Objective: This study presents findings from a 1-year follow-up to a randomized clinical trial comparing multisystemic therapy (MST), modified for use with youths presenting psychiatric emergencies, with inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.
Method: One hundred fifty-six children and adolescents approved for emergency psychiatric hospitalization were randomly assigned to home-based MST or inpatient hospitalization followed by usual services. Assessments examining mental health symptoms, out-of-home placement, school attendance, and family relations were conducted at five times: within 24 hours of recruitment, shortly after the hospitalized youth was released from the hospital (1-2 weeks after recruitment), at the completion of MST (average of 4 months postrecruitment), and 10 and 16 months postrecruitment.
Results: Based on placement and youth-report measures, MST was initially more effective than emergency hospitalization and usual services at decreasing youths' symptoms and out-of-home placements and increasing school attendance and family structure, but these differences generally dissipated by 12 to 16 months postrecruitment. Hospitalization produced a rapid, but short-lived, decrease in externalizing symptoms based on caregiver reports.
Conclusion: Findings suggest that youths with serious emotional disturbance might benefit from continuous access to a continuum of evidence-based practices titrated to clinical need.