and staff safety.
  • We take responsibility for providing ongoing opportunities for professional growth and learning for the psychiatric-mental health nurse whose treatment approach promotes individual safety, as well as autonomy and a sense of personal control.
  • We promulgate professional standards that apply to all populations and in all settings where behavioral emergencies occur and that provide the framework for quality care for all individuals whose behaviors constitute a risk for safety to themselves or others.
  • We advocate and support evidence-based practice through research directed toward examining the variables associated with the prevention of and safe management of behavioral emergencies.
  • We recognize that organizational characteristics have substantial influence on individual safety and call for shared ownership among leaders to create a work culture that supports minimal seclusion and restraint use and that will enable the vision of elimination to be realized.
  • We articulate the following fundamental principles to guide action on the issue of seclusion and restraint:
    • Individuals have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and in a safe, humane, culturally sensitive and developmentally appropriate manner that respects individual choice and maximizes self determination.
    • Seclusion or restraint must never be used for staff convenience or to punish or coerce individuals.
    • Seclusion or restraint must be used for the minimal amount of time necessary and only to ensure the physical safety of the individual, other patients or staff members and when less restrictive measures have proven ineffective.
    • Individuals who are restrained must be afforded maximum freedom of movement while assuring the physical safety of the individual and others. The least number of restraint points must be utilized and the individual must be continuously observed.
    • Seclusion and restraint reduction and elimination requires preventative interventions at both the individual and milieu management levels using evidence based practice.
    • Seclusion and restraint use is influenced by the organizational culture that develops norms for how persons are treated. Seclusion and restraint reduction and elimination efforts must include a focus on necessary culture change.
    • Effective administrative and clinical structures and processes must be in place to prevent behavioral emergencies and to support the implementation of alternatives.
    • Hospital and behavioral healthcare organizations and their nursing leadership groups must make commitments of adequate professional staffing levels, staff time and resources to assure that staff are adequately trained and currently competent to perform treatment processes, milieu management, de-escalation techniques and seclusion or restraint.
    •  Oversight of seclusion and restraint must be an integral part of an organization’s performance improvement effort and these data must be open for inspection by internal and external regulatory agencies. Reporting requirements must be based on a common definition of seclusion and restraint. Specific data requirements must be consistent across regulatory agencies.
    • Movement toward future elimination of seclusion and restraint requires instituting and supporting less intrusive, preventative, and evidence-based interventions in behavioral emergencies that aid in minimizing aggression while promoting safety.

Approved by the APNA Board of Directors April 8, 2014.

Back to Top


2014 APNA Institute for Safe Environments Workgroup to Seclusion & Restraint Position Paper: Catherine Batscha, Catherine O’Reilly, Diane Allen.

2007 APNA Seclusion and Restraint Steering Committee: Lynn DeLacy (Chair), Amy Rushton (Co-Chair), Diane Allen, Hyman Beshansky, Laura Curtis, Kathleen Delaney, Germaine Edinger, Carole Farley-Toombs, Kathryn Fritsche, Susan Griffin, Lyons Hardy, Mary E. Johnson, William Koehler, Georganne Kuberski, Lee Liles. Kathleen McCann, Marlene Nadler- Moodie, Pamela Nold, Douglas Olsen, Kathleen Regan, , Theodora Sirota, Joan van der Bijl, Karen Vergano, Theresa Warfield.

2000 APNA Seclusion and Restraint Task Force: Lynn DeLacy (Chair), Terri Chapman, Sue Ciarmiello, Kathleen Delaney, Germaine Edinger, Carole Farley-Toombs, Mary Johnson, Lyn Marshall, Marlene Nadler- Moodie, Marilyn Nendza, Pamela Nold, Linda Ovitt, Brenda Shostrom, Mary Thomas, Linda Wolff.

Back to Top


American Psychiatric Nurses Association. (2012). Janssen Scholars Seclusion & Restraint Workgroup Report. Available at: http://www.apna.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=4950

Amore, M., Menchetti, M.,Tonti, C., Scarlatti, F., Lundgren, E., Esposito, W., Berardi, D. (2008).

Predictors of violent behavior among acute psychiatric patients: clinical study. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. Jun;62(3):247. Accessed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18588583. Pg  247.

Ashcraft, L.,Bloss, M. & Anthony, W.A. (2012). "Best Practices: The Development and Implementation of “No Force First” as a Best Practice." Psychiatric Services, 63 (5):415-417.

Azeem, M. W., Akashdeep, A., Rammerth, M., Binsfeld,G., & Jones, R.B. (2011). "Effectiveness of six core strategies based on trauma informed care in reducing seclusions and restraints at a child and adolescent psychiatric hospital." Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 24(1):11-15.

Bak, J., Brandt-Christensen, M., Sestoft,D.M., & Zoffmann, V. (2012). "Mechanical Restraint—Which Interventions Prevent Episodes of Mechanical Restraint?—A Systematic Review." Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 48 (2):83-94.

Barnett, R., Stirling, C., Pandyan, A. (2012). A review of the scientific literature related to the adverse impact of physical restraint: gaining a clearer understanding of the physiological factors involved in cases of restraint-related death.  Medicine, Science and the Law. 52:137.  Available at: http://msl.sagepub.com/comtent52/3/237.

Barton, S., Johnson, M., Price, L. (2009). "Achieving restraint-free on an inpatient behavioral health unit, Jounral of Psychosocial and Mental Health Nursing.47(1)35-40.

Berzlanovich, A.M., Schöpfer, J. & Keil, W. (2012). "Deaths due to physical restraint." Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 109 (3):27.

Bostwick, J.R, Hallman, I.S.(2012). "Agitation management strategies: overview of non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic interventions." Medsurg nursing: official journal of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses 22 (5):303-7, 318.

Bowen, B., Privitera, M.R. & Bowie, V. (2011). "Reducing workplace violence by creating healthy workplace environments." Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 3(4):185-198.

Bowers, L., Ross,J., Owiti,J., Baker, J., Adams,C., & Stewart, D. (2012). "Event sequencing of forced intramuscular medication in England." Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing no. 19 (9):799-806.

Cecchi, R., Lazzaro,A., Catanese,M., Mandarelli, G., & Stefano Ferracuti, S. (2012). "Fatal thromboembolism following physical restraint in a patient with schizophrenia." International Journal of Legal Medicine no. 126 (3):477-482. doi: 10.1007/s00414-012-0670-1.

Chalmers, A., Harrison,S., Mollison,K., Molloy,N. & Gray, K. (2012). "Establishing sensory-based approaches in mental health inpatient care: a multidisciplinary approach." Australasian Psychiatry, 20 (1):35-39.

Chandler, G.E. (2012). "Reducing Use of Restraints and Seclusion to Create a Culture of Safety." Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services.50 (10): 29-36. doi: 10.3928/02793695-20120906-97

Chang, N.A., Grant,P.M., Luther,L. & Beck, A.T. (2013). "Effects of a Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy Training Program on Inpatient Staff Attitudes and Incidents of Seclusion and Restraint." Community Mental Health Journal:1-7. doi: 10.1007/s10597-013-9675-6.

Cleary, M., Hunt, G.E., Walter, G. (2010). "Seclusion and its context in acute inpatient psychiatric care." Journal of Medical Ethics, 36(8):459-462.

Code of Federal Regulations, Ch. IV. (2010). Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Conditions of Participation: Patient rights. HHS § 482.13(e)(1).Definitions: (i) restraint, (ii)seclusion. Accessed at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2010-title42-vol5/pdf/CFR- 2010-title42-vol5-sec482-13.pdf

Delaney, K.R., Johnson, M.E. (2012). "Safety and Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment Moving the Science Forward." Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 18 (2):79-80.

Evans, D., Wood, J. & L. Lambert . (2003). Patient injury and physical restraint devices: a systematic review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 41, 274-282.

Ezeobele, I. E., Malecha, A.T., Mock, A. Mackey-Godine, A., & Hughes, A. (2013). "Patients' lived seclusion experience in acute psychiatric hospital in the United States: a qualitative study." J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12097.

Flannery, R. B., Jr., LeVitre,V., Rego, S., & Walker, A.P. (2011). "Characteristics of staff victims of psychiatric patient assaults: 20-year analysis of the Assaulted Staff Action Program." Psychiatr Q, 82(1):11-21. doi: 10.1007/s11126-010-9153-z.

Georgieva, I., Mulder,C.L., & Whittington, R. (2012). "Evaluation of behavioral changes and subjective distress after exposure to coercive inpatient interventions." BMC psychiatry,12 (1):54.

Goetz, S.B., Taylor-Trujillo, A.  (2012). "A Change in Culture Violence Prevention in an Acute Behavioral Health Setting." Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 18 (2):96-103.

Hammer, J.H., Springer, J., Beck,N.C., Menditto, A. & Coleman, J. (2011). "The relationship between seclusion and restraint use and childhood abuse among psychiatric inpatients." Journal of interpersonal violence, 26 (3):567-579.

Happell, B., Koehn, S. (2011). "Seclusion as a necessary intervention: the relationship between burnout, job satisfaction and therapeutic optimism and justification for the use of seclusion." Journal of advanced nursing, 67(6):1222-1231.

Hardy, D. W., Patel, M. (2011). "Reduce inpatient violence: 6 strategies: active, unwavering, and visible commitment of hospital leadership is key to reducing violence and restraints." Current Psychiatry, 10(5).

Hollins, L.P, Stubbs, B. (2011). "The shoulder: Taking the strain during restraint." Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 18(2):177-184.

Huf, G., Adams, C.E. (2012). "Physical restraints versus seclusion room for management of people with acute aggression or agitation due to psychotic illness (TREC-SAVE): a randomized trial." Psychological medicine, 42(11):2265-2273.

Johnson, T.D. (2007). Respiratory assessment in child and adolescent residential treatment settings: Reducing restraint-associated risks. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. Retrieved on December 15, 2013 from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3892/is_200708/ai_n1951198.

Jones, B. (2012). "A culture of recovery requires program redesign." Health progress (Saint Louis, Mo.), 94(2):20-24.

Kontio, R. (2011). "Patient seclusion and restraint practices in psychiatric hospitals-towards evidence based clinical nursing."

Kontio, R., Joffe,G., Putkonen, H., Kuosmanen, L., Hane, K., Holi,M.,& Välimäki, M. (2012). "Seclusion and Restraint in Psychiatry: Patients' Experiences and Practical Suggestions on How to Improve Practices and Use Alternatives." Perspectives in psychiatric care, 48(1):16-24.

Masters, K. (2007). Pulse oximetry use during physical and mechanical restraints. J Emerg Med 33:289.

Masters, K. (2009). RISK MANAGEMENT: PART 1 SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT From Navigating the Maze of Malpractice Risks: Let Risk Management Lead the Way, presented by Professional Risk Management Services, Inc.  Auto Digest Psychiatry, Vol 38 Issue 6. February. Available at: http://www.cme-ce-summaries.com/psychiatry/ps3806.html, Accessed May 14, 2013.

Michalewicz, B., Chan, T., Vilke, G., Levy, S., Neuman, T., Kolkhorst, F. (2006). Ventilatory and Metabolic Demands During Aggressive Physical Restraint in Healthy Adults. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 52(1): 171-175.

Mohr,  W. K., Petti, T.A. & Mohr, B.D. (2003). Adverse effects associated with physical restraint. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48: 330-337.

Mohr, W. (2006). There’s No Such Thing as a Safe Restraint. Nurse.com. New Jersey Nursing News.mht.  Accessed at: http://news.nurse.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080310/NJ02/80305005

Mohr, W. K. (2010). "Restraints and the code of ethics: An uneasy fit." Archives of psychiatric nursing,24 (1):3-14.

Mohr, W. K., Nunno, M.A. (2011). "Black boxing restraints: the need for full disclosure and consent." Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(1):38-47.

Nadler-Moodie, Marlene. (2009). Clinical Practice Guideline: 1 hour face-to-face assessment of a patient in a mechanical restraint. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing 47(6), 37-43.

Nunno, M., Holden, M., Tollar, A. (2006). Learning from tragedy: A survey of child and adolescent restraint fatalities. Child Abuse & Neglect 30 (2006) 1333–1342.

Parkes, J. (2008). Sudden death during restraint: do some positions affect lung function? Medicine, Science and the Law. 52:137.

Paterson, B., Duxbury, J. (2007). "Restraint and the question of validity." Nurs Ethics, 14 (4):535-45. doi: 10.1177/0969733007077888.

Rakhmatullina, M.,Taub,A., &  Jacob, T. (2013). "Morbidity and Mortality Associated with the Utilization of Restraints." Psychiatric Quarterly:1-14.

Riley, D. (2006). Patient restraint positions in a psychiatric inpatient service. Nursing Times.net. January, 102(03):42. Available at:  http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-pratice/clinical-zones/mental-. Accessed May 11, 2013.

Recupero, P.R., Price, Marilyn, Garvey, K.A., Daly, B., Xavier, S.L. (2011). Restraint and  Seclusion in Psychiatric Treatment Settings: Regulation, Case Law, and Risk Management.  Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 39:465-76

Sailas, E., Fenton, M. (2000). "Seclusion and restraint for people with serious mental illnesses." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2.

SAMHSA. (2014). US DHHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Center for Trauma Informed Care. Available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/nctic/trauma.asp. Accessed March 2, 2014.

Scanlan,J. N.  (2010). "Interventions to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in inpatient psychiatric settings: what we know so far a review of the literature." International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 56(4):412-423.

Sivak, K. (2012). "Implementation of Comfort Rooms to Reduce Seclusion, Restraint Use, and Acting-Out Behaviors." Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services, 50(2):24-34.

Soininen, P., Valimaki,M., Noda, T., Puukka, P., Korkeila, J.,  Joffe, G., & Putkonen, H. (2013). "Secluded and restrained patients' perceptions of their treatment." Int J Ment Health Nurs, 22(1):47-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0349.2012.00838.x.

Steinert, T., Birk, M., Flammer, E. & Bergk, J. (2013). "Subjective Distress After Seclusion or Mechanical Restraint: One-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Study." Psychiatric Services, 64(10):1012-7. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201200315

Steinert, T., Lepping, P., Bernhardsgrütter,R., Conca, A., Hatling, T., Janssen, W., Keski-Valkama, A., Mayoral, F. & Whittington, R.(2010). "Incidence of seclusion and restraint in psychiatric hospitals: a literature review and survey of international trends." Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 45(9):889-897.

Subica, A.M. ,Claypoole, K.H., & Wylie, A.M. (2012). "PTSD'S mediation of the relationships between trauma, depression, substance abuse, mental health, and physical health in individuals with severe mental illness: Evaluating a comprehensive model." Schizophrenia research, 136(1):104-109.

Taylor, K.,Mammen, K., Barnett,S, Hayat, M. & Gross, D. (2012). "Characteristics of Patients With Histories of Multiple Seclusion and Restraint Events During a Single Psychiatric Hospitalization." Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 18(3):159-165.

Ward, A., Keeley, S., & Warr, J. (2011). "Physical interventions training and organisational management in mental health: an integrated approach to promote patient safety." Journal of Psychiatric Intensive Care, 8(1):25.

AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC NURSES ASSOCIATION and APNA-Logoare registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as trademarks of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.