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Prognostic Implications for Adolescents With Depression Who Drop Out of Psychological Treatment During a Randomized Controlled Trial

O'Keeffe, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6713-2898, Martin, P., Goodyer, I. M. , Kelvin, R., Dubicka, B., IMPACT Consortium & Midgley, N. (2019). Prognostic Implications for Adolescents With Depression Who Drop Out of Psychological Treatment During a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 58(10), pp. 983-992. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2018.11.019


OBJECTIVE: High therapy dropout rates among adolescents have been reported, but little is known about whether dropout is associated with poor outcomes. This study aimed to examine clinical outcomes in adolescents with depression who dropped out of psychological therapy and to determine whether this varied by treatment type.

METHOD: Data were drawn from the Improving Mood with Psychoanalytic and Cognitive Therapies (IMPACT) study, a randomized controlled trial, comparing a brief psychosocial intervention, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and short-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy in the treatment of adolescent major depression. The sample comprised 406 adolescents with a diagnosis of major depression, 169 of whom dropped out of treatment before the planned end of therapy. Primary outcome was self-report Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ); secondary outcomes were Health of the Nation Outcome Scale for Children and Adolescents, Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, Modified Leyton Obsessional Inventory, and clinical diagnosis.

RESULTS: During follow-up, there was a nonsignificant trend for dropouts to report higher depressive symptoms than completers. However, modeling showed insufficient evidence for an association between dropout and outcomes.

CONCLUSION: In contrast to studies of adult therapy, there was no strong evidence that adolescent patients who dropped out had poorer clinical outcomes compared with those who completed therapy, when dropout was defined as ending treatment without agreement of the therapist. This challenges us to understand why adolescents stop going to therapy, how dropout should be defined, and whether what is prescribed is what is always needed.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION INFORMATION: Improving Mood and Preventing Relapse With Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy;; 83033550.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: outcome, dropout, psychotherapy, depression, adolescence
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
SWORD Depositor:
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