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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Tx Retention

Treatment Retention Strategies in Transition-Age Youth
Motivational Enhancement Therapy for Retention of Emerging Adults

Transition-age youth (ages 17-25) with serious mental health conditions have alarmingly poor functioning in the domains of work, independent living, and staying out of trouble with the law, with high rates of homelessness (30%), arrests (60%), school dropout (42%), and unemployment. Effective mental health treatment could reduce these problems; however, though office-based mental health treatment is accessed by 760,000 transition-age youth each year, its impact is compromised due to the high risk for drop out among this population. Though effective treatment retention strategies have been developed for adult populations, it is unlikely that these same strategies will be as effective with transition-age youth due to the unique developmental and life stage features of this transitional period. Development and use of effective retention strategies for this population will be tremendously important in improving their mental health outcomes. There are currently no published interventions or clinical trials focusing on treatment retention for transition-age youth; however, using a Motivational Interviewing approach as part of introducing treatment may be a simple and cost-effective approach for increasing treatment retention in this group.

The goal of this study is to develop and test a developmentally appropriate intervention that can be used by office-based therapists for increasing retention of transition age youth who are at high risk for (or currently experiencing) severe mental illnesses. This randomized pilot study will compare a strategy based on Motivational Interviewing (i.e., Motivational Enhancement Therapy), an approach that has been successful in increasing treatment adherence among adults and adolescents, to usual services in increasing therapy retention rates. If this intervention is successful, it will provide an important tool for retaining transition-age youth in mental health treatment long enough for it to improve symptoms and, by extension, functioning.

For more information, please contact Maryann Davis (Principal Investigator) by phone at 508-856-8718, or by e-mail at

Principal Investigator
Maryann Davis, Ph.D.

MUSC Principal Investigator
Ashli J. Sheidow, Ph.D.     

Funding Agency
National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH)

Project Number

Research Partners
Center for Mental Health Services Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Community Healthlink, Inc.

Boston University, School of Public Health

Start Date - End Date
October 2009 - August 2011



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