Can a Psychiatric Hospital be a Healing Community?
Can a psychiatric hospital be a place where patients feel safety in a kind and respectful environment? Can these places offer a a sense of belonging, empathy, and appreciation to patients?
Our recent visit to Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT helped us to see that a hospital system can indeed function as a healing community.
Too often, a hospital experience is de-personalizing, where patients are seen as biochemical objects needing a quick diagnosis and an even quicker prescription of psychotropic medications. There is often an emphasis on physical containment during the most acute phases of their emotional distress.
Over the decades, we have known Silver Hill Hospital to be different. The team at Silver Hill knows that the best of science is required and that in order for this science to have the greatest impact, it’s interventions must be delivered within a healing therapeutic milieu. A milieu that is responsive to the patient’s level of need and ability.
We were drawn to visit again at this time, because our good friend and excellent psychiatrist John Santopietro has just become Silver Hill’s new President and Medical Director. Not only is he a compassionate expert, he sees patients not as diagnoses, but as whole individuals who are in distress and capable of achieving and sustaining much higher levels of functioning and for fulfillment.
Silver Hill’s ‘science’ is top-notch. During two days of meetings, we met the leaders of all units, both inpatient as well as those of Silver Hill’s on-campus transitional living centers. In particular, we were deeply impressed by Silver Hill’s Chronic Pain Center, DBT, Eating Disorder, and Co-Occurring Disorder Centers.
Although we greatly enjoyed our time with all staff, the meeting with Chris Cutter, the Program Director of the Silver Hill Chronic Pain Center was mesmerizing. His science, combined with his Native American heritage and passion for his work, convinced me that his Center should be a destination for anyone experiencing chronic pain.
Some ‘systems’ function poorly with their components disconnected into silos. At Silver Hill there is connection. The continuum of care between Silver Hill and its transitional centers appears smooth and bi-directional when needed. This continuum approach acknowledges that the human condition is frequently complex and not linear.
With Dr. Santopietro at the helm, we can imagine that Silver Hill will increasingly be seen as a unique psychiatric resource offering very complex people the best of science within a therapeutic milieu. We see it as a model for other hospital systems; it’s modest size allows it to be efficient and effective in striving for excellence.