Objective: Attrition is a common problem in youth trauma treatment, but there is currently little knowledge of why so many youths drop out. In this study, treatment variables (caregiver attendance in the first session and exposure vs. non-exposure-based treatment) and first-session process variables (the therapeutic alliance and youths’ perceptions of parental treatment approval) were investigated as predictors of dropout.
Method: Participants (N = 156, mean age = 15.1) were randomly assigned to trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy or therapy as usual in a community trial.
Results: Dropout (n = 39, 25.0%) was predicted by a lack of caregiver attendance, lower rates of youth-perceived parental treatment approval, and weaker therapist-rated youth alliance. Neither type of treatment, youth-rated alliance or caregiver alliance, predicted dropout.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that in addition to caregivers’ actual participation in the first session, youths’ perception of their parents’ approval of treatment seems to influence treatment attendance. This finding implies that therapists should engage caregivers in therapy and address possible discordance in treatment goals and tasks. Furthermore, consistent with adult studies, exposure-based treatments do not appear to increase dropout rates.
Keywords: attrition, trauma treatment, therapeutic alliance, youth perspectives, caregiver approval of treatment, caregiver participation,