Previous mental health service utilization and change in clients' depressive symptoms

James F. Boswell, Andrew A. McAleavey, Louis G. Castonguay, Jeffrey A. Hayes, Benjamin D. Locke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Although a potentially important factor in case conceptualization and treatment planning, the impact of previous treatment on subsequent counseling response has received little empirical attention. Using archival data, this study aimed to (a) report the prevalence of previous treatment utilization in a counseling population, (b) examine potential differences in symptom severity by treatment history, and (c) test whether the rate of change in symptoms over a course of counseling is moderated by previous treatment utilization, when also accounting for initial severity. A sample of 1,262 college students presenting for treatment in university/college counseling centers across the United States provided information on previous treatment history and completed the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms, administered at intake and up to 4 additional time points, with an average of 3-5 weeks between assessments. Data from the 13-item Depression subscale were used for the present study. Half the clients reported previous counseling, one third psychotropic medication, and one tenth psychiatric hospitalization. Previous treatment was associated with increased baseline depressive symptom severity. Results from latent growth curve models showed that previous counseling and medication correlated with a slower rate of symptom response, and previous counseling reduced the probability of being labeled a treatment responder. Previous counseling remained a significant predictor of counseling response when controlling for baseline severity. Hypothesized mechanisms through which previous treatment experience impacts subsequent treatment response remain largely theoretical and should be the focus of future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-378
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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