Predicting future courses of psychotherapy within a grouped LASSO framework

J. Ryan Kilcullen, Louis G. Castonguay, Rebecca A. Janis, Michael N. Hallquist, Jeffrey A. Hayes, Benjamin D. Locke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: There is a paucity of studies examining the experience of clients who undergo multiple courses of psychotherapy. Conducted within a large practice research network, this study demonstrated that returning therapy clients comprise a considerable portion of the clinical population in university counseling settings, and identified variables associated with return to therapy. Method: Utilizing data spanning 2013 to 2017, statistical variable selection for predicting return to therapy was conducted via grouped least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (grouped LASSO) applied to logistic regression. The grouped LASSO approach is described in detail to facilitate learning and replication. The paper also addresses methodological considerations related to this approach, such as sample size, generalizability, as well as general strengths and limitations. Results: Attendance rate, duration of initial treatment course, social anxiety, perceived social support, academic distress, and alcohol use were identified as predictive of return to therapy. Conclusions: Findings could help inform more cost-effective policies for session limits (e.g., extending session limits for clients with social anxiety), referral decisions (e.g., for clients with alcohol use problems), and appointment reminders (based on the association between poor attendance rate and return to therapy). Taking into account the many reasons that can explain why clients do or do not return to therapy, these findings also could inform clinicians’ early case conceptualizations and treatment interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-77
Number of pages15
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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