Therapist Turnover and New Program Sustainability in Mental Health Clinics as a Function of Organizational Culture, Climate, and Service Structure

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The present study incorporates organizational theory and organizational characteristics in examining issues related to the successful implementation of mental health services. Following the theoretical foundations of socio-technical and cultural models of organizational effectiveness, organizational climate, culture, legal and service structures, and workforce characteristics are examined as correlates of therapist turnover and new program sustainability in a nationwide sample of mental health clinics. Results of General Linear Modeling (GLM) with the organization as the unit of analysis revealed that organizations with the best climates as measured by the Organizational Social Context (OSC) profiling system, had annual turnover rates (10%) that were less than half the rates found in organizations with the worst climates (22%). In addition, organizations with the best culture profiles sustained new treatment or service programs over twice as long (50 vs. 24 months) as organizations with the worst cultures. Finally, clinics with separate children’s services units had higher turnover rates than clinics that served adults and children within the same unit. The findings suggest that strategies to support the implementation of new mental health treatments and services should attend to organizational culture and climate, and to the compatibility of organizational service structures with the demand characteristics of treatments.

The Research Network on Youth Mental Health is a collaborative network funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Network Members at the time this work was performed included: John Weisz, Ph.D. (Network Director), Bruce Chorpita, Ph.D., Robert Gibbons, Ph.D., Charles Glisson, Ph.D., Evelyn Polk Green, M.A., Kimberly Hoagwood, Ph.D., Peter S. Jensen, M.D., Kelly Kelleher, M.D., John Landsverk, Ph.D., Stephen Mayberg, Ph.D., Jeanne Miranda, Ph.D., Lawrence Palinkas, Ph.D., Sonja Schoenwald, Ph.D.