Objective: To determine whether a problem-solving intervention would increase adherence to outpatient treatment for adolescents after a suicide attempt.
Method: Sixty-three adolescents who had attempted suicide and were evaluated in an emergency department between 1997 and 2000 were randomly assigned to undergo standard disposition planning or a compliance enhancement intervention using a problem-solving format. At 3 months after the intervention, all evaluable adolescents, guardians, and outpatient therapists were contacted to determine adherence to outpatient treatment.
Results: At 3-month follow-up, the compliance enhancement group attended an average of 7.7 sessions compared with 6.4 sessions for the standard disposition group, but this difference was not statistically significant. However, after covarying barriers to receiving services in the community (such as being placed on a waiting list and insurance coverage difficulties), the compliance enhancement group attended significantly more treatment sessions than the standard disposition-planning group (mean = 8.4 versus 5.8 sessions).
Conclusion: Interventions designed to improve treatment attendance must address not only individual and family factors but also service barriers encountered in the community that can impede access to services.