Time-out: an overused and misused milieu intervention

J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 1999 Apr-Jun;12(2):53-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.1999.tb00045.x.


Topic: The basic logic of the time-out, its conceptual underpinnings, its misuse in inpatient psychiatry, and suggestions for appropriate application.

Purpose: In the inpatient treatment setting, time-outs can become an automatic response to any behavioral infraction. When this happens, time-outs begin to lose their effectiveness because the intervention does not necessarily address the child's needs or the underlying mechanisms of the inappropriate behavior. They also can be misused when time-outs escalate into a lengthy stay in a seclusion room. The author examines the dynamic underlying the misuse and overuse of the time-out.

Sources: Personal observations and published literature.

Conclusions: The time-out is a useful tool, but only when employed with minded intent and understanding of how it is supposed to help the child.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / nursing
  • Child Behavior Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child Psychiatry / methods*
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Milieu Therapy / methods*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Isolation / methods*
  • Psychiatric Nursing / methods*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Reproducibility of Results