Reconstructing dropout: Building from multiple definitions, therapist effects, and center effects

Henry Xiao, Louis G. Castonguay, Jeffrey A. Hayes, Rebecca A. Janis, Benjamin D. Locke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The literature regarding dropout from psychotherapy has suffered from issues of diverse operationalization of the construct. Some have called for a more uniform definition to aid in generalization across research; this study aimed to assess the viability of such a definition by examining the rate of occurrence for three distinct definitions simultaneously. In addition, therapist and center level variances are explored to further understand the differences between definitions. Method: We compared the prevalence rates and overlap of three distinct operationalizations of dropout (based on last session attendance, therapist judgment, and symptom change) using data gathered from a national practice research network (N = 2977). Higher-order therapist and center-level effects were assessed for each definition. Results: There was very little overlap among definitions, with less than one percent of clients simultaneously meeting criteria for all three definitions. Additionally, therapist and center effects were found for each definition, especially notable for therapist-rated and last-session attendance definitions of dropout. Conclusion: Rather than a singular definition of dropout, these results instead suggest that multiple, specific, and unique definitions more accurately depict clinical reality, and future research might benefit from uncovering predictors of different “classes” of dropouts and examining the different practices of therapists and centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-157
Number of pages12
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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