Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Psychiatry, Social Work


Psychiatric advance directives (PADs) are legal tools that allow competent individuals to declare preferences for future mental health treatment when they may not be capable of doing so as a result of a psychiatric crisis. PADs allow individuals to maintain self–determination during times when they are most vulnerable to loss of autonomy and in need of assistance to make their preferences known and honored. This article describes the content of twenty–eight open–ended, semi–structured qualitative interviews of adults with PADs who have experienced psychiatric crises. The qualitative analysis revealed three major themes from the interviews: (1) PADs as tools for empowerment and self–determination, (2) limited knowledge of PADs among service providers; and (3) difficulties communicating PADs to inpatient staff. In general, many participants expressed enthusiasm of the implementation of PADs but concern regarding clinicians’ general lack of awareness about them. Additionally, some consumers discussed discomfort in even mentioning that they had a PADto clinicians for fear of a negative response from them, or some type of involuntary treatment during their hospitalization. However, participants consistently viewed PADs as a positive tool to promote autonomy with the potential to facilitate stronger patient–provider relationships. Therefore, when working with individuals in psychiatric crisis who have a PAD, and who have never before experienced a sense of control over their own treatment, clinicians must recognize the potential troubling disequilibrium this sense of control may engender. In sum, though the most significant challenges facing the implementation of PADs involve clinicians’ familiarity with and education about PADs, much promise for the future growth of PADs lies in the benefits perceived by the patients.