When Does Premature Treatment Termination Occur? Examining Session-by-Session Dropout Among Clients with Gambling Disorder


Premature termination challenges the successful outcomes of psychological treatments for gambling disorder. To date, research has primarily identified clients who are at particular risk for dropping out of treatment. A smaller but growing body of literature has investigated when dropout occurs. Typically, those studies have not considered improvement in psychological distress within their operationalizations of dropout and therefore may have misrepresented when dropout occurs. The current study examined when dropout occurs using an operationalization based on the criteria of attaining reliable change in a naturalistic sample of clients with gambling disorder, and the classification rates yielded from that operationalization were compared to the rates from a more common operationalization. Participants (n = 334) were clients meeting diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder at an outpatient private practice who completed a measure of psychological distress at baseline and prior to each subsequent treatment session. A survival analysis was conducted to determine temporal patterns of treatment dropout (i.e., clients who discontinued treatment before realizing reliable changes in psychological distress) and completion (i.e., clients who discontinued treatment after realizing reliable changes in distress) at each treatment session. Forty-nine percent of clients were classified as dropouts, and the majority of those clients did so in the first few sessions. The more common operationalization of dropout classified clients as dropouts when they had improved in their distress and clients as completers when they had not improved in their distress. Discussion centers on the implications of dropout occurring at various stages of treatment and future directions.

Publication Title

Journal of Gambling Studies