Client-Therapist Convergence on Sleep Difficulty and its Impact on Treatment Outcomes

Natalie R. Pottschmidt, Louis G. Castonguay, Rebecca A. Janis, Dever M. Carney, J. Ryan Kilcullen, Katherine A. Davis, Brett E. Scofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: While agreement between clients and their clinicians on therapy goals has frequently been investigated as a process-level variable (i.e., working alliance), dyadic convergence on presenting concerns is also important for initial case formulation. Transdiagnostic presenting problems, like sleep difficulty, pose a particular challenge for client-therapist convergence. The current study describes sleep difficulty in a treatment-seeking college population and investigates the impact of client and therapist baseline sleep problem reports on therapy outcomes. Method: Data were collected through a large practice research network, with the sample comprising 47,023 clients from 99 university counseling centers across the United States. Results: A larger proportion of clients (49.3%) had self-reported high baseline sleep difficulty than those with a clinician-identified sleep concern (16.0%). Clients with baseline sleep difficulty were more likely to end treatment with greater self-reported sleep difficulty and psychological symptom distress, although they may experience larger gross symptom change than clients without baseline sleep difficulty. Clinician-identified sleep concerns were significantly associated with client outcomes, particularly when clients did not report baseline sleep difficulty themselves. Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest that it may be efficacious and efficient with limited time for treatment to address sleep concerns in a college setting. Clinical or methodological significance of this article: Clinicians’ attendance to their clients’ transdiagnostic presenting concerns, like sleep difficulty, may increase clients’ own awareness of problematic patterns of behavior. When time for therapy is short, as is often the case in college counseling, it may be efficient to prioritize these concerns with the potential to impact a broad range of symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-677
Number of pages15
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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