Patient Financial Distress and Treatment Outcomes in Naturalistic Psychotherapy

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Although psychotherapy is on the whole an effective health care practice, treatment efficacy for patients with varying levels of reported financial distress is less clear. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of patient self-reported financial distress on psychotherapy outcomes using a large, naturalistic psychotherapy dataset of college students who sought psychotherapy services (n = 5,078 patients, n = 238 therapists). Multilevel models accounted for the nesting of patients within therapists and treatment outcome was assessed using the Outcome Questionnaire-45. Patients on the whole showed treatment effects in the moderate to large range (d = 0.73). However, patients with higher financial distress at baseline were more likely to drop out of treatment after 1 session and, when controlling for baseline severity, had worse outcomes at the end of treatment. Though the effects were small, these findings held when controlling for age, gender, and treatment length. Further, the relationship between baseline financial distress and treatment retention (but not treatment outcome) varied between therapists, though the effects were also small. Patients’ financial distress specifically and social class more generally may be patient contributors to psychotherapy outcome (and therapist effects) that warrant further attention.

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