Controversy surrounding the effectiveness of adolescent residential treatment centers (RTCs) has existed for decades. Whereas a majority of adolescents seem to make significant emotional and behavioral improvements while in treatment, many adolescents are unable to maintain these treatment gains once discharged. In addition, RTC effectiveness has been hindered by difficulties regarding clinical placement and research processes. This literature review highlights these clinical and research problems so that steps can be made to improve long-term adolescent outcomes following RTC discharge. An examination of the long-term follow-up studies yielded both positive and negative results. Adolescents discharged from some RTCs were able to maintain their treatment gains whereas adolescents discharged from other RTCs were unable to successfully transition into the post-discharge environment. Two major themes emerged from these outcome studies which seemed to increase the likelihood of adolescent long-term success: family involvement in treatment and providing aftercare services. Implications on how to practically implement these factors are suggested as well as how to improve the clinical and research processes.
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