Reducing Psychotropic Medications in an Intensive Residential Treatment Center

Jonathan C. Huefner, Annette K. Griffith, Gail L. Smith, Dennis G. Vollmer, Laurel K. Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Medication rates in behaviorally disordered children and youth have greatly increased to current high levels and are very controversial. This study examined changes in psychotropic medication use, levels of behavioral disturbance, and use of personal restraint and seclusion in a population of youth with serious behavioral disorders receiving medically directed cognitive-behavioral treatment in an intensive residential setting. The hypothesis was that there would be significant reductions in medication rates, without the unintended consequences of increased rates of problem behavior or offsetting increases in the use of seclusion or personal restraint. Results showed significant reductions in both the number of youth on medication and the average number of psychotropic medications during the residential stay. There were also significant reductions in behavioral disturbance, seclusions, and personal restraints. These results demonstrate that psychotropic medication can be significantly reduced without increases in problem behavior or the use of seclusions or personal restraints. We conclude that it is possible to significantly reduce psychotropic medication rates to far more conservative levels within the context of a clinically directed cognitive-behavioral treatment milieu.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-685
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Personal restraint
  • Psychotropic medication
  • Residential treatment
  • Seclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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