City Research Online

'I Just Stopped Going': A Mixed Methods Investigation Into Types of Therapy Dropout in Adolescents With Depression

O'Keeffe, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6713-2898, Martin, P., Target, M. & Midgley, N. (2019). 'I Just Stopped Going': A Mixed Methods Investigation Into Types of Therapy Dropout in Adolescents With Depression. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(FEB), article number 75. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00075


What does it mean to ‘drop out’ of therapy? Many definitions of ‘dropout’ have been proposed, but the most widely accepted is the client ending treatment without agreement of their therapist. However, this is in some ways an external criterion that does not take into account the client’s experience of therapy, or reasons for ending it prematurely. This study aimed to identify whether there were more meaningful categories of dropout than the existing dropout definition, and to test whether this refined categorization of dropout was associated with clinical outcomes. This mixed-methods study used a subset of data from the IMPACT trial, which investigated psychological therapies for adolescent depression. Adolescents were randomly allocated to a treatment arm (Brief Psychosocial Intervention; Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy; Short-Term Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy). The sample for this study comprised 99 adolescents, aged 11–17 years. Thirty-two were classified as having dropped out of treatment and participated in post-therapy qualitative interviews about their experiences of therapy. For 26 dropout cases, the therapist was also interviewed. Sixty-seven cases classified as having completed treatment were included to compare their outcomes to dropout cases. Interview data for dropout cases were analyzed using ideal type analysis. Three types of dropout were constructed: ‘dissatisfied’ dropout, ‘got-what-they-needed’ dropout, and ‘troubled’ dropout. ‘Dissatisfied’ dropouts reported stopping therapy because they did not find it helpful. ‘Got-what-they-needed’ dropouts reported stopping therapy because they felt they had benefitted from therapy. ‘Troubled’ dropouts reported stopping therapy because of a lack of stability in their lives. The findings indicate the importance of including the perspective of clients in definitions of drop out, as otherwise there is a risk that the heterogeneity of ‘dropout’ cases may mask more meaningful distinctions. Clinicians should be aware of the range of issues experienced by adolescents in treatment that lead to disengagement. Our typology of dropout may provide a framework for clinical decision-making in managing different types of disengagement from treatment.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2019 O’Keeffe, Martin, Target and Midgley. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: attrition, dropout, premature termination, psychotherapy, adolescents, depression, mixed-methods, ideal type analysis
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of I Just Stopped Going A Mixed Methods Investigation Into Types of Therapy Dropout in Adolescents With Depression.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

Download (690kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login