Open Access Research

Treatment length and outcomes among adolescents: a secondary data analysis

Katherine J Riley13*, Priya Srikanth2, Dongseok Choi1 and Dennis McCarty1

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

2 Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

3 Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, CB669, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, CB669, Portland, OR, 97239-30, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2012, 7:35  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-7-35

Published: 16 August 2012



Adaptations to evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs may impact their effectiveness. A qualitative study of MET/CBT-5 implementation in community agencies treating adolescents found that the majority of the agencies made adaptations and that the most frequent adaptation was to provide more than five treatment sessions.


Baseline and outcome data from SAMHSA’s Effective Adolescent Treatment demonstration were analyzed to assess associations between length of treatment, client characteristics, and outcomes at three months.


Adolescents who received more or less than the protocol length of 5 sessions were less likely to be discharged to the community than those who received the 5 session protocol. Those who received more than five sessions were more likely to have higher severity scores at intake but almost 50% of those with more than five sessions had low intake severity scores. Clients who received less than five sessions tended to have lower severity scores than clients who received more than five sessions.


Length of treatment tended to vary by site rather than severity of substance problems or frequency of use. There was no significant improvement of substance abuse problems or decrease in frequency of use with longer treatment. Implementation of the MET/CBT-5 component of the Cannabis Youth Treatment trial in the EAT project illustrates the difficulty of adherence to an evidence based protocol in the field.

Substance use; Adolescent treatment; Treatment length; MET/CBT-5; Evidence-based program implementation