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

Sally O’Keeffe, Peter Martin, Ian M. Goodyer, Raphael Kelvin, Bernadka Dubicka, Nick Midgley, Ian M. Goodyer, Shirley Reynolds, Barbara Barrett, Sarah Byford, Bernadka Dubicka, Jonathan Hill, Fiona Holland, Raphael Kelvin, Nick Midgley, Chris Roberts, Rob Senior, Mary Target, Barry Widmer, Paul WilkinsonPeter Fonagy

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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.
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.
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.
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.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)983-992
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2019

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