Original Paper

Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 153-170

First online:

Who Stays in Treatment? Child and Family Predictors of Youth Client Retention in a Public Mental Health Agency

  • Lauren M. MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • , Michael A. Southam-GerowAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University Email author 
  • , Robert B. AllinJr.Affiliated withChesterfield County Community Mental Health Services

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The present study examined predictors of youth client retention in therapy in a large community-based sample. We used several conceptualizations of retention, including (a) “intake retention” (i.e., returned to treatment after intake session); (b) “mutual termination” (i.e., termination agreed upon by family and therapist), (c) “mean treatment duration” (i.e., completing the mean number of sessions in the agency), and (d) “total treatment duration” (i.e., total number of sessions). Archival data from over 400 children and adolescents who sought treatment at a large public mental health clinic were analyzed using regression analyses. Although different predictors were identified across the various conceptualizations, a few robust predictors emerged including ethnicity and client symptom severity. Clinical implications and future research directions are discussed.


Public mental health Child mental health Attrition