Outpatient Commitment on the Ground: Listening to Consumers and Providers

  • Christopher Gjesfjeld University of North Dakota
  • Michaela Kennedy Family Services of Western Pennsylvania
Keywords: Involuntary commitment, coercion, community mental health services, mandated treatment, OPC


Current debate and research on outpatient commitment (OPC) has examined whether OPC is (1) clinically effective or (2) ethically acceptable, yet little research has sought the voices of consumers and mental health providers who are most intimately impacted by outpatient commitment. Our research was specifically interested in the perspective that consumers and providers had about OPC. Qualitative interviews were conducted with nine consumers on OPC orders and eight treatment providers associated with these consumers. Three major themes emerged. First, consumers voiced an ambiguous sense of personal control in the context of OPC orders. Second, consumers and mental health providers maintained inconsistent understandings of outpatient commitment. Finally, all consumers reported an improvement in their life after being on OPC. Based on these findings, we suggest methods by which mental health providers could facilitate a collaborative relationship with consumers despite working within a context of OPC orders.