ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (7): 1187-1198.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.01187

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Dropout in psychotherapy

HE Jiao1, BAI Baoyu2(), XIA Mian3   

  1. 1Center for Psychological Health Education of College Students, Department of Student Affairs, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
    2Department of Psychology, School of Philosophy, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
    3School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
  • Received:2019-09-30 Online:2020-07-15 Published:2020-05-21
  • Contact: BAI Baoyu


Dropout in psychotherapy refers to the phenomenon of the client discontinuing psychotherapy prior to recovering from the problems or distress that led him or her to seek help. Although researchers have come to a consensus as to the connotation of dropout, there are a variety of operational definitions of dropout, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Dropout is a widespread problem in clinic practice. However, the dropout percentages, which are strongly influenced by operational definitions of dropout and types of study designs, vary widely across studies. There are limitations for the traditional static predictors of dropout, so researchers gradually place greater importance to the process-oriented predictors of dropout (e.g., therapeutic alliance), which provide a good deal of insight into dropout. In order to reduce dropout from therapy, researchers suggest clinicians offer proper pre-therapy preparation for clients, assess important variables throughout the course of therapy, and tailor strategies according to situation. Future research should improve the operational definitions of dropout and further research also should be conducted in natural treatment settings. At the same time, predictors should be explored thoroughly and more. And more attention should be paid to the effects of critical events outside therapy as well as the cultural background of clients.

Key words: dropout, dropout percentage, predictors, operational definition, psychotherapy

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