Guide to Arriving at McLean Hospital

Helpful Information for Patients, Families, and Friends

Welcome to McLean Hospital. We are here to help you. This overview provides a look at what you can expect when you arrive at McLean and addresses questions and concerns that you and your family may have.

Each member of the McLean community strives to achieve our mission of improving the lives of our patients and their families, and we dedicate ourselves to providing you with compassionate and respectful specialized mental health care.

You are a vital member of our team. Together with you, we seek to chart a path toward your recovery and well-being.

We will work closely with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to ensure that you receive effective and compassionate care and to provide you with guidance and tools to help you better understand and manage your illness and symptoms, strengthen your resilience, and improve your mental health going forward.

Thank you for placing your trust in McLean Hospital. Your health, comfort, and well-being are our highest priorities.

For Patients

What happens when I arrive at McLean?

When you arrive at McLean, a mental health specialist (MHS) will talk with you and gather preliminary information as the first step in a thorough diagnostic psychiatric evaluation. At the Belmont campus, you will also meet with clinicians in the Clinical Evaluation Center (CEC).

Initially, for your safety and the safety of others, the MHS will check to see if you have items that could pose a hazard. Your personal belongings will be stored safely in a locked space. You will be given an identification wristband, which you should wear at all times.

The MHS will provide an orientation to the unit and check your vital signs. A nurse will assess and attend to your nursing care needs, including medications, and ask about any unstable medical conditions or safety concerns.

A clinical evaluator then will conduct an initial evaluation, helping the clinical staff determine which hospital inpatient program meets your needs. The evaluation also helps the clinical staff develop your initial treatment plan.

Based on this admission assessment, medication may be started or continued, and tests may be ordered. Your participation is very important during this process. Please ask questions and share your concerns.

Can family or friends stay with me during the evaluation process?

Up to two family members or friends, except for children under 18 years old, may stay with you (if you permit them) while you are being evaluated. Family and friends will be asked to step out of the room for all or part of the evaluation so you can give private information to the treatment team.

Formal family meetings are not routinely part of the initial evaluation. These will occur later, at an inpatient program with staff who will follow you throughout your stay and become more familiar with you and your family.

Family members or friends with information that is important for clinicians to know during the initial assessment should ask to speak with staff if they do not have an opportunity to provide this information during the evaluation.

How long does the admissions process take?

Typically, this process takes three to four hours. Part of this time is needed to write the initial admission note, record information about your treatment plan, and talk to your insurance company.

At the end of this process, you will be admitted to an inpatient program or directed to the most appropriate setting for your care.

Two people posing for photo

McLean’s staff provide comprehensive and compassionate patient care

What releases will I be asked to sign?

You will be asked to sign release of information forms for your insurance carrier, primary care physician, psychiatrist, and therapist. These releases are required so we may communicate with your insurance carrier and with your health care providers outside McLean.

Later in the process of your treatment, you will be asked to sign additional release of information forms in order for staff to speak with your family or friends.

What happens if I am admitted?

If you have been admitted, a staff member will accompany you to the inpatient program in which you will be staying. If family or friends are present, they may go with you to the program.

In some circumstances, they may be asked to wait until you are settled in your room. You will be assigned a clinical treatment team who will take care of you during your stay.

What happens if I am not admitted?

If you are not admitted to a McLean inpatient program, you may be referred to one of McLean’s residential or partial hospital (day) programs or to our outpatient services.

Alternatively, because of your treatment needs and/or your health insurance provider network, we may refer you to a community mental health provider.

What Is Admission Really Like at McLean?

Man and woman walk outside together

Watch this video and read more about the admission process via McLean’s Clinical Evaluation Center. Learn what it’s really like to be treated at one of our world-class inpatient programs.

Man and woman walk outside together

What personal items and belongings will I need during my hospital stay?


Plan to wear casual clothes while at McLean and bring two changes of machine-washable clothes for day and night wear, including undergarments, socks, bathrobe, and slippers. Washing machines and dryers are available at every inpatient program.

We also suggest that you have a pair of comfortable shoes and a jacket or coat. Please mark your name on all pieces of clothing.

McLean has a limited supply of clean, donated clothing available in many sizes for patients. Program staff can assist you in contacting the clothing bank at 617.855.2118. If you receive an item, it is yours to keep.


To enable the clinical team to review your medications accurately during the admissions process, we recommend that you bring a list of all of your prescription medications to the hospital.

Once you are admitted, all needed medications will be dispensed by the McLean pharmacy in accordance with state and federal regulations and hospital policies.

Personal Care Items

You may want to bring items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, a hairbrush, eyeglasses, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products.

Basic hygiene kits can be provided at no cost to you if you do not have these items.

Two individuals having a conversation

McLean’s inpatient programs focus on acute stabilization

You should also plan to bring any durable medical equipment you may need such as a cane, wheelchair, CPAP machine, and hearing or visual aids. Items with cords may need to be kept at the nursing station. Please mark your name on all personal care items.

Personal Valuables

McLean Hospital is not responsible for loss or damage to personal items, including eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dentures.

We recommend that you keep jewelry and other valuables at home and not carry more than $10 in cash. Please consider sending valuables home with family.

For privacy reasons, cameras, including those in cellphones, and other electronic recording devices are not allowed at inpatient programs.

Are any personal items discouraged or restricted?


To help promote focused engagement during group therapy and other aspects of treatment, some inpatient programs do not allow cellphone use while others discourage or restrict usage. A few inpatient programs permit only cellphones without cameras.

Please check with the staff about cellphone policies at your program.


Computers and any electronic equipment that can be used to photograph or record sound or images are not permitted at McLean inpatient programs.

Patients on the Belmont campus may check with staff about using computers available for patient use.

Restricted Items

Items that are not allowed at the program for safety and privacy reasons:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Razors
  • Guns/weapons
  • Knives/other sharp objects
  • Cameras
  • Glass bottles
  • Matches/lighters
  • Plastic bags
  • Drugs/medications
  • Mirrors
  • Video recorders
  • Glass picture frames

Please check with program staff regarding policies on belts, dental floss, electric razors, hair dryers, nail clippers, audio players, headphones, cigarettes, and canned beverages.

What do I need to know once I arrive at an inpatient program?

A mental health specialist or nurse will help you get settled at the program and in your room. All inpatient staff are available to answer questions and address concerns that you may have.

In addition, this guide provides answers to many questions and offers a lot of information that you and your family may find helpful.

Once settled, your family and friends may visit with you. In general, family and friends are allowed to visit during scheduled visiting hours and only if you wish to see them. Talk to a staff member about concerns you may have about visitors.

During your stay, a team of clinicians, including doctors, nurses, and a case manager, will oversee your care and treatment and help you on your way to recovery.

Is financial assistance available?

McLean Hospital recognizes that some patients have limited means and may not have access to insurance coverage for all services. We therefore have a financial assistance program for uninsured patients and underinsured patients with limited financial resources.

Visit the Mass General Brigham website to learn more.

For Families and Friends

When can I see my family member or friend who is being evaluated at McLean?

Up to two family members and close friends, except for children under 18 years old, may stay (with the patient’s permission) while the patient is being evaluated. Family and friends will be asked to step out of the room for all or part of the evaluation.

Any family member or friend with information that is important for clinicians to know during the initial assessment should ask to speak with staff if they do not have an opportunity to provide this information during the evaluation.

Formal family meetings are not routinely part of the initial evaluation. These will occur later in the inpatient stay with staff at the program.

How do the privacy rules affect what McLean clinicians and staff can tell me?

Patients who are 18 years old or older are legal adults with legal privacy rights. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prohibits clinical staff from sharing information without a patient’s written consent.

All health providers must comply with these federal regulations, which means that they must obtain formal permission to share information (including diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis) with you, or anyone else, even if you are a spouse, a parent, or a guardian of a patient. A patient provides permission by signing a release of information form.

Person speaking to someone

McLean is dedicated to ensuring patient privacy

Release of information forms can be signed during the admission process and can also be completed at an inpatient program. If the patient has not signed a release for the clinical staff to give you information, they cannot share any information.

Please note, however, that you may share with clinicians any information that you think is important for the patient’s treatment and recovery.

How can I learn more?

Staff is available to answer questions. For more information, visit the Patients & Families section of this website.

Admission Packet and Printable PDF

Additional information can also be found in this printable PDF:

Guide to Arriving at McLean Cover

This guide is part of an admission packet given to patients when they arrive at McLean for evaluation to transition to one of our inpatient programs.

Patients, families, and friends may find this information helpful as well:

These materials were written with valuable contributions from McLean’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. Please visit if you would like to offer feedback or suggestions for this guide.

This guide is also available in Spanish.