Dropout and therapeutic alliance: A meta-analysis of adult individual psychotherapy

Jennie Sharf, Louis H. Primavera, Marc J. Diener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations

Abstract

This meta-analytic review of 11 studies examined the relationship between psychotherapy dropout and therapeutic alliance in adult individual psychotherapy. Results of the meta-analysis demonstrate a moderately strong relationship between psychotherapy dropout and therapeutic alliance (d = .55). Findings indicate that clients with weaker therapeutic alliance are more likely to drop out of psychotherapy. The meta-analysis included a total of 1,301 participants, with an average of 118 participants per study, a standard deviation of 115 participants, and a range from 20 to 451 participants per study. Exploratory analyses were conducted to determine the influence of variables moderating the relationship between alliance and dropout. Client educational history, treatment length, and treatment setting were found to moderate the relationship between alliance and dropout. Studies with a larger percentage of clients who completed high school or higher demonstrated weaker relationships between alliance and dropout. Studies with lengthier treatments demonstrated stronger relationships between alliance and dropout. Inpatient settings demonstrated significantly larger effects than both counseling centers and research clinics. No significant differences were found between client-rated, therapist-rated, and observer/staff-rated alliance. Recommendations for clinicians and researchers are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-645
Number of pages9
JournalPsychotherapy
Volume47
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Meta-analysis
  • Premature termination
  • Psychotherapy dropout
  • Therapeutic alliance
  • Working alliance

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