The Psychotherapy Practice Research Network (PPRNet) blog began in 2013 in response to psychotherapy clinicians, researchers, and educators who expressed interest in receiving regular information about current practice-oriented psychotherapy research. It offers a monthly summary of two or three published psychotherapy research articles. Each summary is authored by Dr. Tasca and highlights practice implications of selected articles. Past blogs are available in the archives. This content is only available in English.
…I blog about transtheoretical principles of change, microaggressions and outcomes, interpretations and outcomes.
Type of Research
- ALL Topics (clear)
- Alliance and Therapeutic Relationship
- Anxiety Disorders
- Attendance, Attrition, and Drop-Out
- Client Factors
- Client Preferences
- Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Combination Therapy
- Common Factors
- Depression and Depressive Symptoms
- Efficacy of Treatments
- Feedback and Progress Monitoring
- Group Psychotherapy
- Illness and Medical Comorbidities
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
- Long-term Outcomes
- Neuroscience and Brain
- Outcomes and Deterioration
- Personality Disorders
- Placebo Effect
- Practice-Based Research and Practice Research Networks
- Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT)
- Resistance and Reactance
- Self-Reflection and Awareness
- Suicide and Crisis Intervention
- Therapist Factors
- Transference and Countertransference
- Trauma and/or PTSD
- Treatment Length and Frequency
Premature Discontinuation in Adult Psychotherapy
Swift, J.K. & Greenberg, R.P. (2012). Premature discontinuation in adult psychotherapy: A meta analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80, 557-589.
Premature termination or drop out from psychotherapy has long been a significant problem for the practice of psychotherapy. Drop out can be variously defined as: not completing the course of treatment, unilateral termination on the patient’s part without therapist input, and not attending a specified number of sessions, among others. One of the largest meta analyses on the topic was done in 1993, and at that time the average drop out rate was 46.86%. This is a serious problem for a number of reasons. First, the average patient needs approximately 18 sessions to improve, and so early dropping out means that these patients do not benefit. Second, therapists can become demoralized at such drop out rates, and therapists who are not confident in their procedures are less likely to be effective. Third, the agency or practice loses important sources of funding or revenue. And fourth, society in general continues to manage the burden of a significant portion of its population not being at their best. The meta analysis by Swift and Greenberg (2012) is the largest of its kind, comprising 669 studies representing 83, 834 patients. The average drop out rate, largely defined as not completing treatment and unilateral termination without therapist input, was 19.79%. This appears to be a substantial drop from the previous 1993 number of 46.86%, but still represents one in five psychotherapy patients. Swift and Greenberg suggest that perhaps the more recent focus on evidence based treatments and short term treatments, and more systematic and consistent reporting of drop outs from studies may account for the lower numbers. No differences were found in drop out rates between treatment orientations (e.g., CBT vs others) and no differences in treatment format (e.g., individual vs group). Time-limited (20.7%) and manualized (18.3%) treatments tended to have lower drop out rates than non-time-limited (29%) and non-manualized (28.3%) treatments. Patients with eating disorders (29.3%) and personality disorders (25.6%) had the highest drop out rates. As did patients who were younger and less educated. Drop out rates in effectiveness studies (26%), that are more similar to everyday clinical practice, was higher than highly controlled randomized trials (17%). Trainee therapists (26.6%) tended to have higher drop out rates than experienced therapists (17.2%).
At least one in five clients are likely to drop out of psychotherapy. Clinicians should particularly work on retention with younger clients and those with a personality or eating disorder diagnosis. Extra efforts to prevent dropout should also be emphasized for trainees and in university-based clinic settings. A number of strategies for reducing premature discontinuation in therapy have been identified, including discussing expectations regarding therapy roles and behaviors, providing education about adequate treatment duration, addressing motivation, repairing alliance ruptures, using therapist feedback, addressing client preferences, providing time-limited interventions, and increasing perspective convergence in the psychotherapy dyad. A number of these are described in greater detail in the following blog entry.
Author email: Joshua.Keith.Swift@gmail.com
How to Reduce Premature Termination in Your Psychotherapy Practice
Swift, J.K., Greenberg, R.P., Whipple, J.L., & Kominiak, N. (2012). Practice recommendations for reducing premature termination in therapy. Professional Psychology, 43, 379-387.
As discussed in a previous blog entry, Swift and Greenberg (2012) found that almost 20% of adult individual therapy patients drop out of therapy. Dropping out is generally defined as clients unilaterally terminating psychotherapy prior to benefitting fully and against their therapist recommendation. In this paper, Swift and colleagues review five methods with the best research evidence to reduce premature termination. (1) Providing education about duration and course of therapy. Research indicates that 25% of clients expect to recover after only two sessions of therapy, 44% after four sessions, and 62% expect to recover after 8 sessions. However the research literature indicates that it takes 13 to 18 sessions for 50% of clients to recover. Further, although some clients improve quickly and maintain that, some clients may feel worse before they get better, especially if the symptoms are related to painful feelings or events. So aligning client expectations about the length of treatment and the course of treatment may reduce dropping out. This education should be research based to increase the credibility of the information. (2) Providing role induction. Clients who are naıve to therapy may start not knowing what behaviors or roles are most appropriate on their part and could feel lost or like they are doing things wrong. Role induction refers to providing clients with some pre-treatment education or orientation about appropriate therapy behaviors. This could be done by video, verbally, or in writing. A meta analysis found that pre-therapy role induction increases attendance and reduces drop outs. (3) Incorporating client preferences. Client preferences include wants or desires concerning the type of treatment that is to be used, the type of therapist one would like to work with, and the roles and behaviors that are to take place in therapy. A recent meta analysis found that clients who had their preferences accommodated were almost half as likely to drop out of treatment prematurely compared with clients whose preferences were not taken into account. (4) Strengthening early hope. Although it is important that clients do not hold unrealistic expectations (i.e., recovery after only two sessions), it is also important that they have a general hope that therapy can help them get better. Research evidence shows that expectations for change explain as much as 15% of the variance in therapy outcomes. (5) Fostering the therapeutic alliance. The therapeutic alliance involves agreeing on goals and tasks of therapy, and a positive bond between client and therapist. A rupture in the alliance has been associated with dropping out of therapy, and a previous meta analysis found that a stronger alliance was associated with fewer drop outs.
Therapists can do 5 things that are research supported to reduce patient drop outs. (1) Provide education about duration and course of therapy. Practicing clinicians can help their clients to develop realistic expectations about duration and recovery prior to the start of therapy. Clinicians working with a more severely disturbed population or working from an orientation that espouses longer treatment durations may want to alter the education they provide to better fit their clients. (2) Provide role induction. Clinicians can provide education about the “jobs” of both the client and the therapist, such as who is expected to do most of the talking and who will be responsible for structuring or directing sessions. This type of induction should also include a discussion of the rationale for the approach that will be used. (3) Incorporate client preferences. Accommodating client preferences does not mean the therapist should automatically use the client’s preferred methods. Often clients are unaware of what treatment options are available or best suited for their particular problems. Instead, therapists should consider sharing their knowledge about the particular disorder and the nature of different approaches to the treatment of those problems with clients. Clients can then share their preferences regarding those treatment options with the therapist and work collaboratively toward a decision about which approach might be best. (4) Strengthen early hope. Therapists should express confidence that the therapy will work for their patient. Knowing the research evidence on the efficacy of psychotherapy will increase the therapist’s credibility in making such statements. (5) Foster a therapeutic alliance. Efforts to foster the therapeutic alliance should occur early on in therapy when the risk of premature termination is high, and as also therapy progresses. Early efforts should focus on making sure there is an agreement on the goals and tasks before jumping to treatment interventions.
Author email: Joshua.Keith.Swift@gmail.com
Increasing Attendance in Psychotherapy
Oldham, M., Kellett, S., Miles, E., & Sheeran, P. (2012). Interventions to increase attendance at psychotherapy: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80, 928-939.
A great deal of clinical time can be wasted because of patient nonattendance at scheduled psychotherapy appointments. The financial costs of nonattendance are also high, and patients who need help but do not attend are not receiving help. Premature termination from psychotherapy is associated with poor outcomes. Previous reviews reported that premature termination rates in regular clinical practice ranged from 40% to 46.8%. Clearly this is a big problem for many psychotherapists and patients. Oldham and colleagues (2012) conducted a meta analysis of interventions to increase psychotherapy attendance. Their meta analysis included 33 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) representing 4422 patients. Interventions had a significant moderate effect on reducing premature termination and increasing attendance. Effective interventions included: giving patients a choice of appointment times, giving patients a choice of therapists, motivational enhancement interventions, preparing patients prior to psychotherapy on what to expect, attendance reminders, and providing information on how to make the best use of therapy. Participants with single diagnoses made better use of interventions than those with multiple diagnoses.
Psychotherapists can improve attendance in psychotherapy by providing patients with choice of appointment times and therapists, by taking the time to prepare patients prior to therapy for what to expect in treatment and how to best make use of therapy, using motivational interventions, and by providing appointment reminders.
Author email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org