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Identifying Youth at Risk for Treatment Failure in Outpatient Community Mental Health Services


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We developed predicted change trajectories and a warning system designed to identify psychotherapy cases at risk for treatment failure as observed in archival Youth Outcome Questionnaire data (parent/guardian-report) from 363 children and adolescents (ages 4–17) served in an outpatient community mental health system. We used multilevel modeling procedures to develop models of predicted change based on demographic information. Controlling for the effects of age on intercept, no other variables were significant in the model. The warning system we created from half of the sample (n=181) correctly identified 71% of treatment failures in the other half of the sample (n=182), defined as cases whose symptoms were significantly higher at the end of treatment compared to symptoms at intake. As over half of youth cases in this usual care setting did not demonstrate reliable improvement in symptoms, these results further emphasize the value of patient-focused research in monitoring patient progress and prompting changes in the treatment approach if suitable progress is not observed.
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Identifying Youth at Risk for Treatment Failure in Outpatient
Community Mental Health Services
Jared S. Warren Æ Philip L. Nelson Æ
Gary M. Burlingame
Published online: 10 June 2009
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
Abstract We developed predicted change trajectories
and a warning system designed to identify psychotherapy
cases at risk for treatment failure as observed in archival
Youth Outcome Questionnaire data (parent/guardian-
report) from 363 children and adolescents (ages 4–17)
served in an outpatient community mental health system.
We used multilevel modeling procedures to develop
models of predicted change based on demographic infor-
mation. Controlling for the effects of age on intercept, no
other variables were significant in the model. The warning
system we created from half of the sample (n = 181)
correctly identified 71% of treatment failures in the other
half of the sample (n = 182), defined as cases whose
symptoms were significantly higher at the end of treatment
compared to symptoms at intake. As over half of youth
cases in this usual care setting did not demonstrate reliable
improvement in symptoms, these results further emphasize
the value of patient-focused research in monitoring patient
progress and prompting changes in the treatment approach
if suitable progress is not observed.
Keywords Treatment failure Change trajectories
Usual care Patient-focused research Child psychotherapy
Evidence-based practice in psychology (EBPP) has been
defined as the ‘integration of the best available research
with clinical expertise in the context of patient character-
istics, culture, and preferences’ (APA 2006, p. 273).
Evidence-based practice includes the regular monitoring of
patient outcomes such that treatment can be adjusted if
suitable progress is not observed (APA 2006; Institute of
Medicine 2006). Within this context, researchers have
developed methods to enhance clinical decision-making
and improve mental health outcomes in adults using a
‘patient-focused’’ research paradigm (Howard et al. 1996).
Common threads in the patient-focused paradigm include
regular and reliable monitoring of patient progress, pro-
viding feedback on progress to clinicians, and using
rationally-or empirically-derived algorithms to identify
patients who may be at risk for negative outcomes. With
regard to these prospects in child and adolescent psycho-
therapy, Kazdin (2005) noted that ‘‘such information would
be enormously helpful if used to monitor and evaluate
treatment in clinical practice’’ (p. 555); however, very little
research has evaluated the feasibility and utility of using a
patient-focused paradigm for monitoring child and ado-
lescent treatment progress and identifying cases that may
be at risk for negative outcomes. Our purpose with this
study was twofold: (1) to develop predicted change tra-
jectories for children and adolescents based on archival
outpatient data from a community mental health organi-
zation, and (2) to evaluate the accuracy of an empirically-
derived system for identifying cases that may be at risk for
treatment failure.
The patient-focused research paradigm is distinguished
from, but complementary to, paradigms of treatment effi-
cacy and effectiveness research. The focus of efficacy and
J. S. Warren (&) G. M. Burlingame
Department of Psychology and Clinical Psychology,
Brigham Young University, 291 John Taylor Building,
Provo, UT 84602-8626, USA
P. L. Nelson
Department of Counseling Psychology & Special Education,
Brigham Young University, 340 MCKB, Provo, UT 84602, USA
J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701
DOI 10.1007/s10826-009-9275-9
effectiveness research is on the average group response to
specific interventions; in patient-focused research, the
focus is on monitoring an individual’s progress over the
course of treatment (Howard et al. 1996). Patient-focused
research seeks to provide clinicians with valid methods for
systematically evaluating individual patient response dur-
ing the course of treatment. As such, the patient-focused
paradigm asks the question ‘Is this treatment currently
working for this particular individual?’
Howard et al. (1996) were among the first to document
the use of a patient-focused approach in their efforts to
identify adults who were making suitable progress in
treatment versus those believed to be at risk for negative
outcomes. Utilizing a model that included 18 pre-treatment
patient variables (e.g., symptom severity, chronicity of
problems, and attitude toward treatment), a predicted
change trajectory was created for each patient. As outcome
measures were administered periodically during treatment,
actual change was compared to predicted change for each
patient, allowing clinicians to judge whether the patient
was progressing at a suitable pace or was at risk for a
negative outcome. Subsequent variations and revisions
have sought to improve the predictive accuracy or clinical
utility of these procedures (Lueger et al. 2001; Lutz et al.
Similarly, Lambert and colleagues (e.g., Finch et al.
2001; Lambert et al. 2001) have developed a system for
monitoring patient progress using the Outcome Question-
naire-45 (OQ-45; Lambert et al. 2004). Patient symptoms
are measured on a session-by-session basis, and an early
warning system notifies therapists as early as the second
session if patients are judged to be at risk for a negative
outcome. ‘Clinical support tools’ have been developed in
conjunction with this system to aid clinicians in examining
and adjusting their approach to treatment, thus reducing the
likelihood of a negative treatment outcome. The combi-
nation of early identification of at risk cases, feedback on
patient progress to clinicians, and clinical support tools for
adjusting treatment when necessary has resulted in
improved outcomes and fewer numbers of patients who
deteriorate (Harmon et al. 2007; Hawkins et al. 2004;
Lambert et al. 2001, 2002b; Whipple et al. 2003).
With its focus on individual outcomes, patient-focused
research offers new opportunities to study adverse effects in
psychotherapy. Such study has received relatively little
attention in the literature; however, this area has begun to
receive increased interest in the contexts of managed care
and evidence-based practice (Lilienfeld 2007). Psychother-
apy research suggests that 5–10% of adult psychotherapy
clients can be classified as experiencing deterioration or
treatment failure—leaving treatment significantly worse off
than when they entered (Lambert and Bergin 1994; Mohr
1995). Similar estimates of deterioration have been found
for child and adolescent populations in managed care set-
tings (Bishop et al. 2005; Bybee et al. 2007), and rates may
be even higher for children and adolescents in traditional
community mental health settings (Weisz et al. 1995). In a
related vein, Lilienfeld (2007) asserted that greater emphasis
should be placed on research identifying potentially harmful
treatments than on identifying empiricallysupported thera-
pies. He also cited work by Lambert and colleagues on
routine patient outcome monitoring and providing feed-
back to clinicians as a potential antidote against potentially
harmful treatments. Furthermore, increased attention to
deterioration in treatment may be warranted given the high
rates of treatment dropout observed in clinical practice. It is
estimated that 40–60% of children and adolescents discon-
tinue treatment prematurely (Kazdin
1996; Wierzbicki and
Pekarik 1993); many of these dropouts are likely due to
perceived lack of benefit from treatment.
The need for systematic methods for monitoring patient
progress and identifying cases at risk for treatment failure
is underscored by the fact that therapists are not adept at
predicting such cases (Breslin et al. 1997; Grove and Meehl
1996). For example, Hannan et al. (2005) compared the
accuracy of therapists’ predictions of patient outcome (e.g.,
positive outcome, no reliable change, deterioration) to
predictions based on empirically-derived recovery curves
and algorithms developed from large archival databases of
patient outcomes. Therapists (N = 48) were informed that
the base rate of deterioration at their clinic had remained
relatively stable at 8% over the preceding years; however,
the therapists predicted that only 3 out of the 550 patients
in the study (.01%) would end treatment with a negative
outcome. Only one of those cases predicted by therapists to
deteriorate actually finished treatment with a negative
outcome, yet outcome data revealed that a total of 40
patients (7.3%) deteriorated. In contrast, the empirically-
derived algorithms developed by the authors accurately
identified—by the third session—86% of cases that ulti-
mately ended treatment with a negative outcome. These
results suggest that therapists tend to be optimistic about
expected patient outcomes, that therapists have difficulty
identifying patients that are likely to deteriorate in therapy,
and that empirically-derived methods for early identifica-
tion of deteriorating cases can be quite accurate.
Patient-focused research to prevent negative outcomes
has been applied almost exclusively with adults. However,
Kazdin (2005) has emphasized the potential value of patient-
focused practices in child and adolescent psychotherapy.
Two studies with child and adolescent samples suggest that
promising results may also be expected with younger
patients. Bishop et al. (2005) tested the accuracy of rationally-
derived algorithms—those based on expert opinion and
outcome measure characteristics—for identifying potential
treatment failures in a sample of 300 residential and
J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701 691
outpatient clients ages 3–18. Overall, this rationally-derived
method was successful in identifying 77% of child/adoles-
cent patients who had deteriorated by the end of treatment.
However, prediction accuracy was significantly higher for
residential than for outpatient clients. In addition, adult
research suggests that empirically-derived algorithms for
predicting treatment failure tend to be more accurate than
those that use rationally-derived methods (Lambert et al.
2002a; Spielmans et al. 2006). Both approaches use outcome
measures in the same way to identify individuals at risk for
negative outcomes, but differ in the methods used for
establishing criteria for identifying such individuals. More
specifically, the rationally-derived algorithms used by
Bishop et al. (2005) were established through consensus
opinion of several experienced clinicians and researchers
regarding the progress expected of most clients at a given
point in therapy. Empirically-derived methods use actual
data on average client symptom change in establishing the
cutoffs for at risk clients.
Utilizing empirically-derived change trajectories based
on multilevel modeling (MLM), Bybee et al. (2007) tested
the accuracy of a similar warning system using a large
archival database of children and adolescents served in a
managed care setting. In this study, the warning system
accurately identified 72% of youth patients who ultimately
ended treatment with a negative outcome. However, a
significant limitation of the study was that youth self-report
and parent/guardian-report outcome measures were com-
bined in the analyses. In addition, the limited data available
did not allow for testing potentially important variables in
the change trajectory models such as age, diagnosis, and
other patient and treatment characteristics.
Although the Bishop et al. (2005) and Bybee et al. (2007)
studies represent a significant step forward in applying
patient-focused research to children and adolescents, pro-
gress lags far behind that observed in adult treatment
settings. In addition to the need for empirically-derived
change trajectories and algorithms that consider poten-
tially important patient and treatment variables, the patient-
focused research paradigm could be particularly useful if
applied to public community mental systems in which
millions of youth are served each year (National Advisory
Mental Health Council 2001; Ringel and Sturm 2001). Such
applications may help reduce high dropout rates and
improve the modest outcomes often observed in ‘real-
world’’ settings (Weisz et al. 1995). These efforts may also
help bridge the oft-lamented gap between youth psycho-
therapy research and actual clinical practice by facilitating
the use of evidence-based, patient-focused procedures that
are both empirically supported and clinically practical.
In response to these issues, our purpose with the present
study was to develop a system to aid clinicians in identi-
fying cases that may benefit from modified treatment to
avoid premature termination and/or treatment failure. In
two phases, we examined scores on the Youth Outcome
Questionnaire obtained from the archives of an outpatient
community mental health system. In phase 1, we attempted
to create a model that would predict scores over time and
identify related predictor variables. In phase 2, we tested
the accuracy of an early warning system for identifying
cases at risk for treatment failure. In this process, we used
half the selected sample to establish cutoff scores intended
to signal at risk cases. We then used the second half of the
sample to evaluate correspondence between the cutoffs’
outcome predictions and the actual outcomes observed in
the archive.
Participants and Procedure
We analyzed data selected from the archives (years 1997–
2008) of an outpatient public community mental health
system located in the Intermountain West of the United
States. This community system covers approximately
1.5 million lives, with clientele typically of average to
low socio–economic status. The psychotherapy services
provided in this setting included individual and family
psychotherapy, psychosocial skill-building groups, and
medication management visits. Although a broad range of
therapeutic approaches were used, therapists reportedly
employed family therapy and cognitive strategies more
frequently than psychodynamic or behavioral techniques.
Outcome data were collected at this institution as part of
routine services. Parents or guardians completed the Youth
Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ; described below) at check-
in when presenting their children for outpatient treatment,
typically requiring less than 10 min to complete. At intake,
parents or guardians completed a form requesting basic
demographics, some of which were later used in this study
(e.g., sex and date of birth). We selected our data sample
from an original Y-OQ archive having complete data for
1,782 cases with at least one treatment session. These cases
had missing values for less than 10% of the Y-OQ’s 64
items. In instances of missing values, we substituted values
calculated using item-specific regression models. We lim-
ited our sample to cases within the appropriate Y-OQ age
range of 4–17, which was 99% of the archive. Selecting
cases with at least three measurement occasions further
reduced our sample to 22% of the original archive.
Selecting cases not having extremely long treatment epi-
sodes (i.e., below the 90th percentile: 83 weeks or fewer)
further reduced our sample to 20%. For each case, we
selected only the first treatment episode meeting inclusion
criteria, with episodes delimited by 90? day breaks in
692 J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701
treatment or by changes in treatment setting (e.g., outpa-
tient to day treatment).
Table 1 presents descriptive statistics for our selected
sample of 363 cases and their 115 therapists providing ser-
vices. Of these cases, the mean age was 10.8 years old, 38%
were female, 62% were male, 51.8% were receiving Med-
icaid, and 31.1% were minorities. Unfortunately, the data
archive was limited in specifying each minority group, but
the largest group was Hispanic. The median treatment length
was 14 sessions (33.3 weeks), with a Y-OQ outcome mea-
surement at every 3.8 sessions on average (median). Primary
diagnoses for these cases are listed in Table 1.
According to t tests and v
tests, our selected sample
differed significantly from the original archive with a lower
mean age (11.5 vs. 12.4), a higher baseline Y-OQ score
(86.4 vs. 82.2), a lower percentage of cases with reported
alcohol and drug usage (9% vs. 15%), a higher percentage
of cases receiving medication treatment (72% vs. 53%), a
lower percentage of cases on Medicaid (52% vs. 58%), and
a higher percentage of severely emotionally disturbed cases
(94% vs. 87%; SED status was rated by the clinician and
defined as emotional and mental disturbance that severely
limits the individual’s development and welfare). The
sample did not differ significantly from the archive in
percentages of females, minorities, or cases with previous
In phase 1 of the study, we used the total sample of 363
cases to create a model that would predict scores over time
and identify related predictor variables. In phase 2, we
tested the accuracy of an early warning system for identi-
fying cases at risk for treatment failure. In this process, we
used half the selected sample (n = 181) to establish cutoff
scores intended to signal at risk cases. We then used the
second half of the sample (n = 182) to evaluate corre-
spondence between the cutoffs’ outcome predictions and
the actual outcomes observed in the archive. We created
these two subsamples by random assignment. Usage of two
separate subsamples was an attempt to avoid inflated esti-
mates that could result from predictions being created from
and tested on a single sample. To control for any potential
bias due to random assignment of the two samples, we
repeated the random assignment and analysis 10 times and
reported the mean results for our analyses of the warning
system’s prediction accuracy.
The Youth Outcome Questionnaire-2.01 (Y-OQ; Burlingame
et al. 2001, 2004, 2005) is a parent- or guardian-completed
questionnaire requiring 8–10 min for completion. In con-
trast to other commonly used child behavior question-
naires, the Y-OQ was specifically designed to be sensitive
Table 1 Descriptive statistics for selected sample
M SD Mdn Range n %
n Y-OQs per case 3.9 1.3 3.0 3–11 Female 138 38
Weeks between Y-OQs 9.5 4.7 8.7 .3–26.5 Previous treatment 122 34
Sessions between Y-OQs 4.5 3.2 3.8 .3–19.3 Hispanic 37 10.2
Treatment episode number 1.9 2.0 1.0 1–24 Minority (includes Hispanic) 113 31.1
Treatment episode length (weeks) 36.4 18.9 33.3 .9–80.1 Medicaid 188 51.8
Treatment episode length (sessions) 17.7 15.2 14.0 1–104 Alcohol and drug use 33 9.1
Age 10.8 3.5 10.4 4.2–17.8 Cases on medications 260 71.6
SED 341 93.9
Primary diagnoses
n % Therapists n %
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders 98 27.0 Social workers 81 70.4
Mood disorders 74 20.4 Psychologists 12 10.4
Adjustment disorders 33 9.1 Licensed professional counselors 9 7.8
Posttraumatic stress disorder 30 8.3 Psychiatrists 4 3.5
Oppositional defiant disorder 28 7.7 Marriage and family therapists 2 1.8
Substance abuse/dependence 27 7.5 Other/unknown 7 6.1
Abuse/neglect of child 22 6.1
Anxiety-related disorders 15 4.1
Conduct disorders 11 3.0
Autistic disorders 8 2.2
Other/unknown 17 4.6
88% of cases had multiple diagnoses
J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701 693
to changes in symptom levels over the course of treatment,
as opposed to classifying or categorizing child psychopa-
thology. Its 64 items use 5-point Likert-type scaling with
scores ranging from 0 to 4 (e.g., ‘My child is more fearful
than other children of the same age.’’). Higher scores
indicate greater distress. Eight of these items are scored in
reverse to tap ‘healthy’ behaviors and are weighted dif-
ferently, with scores ranging from 2 to -2 (e.g., ‘My child
cooperates with rules and expectations’’). Different weights
for adaptive behavior items are used because for this
measure of psychosocial distress, endorsement of behav-
ioral dysfunction is given slightly more emphasis than the
absence of adaptive behavior.
The measure uses summative scoring and total scores
may range from -16 to 240. Scores higher than the
established clinical cut score of 46 are considered in the
clinical range for level of distress (Burlingame et al. 2005).
Although the current study used only Y-OQ total scores,
the Y-OQ’s items also form six subscales corresponding to
behavioral domains useful in identifying youth with
behavioral problems: (a) Intrapersonal Distress, (b)
Somatic, (c) Interpersonal Relations, (d) Critical Items, (e)
Social Problems, and (f) Behavioral Dysfunction.
The Y-OQ has a four-week test–retest reliability of .83
and an internal consistency reliability of .97. The concurrent
validity of the Y-OQ with the Child Behavior Checklist
(CBCL; Achenbach 1991) and the Conners’ Parent Rating
Scale (CPRS; Conners et al. 1998) ranges from the .80s to
the low .90s. The Y-OQ is effective at distinguishing
between clinical and non-clinical samples and it has been
widely accepted for tracking treatment outcome and
assessing psychosocial distress (Burlingame et al. 2004).
Phase 1: Change Trajectory Model
We used MLM to create a model of Y-OQ scores over time
and to identify any predictor variables for these change
trajectories (LMER procedure, R software, version 2.7.2;
Singer and Willett 2003). MLM is a form of regression that
can be used to predict a subject’s score at any particular
time (dependent variable) using a number of independent
variables, including a time variable (e.g., weeks in treat-
ment). MLM estimates the starting point (i.e., intercept)
and rate of change during treatment (i.e., slope) for each
participant. Additionally, we estimated random effects that
allow us to estimate the extent to which the intercepts and
slopes varied across participants and therapists. Given that
some participants received services from different thera-
pists on different occasions, the LMER procedure of R
software calculated these random effects while permitting
cross-nesting of cases within therapists.
We used weeks in treatment as the basis for our time
variable because of precedents in the child treatment lit-
erature failing to demonstrate a significant dose-response
relationship for sessions attended and treatment outcome
(Andrade et al. 2000; Bickman et al. 2002; Salzer et al.
1999). We theorized a curvilinear trajectory in which cli-
ents’ rate of symptom level reduction (i.e., slope) is most
rapid initially and tapers off over time. Similar to prece-
dents in the literature (e.g., Finch et al. 2001; Lambert et al.
2002a; Spielmans et al. 2006), we modeled this trajectory
shape using a logarithmic transformation of weeks in
treatment (i.e., LNWEEKS = log
[weeks ? 1]). Compared
to other transformations, including polynomial functions
and no transformation at all, this transformation also yielded
superior model fit to our data (using indices such as the
Deviance statistic and the Bayesian Information Criterion;
for information regarding variable transformation, see
Singer and Willett 2003, sections 6.2–6.3).
Our hypothesized model (Model A) predicted Y-OQ
total scores using the log of weeks as a main effect. The
model also included the following predictor variables we
hypothesized as likely associated with the change trajec-
tory: prior treatment recorded in data archive (1 = yes,
0 = no), total dose of treatment recorded in data archive
(i.e., total number of sessions; Baldwin et al. in press), age
(continuous variable calculated at the time of each mea-
surement; e.g., session 1 age = 12.32 years, session 4
age = 12.46 years), and sex (1 = female, 0 = male). We
did not test a diagnosis variable in the model because of
potential diagnostic inaccuracies that likely would have
limited its usefulness (Jensen and Weisz 2002) and because
other research has indicated that diagnosis contributes little
to predicting speed of recovery once initial symptom level
is taken into account (Brown et al. 2005).
The model evaluated main effects for our hypothesized
variables in order to assess their association with trajectory
intercept. The model also evaluated these variables in
interaction with the log of weeks in order to assess their
association with trajectory slope. To facilitate interpreta-
tion and reduce multicollinearity, we centered all covari-
ates around their grand means (e.g.,age
age). We used
stepwise deletion of predictor variables from this hypoth-
esized model to create a final change trajectory model
omitting any non-significant parameters (Model B; con-
firmed by stepwise addition).
Phase 2: Warning System
We created the warning system to predict which cases
would experience negative outcome and be part of the
deterioration outcome class. We determined the deteriora-
tion class and other outcome classes by calculating overall
change scores for each client (i.e., difference between first
694 J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701
and last Y-OQ scores), then comparing these change scores
with the Y-OQ’s reliable change index of 13 (RCI; Jacobson
and Truax 1991). The RCI is an index of the minimum
change in scores that is still distinguishable from measure-
ment error.
The outcome classes were deterioration if the final score
was at least 13 points worse than baseline, no reliable
change if the final score differed from baseline by less than
13 points, improvement if the final score was at least 13
points better than baseline, or recovery if meeting criteria
for improvement and the final score was in the subclinical
range (i.e., less than 46). Cases whose scores worsened by
13 points or more and remained subclinical at treatment
termination fell in a subclinical form of the deterioration
outcome class. As described below, deterioration rates—the
percentages of cases deteriorating—played a role in creat-
ing the prediction intervals and cutoffs that the warning
system used to identify cases at risk for negative outcome.
The warning system we tested in this study used cutoff
scores at each measurement occasion to identify at risk
cases (Bybee et al. 2007; Cannon et al. 2009; Finch et al.
2001). To understand the concept of these cutoffs, imagine
a sample consisting of cases with similar baseline scores.
Given a hypothetical deterioration rate of 10% for the
sample, final scores above the 90th percentile (i.e., final
scores in the most extreme 10%) would belong to cases in
the deterioration outcome class. Consider the rationale that
the percentile rank of each case’s final score would likely
be similar to the percentile rank of any earlier score from
each case. If the rationale holds, cutoffs set at the 90th
percentile of scores at each session could identify cases
heading for a final outcome of deterioration. Cases whose
scores exceed such warning system cutoffs at any session
would be in the most extreme 10% and would be more
likely than other cases to be in the 10% of the sample that
comprises the deterioration outcome class.
We created such warning system cutoffs using the refer-
ence sample (n = 181, subsample 1), then tested how
accurately the cutoffs predicted deterioration in the valida-
tion sample (subsample 2). We used two steps to create these
cutoffs from the reference sample. First, we created a mul-
tilevel model (Model C) of predicted Y-OQ total scores over
time using only main effects for the log of weeks and initial
score (the latter centered around its mean). We explain why
we used only these two main effects after describing the
second step in creating the warning system cutoffs.
In our second step for creating cutoffs, we created pre-
diction intervals (i.e., t type confidence intervals) around
these predicted scores. We set the confidence level of each
prediction interval to correspond to the deterioration rate
calculated for the overall sample. For example, had the
deterioration rate been 10%, we would have used an 80%
confidence level—the interval encompasses 80% of scores at
any point in treatment—which would distinguish the highest
and lowest 10% of cases above and below the interval,
respectively. Thus the upper boundary of the interval pro-
vides the warning system cutoffs that identify cases exhib-
iting the most extreme symptomatology and who are likely at
risk for deterioration. We did not include cases from the
subclinical deterioration outcome class in our calculations of
the deterioration rates that helped us determine these cutoffs.
Ultimately, these interval boundaries or cutoffs for deterio-
ration could be displayed in a single reference chart, enabling
clinicians to identify predicted final outcome given their
client’s current score and number of weeks in treatment.
Our purpose in including only main effects for log of
weeks and baseline score in the model for predicted scores
was to ensure that the prediction intervals—and warning
system cutoffs—created around these predicted scores
would not vary by the values of any variable other than
cases’ baseline scores. This ensured that cutoffs adjusted
up and down according to cases’ baseline scores, but still
corresponded to the deterioration rate from the overall
sample, the only rate we could calculate with reliability
without a larger sample. Unfortunately, we did not have a
sufficiently large data set to calculate deterioration rates for
various demographic subsamples and create associated
cutoffs by including related predictors in the model.
With warning system cutoffs created using the reference
sample, we next calculated the accuracy of the warning sys-
tem’s cutoffs in predicting outcomes in the validation sample.
We based these calculations on the comparison of predicted
outcomes with observed outcomes. Scores from the valida-
tion sample that exceeded the cutoffs on any measurement
occasion other than the first or last signaled cases as predicted
to have final outcomes of deterioration. We did not use first or
last measurements to predict deterioration in the interest of
methodological rigor, because those same measurements
produced the criterion for actual deterioration (deteriora-
tion = final score 13? points worse than baseline score). We
identified the number of true positives (TPs; i.e., deterioration
prediction was accurate), false positives (FPs), true negatives
(TNs), and false negatives (FNs), ultimately calculating
indices such as the sensitivity (percentage of actual deterio-
rators correctly predicted) and specificity (percentage of
actual non-deteriorators correctly predicted).
Phase 1: Change Trajectory Model
In phase 1 of this study we used MLM to create a model of
Y-OQ scores over time and to identify any predictor
variables for these change trajectories. Not all of our pre-
dictor variables were significant in our hypothesized model
J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701 695
(see Table 2, Model A). We used stepwise deletion of non-
significant parameters to arrive at our final model, shown in
Table 2 as Model B. We also confirmed this model using a
stepwise addition approach. The estimates for this model
indicate that the average trajectory intercept was 85.8. The
average rate of change was an improvement of 2.8 points for
every unit increase in the log of weeks. This represents the
improvement in scores after the first 1.7 weeks in treatment
(where LNWEEKS = 1, weeks = 1.7), given the log trans-
formation equation LNWEEKS = log
(weeks ? 1). Note
that improvements of this size require increasingly longer
periods of time as treatment progresses (e.g., where
LNWEEKS = 2, weeks = 6.4, where LNWEEKS = 3,
weeks = 19.1), as is expected with the curvilinear trajectory.
The fixed effects for intercept and slope in Model B (see
Table 2) exhibited a correlation of -.506, suggesting that
higher intercepts (i.e., more severe initial symptom levels)
were associated with steeper slopes (i.e., faster rates of
improvement). The only additional predictor that was sig-
nificant in this model was the main effect for age. For every
year that clients were older than the mean age, their tra-
jectory intercept was an average of 1.1 points lower. The
predictor variable for prior treatment, as a main effect and
in interaction with LNWEEKS, was on the border between
significance and non-significance in both Model A and B.
The main effect was only significant when the interaction
was also included, yet had we included the interaction in
Model B, it would have had a p value of .0505. In addition,
Table 2 Change trajectory models
Model A (with all covariates) Model B (with significant
covariates only)
Model C (For warning system
prediction interval)
Estimate SE Estimate SE Estimate SE
Fixed effects
85.642* 2.038 85.762* 2.039 86.203* .990
Prior treatment 9.356* 4.360
Total sessions .152 .134
Age -1.414* .567 -1.105* .490
Female -2.304 4.145
Baseline .867* .022
Slope (interaction with LNWEEKS)
-2.737* .518 -2.751* .509 -2.938* .587
Prior treatment -2.183 1.122
Total sessions -.009 .031
Age .130 .147
Female -1.192 1.050
Random effects Estimate SD Estimate SD Estimate SD
Intercept 924.82* 30.41 940.57* 30.67 \.00 \.00
Slope (LNWEEKS) correlation 17.70* 4.21 17.49* 4.18 71.03* 8.43
Intercept 9 LNWEEKS -.10 -.12 .00
Residual 538.82* 23.21 540.12* 23.24 381.51* 19.53
Goodness of fit Estimate Estimate Estimate
13,701 13,713 13,053
Akaike information criterion
13,722 13,723 13,071
Bayesian information criterion
13,796 13,760 13,108
Estimates for the Intercept parameter reflect the mean intercept and slope overall because all variables are centered around their grand mean.
Estimates for all other parameters are merely deviations from the intercept constant
* p \ .05
696 J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701
inclusion of these two extra parameters would only have
lowered the Deviance statistic by 6.4 points. This differ-
ence of 6.4 points can be tested on a v
distribution at 2
degrees of freedom (equal to number of parameters dif-
fering between the nested models), yielding a p value of
.0408. Although we opted for parsimony by omitting the
predictor for prior treatment from Model B, future studies
may do well to examine it further.
There is still variability that remains unexplained by
Model B, as indicated by the random effects estimates that
remain statistically significant. The Intercept and Slope
estimates indicate the between-persons variability in
intercept and slope. The Residual estimate indicates the
within-person variability. The random effects estimates for
variability between therapists were not statistically signif-
icant in any model in Table 2, indicating that the variability
attributable to therapists was not significantly different
from zero. Thus we omitted random effects for therapists
from all models in the table. This non-significance may be
due, at least in part, to the cross-nesting of cases within
therapists. Regarding the goodness of fit estimates listed in
Table 2, values closer to zero indicate better fit. Singer and
Willett (2003) offer further information about how such
estimates play into model estimation.
Phase 2: Warning System
In phase 2 of this study we evaluated the accuracy of a
warning system’s cutoffs in identifying cases at risk for
deterioration. We first identified RCI-based outcome clas-
ses of 21.2% deterioration, 30.0% no reliable change,
30.0% improvement, 17.7% recovery, and 1.1% subclinical
deterioration. We next used the reference sample to cal-
culate predicted scores over time using MLM. Model C of
Table 2 presents estimates for this model. We then created
a prediction interval around these predicted scores, the
interval having a 57.6% confidence level such that the
interval’s upper boundary would identify a percentage of
cases equal to the deterioration rate of 21.2%. This
boundary then served as the warning system’s cutoffs for
identifying cases at risk for deterioration. Figure 1 offers a
visual representation of the average predicted scores and
the associated cutoffs for an example case having the mean
baseline score of 86. This information could also be dis-
played in a table for clinicians to reference. The cutoffs
increase over time, which appears to be a statistical artifact
of increasing variability in scores as treatment progresses.
Having created the warning system cutoffs from the
reference sample, we next evaluated their accuracy in
identifying deteriorators in the validation sample. Table 3
presents the warning system’s deterioration predictions in
comparison with the actual or observed outcomes. The
system correctly identified 71% of the actual deteriorators
(sensitivity). The system correctly identified 76% of the
non-deteriorators (specificity). The system was correct
75% of the time in its overall classifications of deteriora-
tion/non-deterioration (hit rate). Cases signaled for deteri-
oration by the system were 3.02 times more likely to end in
deterioration than not (likelihood ratio). Of the cases that
the system incorrectly predicted to deteriorate, 48% ended
in the no reliable change outcome class.
Table 3 Warning system accuracy in predicting deterioration
Predicted Actual
Deterioration Non-deterioration
Sensitivity .71 Deterioration TP FP
Specificity .76 28 15% 34 19%
Hit rate .75 Non-deterioration FN TN
Likelihood ratio 3.02 12 7% 108 59%
FP non-improvers 48%
TP true positives, FP false positives, TN true negatives, FN false negatives, FP non-improvers percentages of false positives that showed no
reliable change
Fig. 1 Predicted scores and cutoffs for an individual with the mean
baseline score of 86
J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701 697
In phase 1 of this study we created a model for predicted
Y-OQ scores over time. Age was the only significant pre-
dictor variable, with older clients exhibiting slightly lower
trajectory intercepts. Prior treatment was nearly significant
as a predictor variable, suggesting that future studies may
find it to be associated with higher intercepts and steeper
rates of change. In phase 2 of this study we developed a
reasonably accurate warning system for identifying youth
psychotherapy patients at risk for treatment failure. We
developed the warning system using empirically-derived
change trajectories and prediction algorithms based on a
patient’s deviation from expected progress at a given
treatment session. The 71% sensitivity in identifying
eventual treatment failures is considerably higher than
estimates of therapists’ accuracy in predicting such cases
(e.g., 2.5% in a study by Hannan et al. 2005), and
emphasizes the potential value of using this type of
warning system to enhance clinical decision-making
(Grove and Meehl 1996).
The overall hit rate of the warning system in this study
(i.e., 75% accuracy in overall classifications of deteriora-
tion/non-deterioration) was nearly as high as rates in similar
adult and youth studies. For example, in their study of adults,
Lambert et al. (2002a) reported hit rates of 79 and 83% for
rationally-derived and empirically-derived approaches,
respectively. In child and adolescent populations, Bishop
et al. (2005) reported an overall hit rate of 81% using a
rationally-derived approach, and Bybee et al. (2007) repor-
ted a hit rate of 88% using empirically-derived methods.
This study also appears consistent with previous child/ado-
lescent studies in its sensitivity for accurately identifying
treatment failures (71% in the present study compared to 77
and 72% in the Bishop et al. and Bybee et al. studies).
The current study may be conservative in its report of
the warning system’s prediction accuracy. Given that we
determined actual deterioration/non-deterioration by com-
paring scores from the first and last measurements, we
calculated the system’s accuracy in the validation sample
using alert signals produced on measurement occasions
other than the first or last. Our purpose was to avoid using
the same measurements to produce both the criterion and
the prediction. However, clinicians using the warning
system would often be unaware of which measurement
occasions would be the last, and could also benefit from
signal alerts occurring on the final measurement occasions.
Used in such a manner, and given that some cases would
produce their first signal alert on their final measurement
occasions, the system would generally demonstrate a
higher accuracy than reported in this study.
Although the warning system demonstrated an accept-
able level of sensitivity, it is helpful to examine the cases
whose outcomes the system predicted incorrectly. Of the
system’s predictions in the validation sample, 7% were
false negatives—patients predicted not to deteriorate but
who did (29% of deteriorating cases). It is regrettable that
the warning system would fail to identify any case at risk
for treatment failure and hopefully continued research in
this area will improve on the system we tested in this study.
The system’s other incorrect predictions were the false
positives comprising 19% of the validation sample—
patients predicted to deteriorate but who did not. In the
field of medicine, false positives from an analogous
warning system could be potentially costly and dangerous
to the patient (e.g., prompting unnecessary and invasive
medical tests or treatments). Fortunately, such risks are less
likely in psychotherapy. By definition, patients identified
by the warning system are not making expected progress—
relative to other patients—given their initial symptom level
and their current stage in treatment. In practice, we expect
that alerting clinicians to these cases will almost always be
in the patient’s best interests. In the present study, of those
cases that were inaccurately predicted to end in treatment
failure, 48% ended treatment with no reliable change. In
other words, cases flagged by this warning system are very
likely to be in need of some change in the approach to
treatment if a positive outcome is to be achieved.
A number of other observations should be made about
our findings. First, it is noteworthy that age was the only
significant predictor variable in the change trajectory
model. Significant results may have been observed for
other variables with a larger sample; however, the overall
impact of such variables on rate of change could be rela-
tively small. As it stands, the change trajectory model
developed in the present study provides a reasonably
accurate, parsimonious, and practical foundation for eval-
uating ongoing progress in child/adolescent community
mental health settings.
Another unexpected and sobering finding was that over
half of the children and adolescents in this public com-
munity mental health sample did not achieve a positive
outcome in therapy. In the total sample, based on parent/
guardian-report, 21% had significantly higher symptoms at
the end of treatment than when they began, and an addi-
tional 30% did not achieve any reliable change in symptom
levels. Although discouraging, these findings appear con-
sistent with most reviews and meta-analyses of traditional
child psychotherapy outcomes in usual care settings which
report little to no effect of treatment compared to controls
(Bickman 1996; Weiss et al. 1999; Weisz 2004; Weisz
et al. 1995). As we conducted this study using a patient-
focused research framework, our purpose was not to
evaluate the overall effectiveness of the community mental
health system serving these youth. However, the observed
21% deterioration rate among patients in the total sample
698 J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701
underscores the need for a valid system to help clinicians
identify youth at risk for negative outcomes in usual care
Some limitations of the available data and the treatment
setting warrant discussion. A limitation to the study’s
generalizability was the lack of information about specific
race categories for the sample’s 31% minorities. Another
noteworthy limitation may have been the relative infre-
quency with which the outcome measure was administered:
every 3.8 sessions, on average (median). Session-by-
session Y-OQ administration would have increased mod-
eling accuracy and, possibly, warning system sensitivity
(by increasing the number of potential signal alerts).
Although previous child/adolescent studies in this area
did not provide detailed information on the frequency of
outcome measure administration, available information
suggests that the slightly higher prediction accuracy in
those studies could be attributable to more frequent out-
come measurement (Bishop et al. 2005; Bybee et al. 2007).
The infrequent measurement imposed perhaps the greatest
limitation on the size of our selected sample. Whereas our
selected sample included only 20% of the archive, it would
have included 61% of the archive had the Y-OQ been
administered at every treatment session. Results from a
larger sample size such as this would have been more
reliable in general and would have been more reflective of
the archive’s overall population. The Participants and
Procedures section above describes demographic differ-
ences between our selected sample and the archive. How-
ever, the frequency of outcome assessment in this
organization appears to be higher than what is typically
observed in regular clinical practice, and demonstrates that
such a system for tracking outcomes can be successfully
employed and maintained in a large community mental
health setting.
The use of a single parent-report measure for assessing
outcome was also a possible limitation of the study. In a
separate study, our research group is currently examining
possible differences in deterioration rates, change trajec-
tories, and warning system accuracy for parent versus
adolescent self-report of outcome to evaluate the circum-
stances under which adolescent self-report of symptoms
may be more appropriate for the warning system. In
addition, the inclusion of supplemental outcome measures
in other domains (e.g., consumer satisfaction, youth self-
efficacy, parent stress) could have yielded a more complete
picture of the impact of treatment. However, it is unknown
whether the inclusion of such measures would significantly
improve the accuracy of the warning system. In addition,
the simplicity of using a single measure may maximize the
interpretability and sustainability of the warning system
approach, particularly in larger community mental health
systems where these efforts may yield the greatest benefits.
A caveat for interpretation is required given the split-
sample approach we used in phase 2 of the study. We
created warning system cutoffs using subsample 1 and then
tested the cutoffs’ prediction accuracy in subsample 2.
Coming from the same archive, these two subsamples
exhibited inevitable similarities. If applied to a sample
from a different institution, the warning system cutoffs
from this study could yield rather different prediction
accuracies. Where possible, an ideal application of the
system would be for institutions to use their own archives
to identify deterioration rates and create predictive cutoff
scores specific to their institutions.
This study provides a foundation for a number of clin-
ical practice applications and highlights several areas for
future research, many of which have been raised in dis-
cussing adult applications of the patient-focused paradigm.
Consistent with guidelines on evidence-based practice
(APA 2006), predicted change trajectories and early
warning systems can be used in child and adolescent psy-
chotherapy to monitor outcomes and alert therapists to
cases that may require a change in the treatment approach.
Lambert and colleagues have developed an outcome
monitoring system that provides immediate feedback to
clinicians on patient progress, and the benefits of this
system have been well-documented in adult studies (e.g.,
Lambert et al. 2001, 2002b). Research to date has not
evaluated the impact of providing feedback on patient
progress to clinicians (and/or parents) in child and ado-
lescent psychotherapy.
The benefits of providing feedback have been enhanced
in adult studies through the use of ‘clinical support
tools’’—problem-solving strategies and resources provided
to clinicians to help them attend to certain factors known to
be related to positive treatment outcomes (Harmon et al.
2007; Whipple et al. 2003). In adult treatment settings in
which this approach is used, clinicians are alerted when a
patient is ‘not on track’’ (i.e., identified as being at risk for
treatment failure), and the clinician is provided with a
decision tree designed to assess several outcome-related
factors such as the patient’s readiness for change, social
support network, and the therapeutic relationship. A brief
measure of these factors is completed by the patient, and
the clinician can use this information to adjust the treat-
ment approach as necessary. Similar procedures have not
yet been developed for children and adolescents, but they
could be particularly valuable if linked to putative media-
tors of treatment outcome and empirically supported
interventions. For example, using the warning system
described in this study, an alert could prompt additional
assessment of the patient in areas believed to be related to
treatment outcome in children and youth such as the ther-
apeutic alliance, parent and youth motivation for treatment,
the youth and family social support network, or recent
J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701 699
stressful life events. Based on this information, the clini-
cian could modify the treatment approach to address
problems or deficits in those areas. In addition, alerts could
prompt clinicians and supervisors to examine more closely
whether empirically supported interventions for the client’s
concerns have been appropriately considered and utilized.
The adult clinical support tools described above were
developed after patient-focused warning systems were
found to be accurate and feasible used in adult treatment
settings; the results of the current study lay the foundation
for the development of similar clinical support tools for
child and adolescent cases.
Finally, future research is needed to address a number of
issues related to the development and accuracy of child/
adolescent change trajectories and the warning system
described in this study. For example, results from the
Bishop et al. (2005) study suggest that the accuracy of a
warning system may vary as a function of the type of
treatment setting (e.g., outpatient, residential, inpatient,
etc.). Change trajectories and warning system accuracy may
also differ based on respondent (e.g., youth self-report vs.
parent/guardian-report of outcome). In addition, important
differences in client population, services provided, and
deterioration rates appear to exist between public commu-
nity mental health systems and private managed care sys-
tems (Bishop et al. 2005; Bybee et al. 2007). As such,
research is needed to examine potential differences in
change trajectories and warning system accuracy across
treatment settings, reporters of outcome, and systems of
care. Future research could also explore alternative means
to creating warning system cutoffs, experimenting perhaps
with flat or descending cutoffs, in contrast to the current
study’s ascending cutoffs created using prediction intervals.
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J Child Fam Stud (2009) 18:690–701 701
... These methods have started being used to explore trajectories of change in youth routine mental health care [12][13][14][15]. Those authors used a global functioning measure (the Youth Outcomes Questionnaire [16]) to model curvilinear (loglinear or square-root) change as a function of either session number or weeks in treatment. ...
... Level III (services) only accounted for 3% of the variance in depression scores and was, therefore, excluded from the models to minimize complexity. We ordered scores over time using the number of weeks since the first session in which a depression score was recorded, in line with previous research [12,13]. To be able to include baseline depression scores as a predictor, models were fitted on data that excluded the baseline scores (i.e., in the models 'time' = 0 corresponds to the first session after baseline assessment). ...
... However, methodological differences may also contribute to the discrepancy. As previous studies only reported AIC/BIC [13][14][15] or squareroot [12] models rather than significance tests, comparability is restricted. It may also be that differences in numbers of scores per participant affected power to test differences and the high proportion of short therapies in this sample has that effect. ...
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Depression is one of the main reasons for youth accessing mental health services, yet we know little about how symptoms change once youth are in routine care. This study used multilevel modeling to examine the average trajectory of change and the factors associated with change in depressive symptoms in a large sample of youth seen in routine mental health care services in England. Participants were 2336 youth aged 8–18 (mean age 14.52; 77% females; 88% white ethnic background) who tracked depressive symptoms over a period of up to 32 weeks while in contact with mental health services. Explanatory variables were age, gender, whether the case was closed, total length of contact with services, and baseline severity in depression scores. Faster rates of improvement were found in older adolescents, males, those with shorter time in contact with services, closed cases, and those with more severe symptoms at baseline. This study demonstrates that when youth self-report their depressive symptoms during psychotherapy, symptoms decrease in a linear trajectory. Attention should be paid to younger people, females, and those with lower than average baseline scores, as their symptoms decrease at a slower pace compared to others.
... Some studies have evaluated the efficacy of these signals of deterioration, alerting clinicians to clients that are falling into the bottom 10% to 20%, demonstrating detection accuracy rates of 85% to 100% when used with adult clients (Lambert et al., 2002). Lower detection accuracy rates of 69% to 88% are seen when early warning signals are used with children and adolescents, which has been justified by the higher proportions of treatment failure when compared to adult clients (Cannon, Warren, Nelson, & Burlingame, 2010;Nelson, Warren, Gleave, & Burlingame, 2013;Warren, Nelson, & Burlingame, 2009). ...
... Therapeutic deterioration is evident in up to 10% of adult clients (Lilienfeld, 2007;Murphy, Rashleigh, & Timulak, 2012), but much higher at 21%, for clients in youth psychotherapy settings (Warren et al., 2009). High dropout rates are another major concern in youth mental health settings, and dropout has been shown to be partly due to clinician and therapeutic factors that may be responsive to feedback (de Haan, Boon, de Jong, Hoeve, & Vermeiren, 2013). ...
... Young people are shown to have higher rates of deterioration and clinicians are shown to have lower rates of accurately predicting deterioration compared to adults in mental health treatment (Cannon et al., 2010;Warren et al., 2009 tice and provide feedback to clients, and also clinicians' own deliberate practice. Deliberate practice, which is a process of systematic effort to improve performance with the guidance of a supervisor, ongoing feedback relative to essential skills, and refinement and repetition of practice (Goodyear et al., 2017), has been shown to contribute to differences between clinicians in client outcomes, with the most effective clinicians engaging in 2.8 times more deliberate practice than other clinicians (Chow et al., 2015). ...
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Aim MyLifeTracker is a session‐by‐session mental health outcome measure for young people aged 12 to 25 years. The aim of this study was to determine clinically significant change indexes for this measure that would identify developmentally appropriate thresholds. The study also aimed to determine expected change trajectories to enable clinicians to compare a client's progress against average rates of change. Methods Participants comprised young people aged 12 to 25 years from both a clinical and a community sample from Australia. The clinical sample was 63 840 young people that attended a headspace centre. The non‐clinical group was an Australian representative community sample of 4034 young people. Results Clinically significant change indexes were developed for MyLifeTracker specific for age and gender groups by comparing clinical and non‐clinical samples. Males and young people aged 12 to 14 years needed to reach higher scores to achieve clinically significant change compared to females and other age groups, respectively. MyLifeTracker expected change trajectories followed a cubic pattern for those with lower baseline scores of 0 to 50, whereas those with baseline scores of 51 and above had varying patterns. For those with lower baseline scores, expected change trajectories showed that stronger change was evident early in treatment, which then tapered off before accelerating again later in treatment. Conclusions The development of MyLifeTracker benchmarks allows the measure to be used for Feedback Informed Treatment by supporting treatment planning and decision‐making. This information can help clinicians to identify clients who are not on track or deteriorating and identify when clients are improving.
... Rather, in-treatment variables such as missed sessions and a poor therapeutic alliance early in treatment are significantly associated with dropout among adolescents (O'Keeffe et al., 2019). In addition, a 14%-21% deterioration rate is found in the child and adolescent population (Warren et al., 2009(Warren et al., , 2010, compared with 5%-8% in adult mental health services. ...
Objective Routine outcome monitoring and clinical feedback systems might be beneficial for adolescent psychotherapy processes. Methods Clinicians (n = 34) and adolescent clients (n = 22) aged 14–19 from seven different outpatient clinics located in Norway participated in the study. Adolescents were interviewed in individual in‐depth interviews (n = 7) or in four adolescent‐only focus groups (n = 15), clinicians participated in seven clinician‐only focus groups. Results We report two core domains, (1) feedback about the therapeutic relationship and (2) feedback about the therapeutic work. Seven subthemes specify the functionality that participants need in a feedback system. Conclusion Adolescents and therapists requested a feedback system that was relationally oriented, supported collaborative action, and was personalized to the needs of the individual adolescent. The research indicates that a clinical feedback system should have idiographic, as well as nomothetic, components. A clinical feedback system for adolescents should monitor experiences of personal autonomy and the quality of the therapeutic relationship.
... Young people have higher rates of deterioration during therapy and clinicians have lower rates of accurately predicting deterioration with young people, compared to adults in mental health treatment (Cannon et al., 2010;Warren et al., 2009). They are also more likely to show higher rates of treatment drop-out and missed appointments, and it has been suggested that this is due to their perceptions around the usefulness of professional help and stigma related to this (O'Brien et al., 2009). ...
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Objective: Measurement feedback systems provide clinicians with regular snapshots of a client’s mental health status, which can be used in treatment planning and client feedback. There are numerous barriers to clinicians using outcome measures routinely. This study aimed to investigate factors affecting the use of a measurement feedback system across youth mental health settings. Methods: The participants were 210 clinicians from headspace youth mental health services across Australia. They were surveyed on predictors and use of MyLifeTracker, a routine outcome measure. This was explored through three processes: looking at MyLifeTracker before session, using MyLifeTracker in treatment planning, and providing feedback of MyLifeTracker scores to clients. Results: Clinicians were more likely to look at MyLifeTracker before session, less likely to use it in treatment planning, and least likely to provide MyLifeTracker scores to clients. Each measurement feedback system process had a distinct group of predictors. Perceptions of MyLifeTracker’s practicality was the only significant predictor of all three processes. Conclusion: Practically, organisations and supervisors can increase the use of measurement feedback systems through targeted supports.
... In addition, the adolescents in the treatment condition improved nearly one category on the CGAS indicating clinically meaningful change after a brief intervention. Some studies from ordinary care report poorer outcome following treatment [76,77]. In the CORC report mentioned earlier 27% of the CAMHS patients showed deterioration [36]. ...
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Background: This study aims to investigate effectiveness of a 6-week, transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety and depression in adolescents, the Structured Material for Therapy (SMART), in naturalistic settings of child and adolescent mental health outpatient services (CAMHS). Methods: A randomized controlled trial with waiting list control (WLC) was performed at three community CAMHS in Norway. Referred adolescents (N = 163, age = 15.72, 90.3% girls) scoring 6 or more on the emotional disorders subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were randomly assigned to SMART or to WLC. Results: In the treatment group (CBT), 32.9% improved in the main outcome measure (SDQ), compared to 11.6% in the WLC. Clinically significant and reliable change was experienced by 17.7% in the CBT condition, compared to 5.8% in the WLC. No patients deteriorated. Statistically significant treatment effects were achieved for internalization symptoms, anxiety symptoms and general functioning. Conclusions: These promising findings indicate that SMART may be considered as a first step in a stepped care model for anxiety and/or depression treatment in CAMHS. The recovery rates imply that further investigations into the effectiveness of brief treatments should be made. Furthermore, there is a need for more comprehensive second-stage treatments for some of these patients. Trial registration: Identifier: NCT02150265. First registered May 292,014.
... In another study examining the effects of a school-based mental health program, Owens and colleagues (2009) found that 41% of children saw no improvement in symptoms and 21% deteriorated in functioning. Rates of deterioration in youths receiving SAU in traditional community mental health settings can be as high as 21% (Warren et al. 2009). Utilizing methods of reliable change can be useful in the assessment of treatment trajectories and providing particular attention to youth at-risk for treatment failure (Warren et al. 2010), demonstrating a critical need to continually monitor the status of youth clients receiving mental health services. ...
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Objectives Multiple Family Groups (MFG) is an evidence-based behavioral parent training developed with a specific focus on increasing engagement and decreasing treatment barriers for families of children with disruptive behavior problems within high-risk communities. Previous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of MFG in improving oppositional behavior at the group-level compared to services as usual (SAU). However, information is lacking regarding intervention effectiveness on an individual-level (i.e., clinical significance). Methods The reliable change index and clinical cutoff score method was utilized to determine whether MFG produced clinically meaningful changes compared to SAU for both child- and parent-level outcomes in a sample of 320 youth aged 7 to 11-years-old. Results A significantly greater percentage of children in the MFG group experienced clinically meaningful change in problem behaviors compared to the SAU group, (p = 0.003, 95% [CI]: 1.610–18.481). A significantly greater number of parents in MFG also demonstrated clinically meaningful change in parental experience of stress compared to SAU, (p = 0.01, 95% [CI]: 1.255–14.704). Conclusions Findings suggested clinically significant and reliable improvements in child problem behaviors and decreases in parental perceived stress for families in MFG compared to SAU. Nevertheless, analyses demonstrated that both MFG and SAU resulted in few families obtaining clinically significant or reliable change in their functioning. Ongoing assessments and deeper understanding of intervention effect are needed to better service families in need. Both group- and individual-level comparisons should be considered when examining the effects of a treatment as they may provide a nuanced understanding of evidence-based interventions.
... We also compared student scores to the Y-OQ's Reliable Change Index (RCI) ( Jacobson & Truax, 1991). The RCI reflects the individual change in a score necessary to be considered clinically significant (Warren, Nelson, & Burlingame, 2009). ...
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Studies examining student-level outcomes associated with interprofessional team collaboration in schools remain anecdotal despite repeated calls for well-designed, rigorous, multimethod research. The purpose of the current study was to use a mixed-methods approach to explore how interprofessional team collaboration affects student-level outcomes and what student-level outcomes are associated with interprofessional team collaboration. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 27 school professionals serving on interdisciplinary consultation, assessment, referral, and education (CARE) teams in four Title I elementary schools. In addition, researchers examined quantitative data on student-level outcomes for 340 students served by the CARE teams in the four Title I schools. Rates of absenteeism, office discipline referrals, a curriculum-based measure, and a behavioral health measure were examined to explore relationships between interprofessional team collaboration and student-level outcomes. Qualitative findings indicated that interprofessional team collaboration improved coordination of and access to services, as well as consistent follow-through on plans and interventions. The CARE team processes also were associated with marked improvements in specific academic, behavioral, and mental health outcomes among students seen by the CARE teams. Results point to the important contributions interprofessional teams can make in schools when working together to address student needs.
... The OQ system is the most extensively tested MFS for adults; numerous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have found that using the OQ to provide therapists feedback about symptoms and alliance, particularly when combined with alerts about clients who are not "on track" to obtain good outcomes, leads to increased engagement (i.e., longer treatment) and improved client outcomes [39]. The YOQ measures have not been tested in an RCT, but they have been found to be sensitive to change [40] and several studies support the accuracy of the YOQ alert system in identifying cases at risk for treatment failure in TAU settings [41][42][43][44][45]. ...
Emotional disorders, encompassing a range of anxiety and depressive disorders, are the most prevalent and comorbid psychiatric disorders in adolescence. Unfortunately, evidence-based psychosocial therapies typically focus on single disorders, are rarely adopted by community mental health center clinicians, and effect sizes are modest. This article describes the protocol for a comparative effectiveness study of two novel interventions designed to address these challenges. The first intervention is a transdiagnostic treatment (the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders in Adolescents, UP-A), a promising new approach that uses a small number of common strategies to treat a broad range of emotional disorders, and their underlying shared emotional vulnerabilities. The second intervention is a standardized measurement feedback system, the Youth Outcomes Questionnaire (YOQ), designed to improve clinical decision making using weekly symptom and relational data. The three study arms are treatment as usual (TAU), TAU plus the YOQ (TAU+), and UP-A (used in combination with the YOQ). The primary aims of the study are to [1] compare the effects of the UP-A and TAU+ to TAU in community mental health clinics, [2] to isolate the effects of measurement and feedback by comparing the UP-A and TAU+ condition, and [3] to examine the mechanisms of action of both interventions. Design considerations and study methods are provided to inform future effectiveness research.
... Research indicates that when professionals learn to work with parents and leverage their strengths, more sustainable "anchoring" support contexts are created in the community (e.g. Netter Center for Community Partnerships, 2008;Warren, Nelson, & Burlingame, 2009). These anchoring supports facilitate the development of social capital and collective efficacy in the community while enhancing "horizontal" linkages between schools, health and human services, and youth development agencies (Alameda- Lawson & Alameda-Lawson, 2012). ...
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When designed intentionally, sport-based youth development programs engage youth in physical activity, sport, and exercise as a way to concurrently pursue goals related to socioemotional and physical development (Holt et al., 2017). One such application of this is the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model (Hellison, 2011) which has the ultimate goal of students transferring lessons learned within the sport setting to other areas of their life, including family, community, and school. However, once youth leave the program setting, they become vulnerable to challenges from external systems working to support or hinder their transfer of life skills (Martinek & Lee, 2012). Therefore, we propose that (in)congruence among family, school, community and program systems influence the extent to which lessons learned can transfer to other areas of their lives. Specifically drawing from the frameworks of Collective Parental Engagement (Alameda-Lawson & Lawson, 2016) and Students Multiple Worlds’ model (Phelan, Davidson, & Cao, 1991), we argue that skills and competency transfer is best facilitated when social settings which comprise youth’s social systems share similar values and expectations for desired behavior. Practical strategies for enhancing the transferability of lessons learned in TPSR programs through the congruence approach are shared.
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ENGLISH: Portugal is one of the countries with the highest rates of psychological disorders and intaking of psychopharmacological drugs. Invariably, this situation produces harmful implications to the country. One of the best ways of approaching this problem is through psychotherapy, whose effectiveness has been evidenced in multiple studies. However, psychotherapy faces some problems, such as negative results and premature termination of treatment (dropouts). To fight these issues, APA has recommended that clincal practice be based on scientific evidence, including the incorporation of the preferences a client might have in psychotherapy. Some empirical studies have indicated that the incorporation of client preferences in clinical practice has the potential of producing better results, of reinforcing the therapeutic aliance and of reducing dropouts. Given that there are no instruments in the Portuguese language that evaluate client preferences in psychotherapy, the present study transculturally adapted two instruments of the sort – the Cooper-Norcross Inventory of Preferences (C-NIP) and the Psychotherapy Preferences and Experiences Questionnaire (PEX.P1). The adapted instruments were then applied to a Portuguese speaking sample of 274 participantes so as to investigate the validity of these transcultural adaptation efforts. The psychometric properties were assessed in terms of psychometric sensitivity, construct validity and construct reliability. Because the C-NIP presented difficulties regarding these aspects we recommend, for the time being, its use as a way of initiating a dialogue with the client about their preferences. For a robust measurement of client preferences in psychotherapy, we recommmend the use of the PEX.P1, which demonstrated good psychometric qualities. _______________________________________________________________________ PORTUGUÊS: Portugal é um dos países com maiores taxas de perturbações psicológicas e de consumo de psicofármacos. Invariavelmente esta situação acarreta implicações nocivas ao país. Uma das melhores formas de abordar este problema é através da psicoterapia, cuja eficácia tem sido evidenciada em múltiplos estudos. Contudo, a psicoterapia enfrenta alguns problemas como os resultados negativos e os abandonos prematuros dos clientes. Para combater estes problemas a APA recomenda que a prática clinica seja baseada em evidências científicas, incluindo a incorporação no tratamento das preferências que um cliente poderá ter em psicoterapia. Alguns estudos empíricos indicaram que a incorporação das suas preferências na prática clínica tem o potencial de optimizar os resultados psicoterapêuticos, reforçar a aliança terapêutica e reduzir os abandonos prematuros. Dado que se constata que não existem ferramentas na língua Portuguesa que apurem as preferências do cliente em psicoterapia, o presente estudo adaptou transculturalmente duas ferramentas neste âmbito – o Inventário de Preferências Cooper-Norcross (C-NIP) e o Questionário de Preferências e Expectativas Psicoterapêuticas (PEX.P1). Os instrumentos adaptados foram aplicados numa amostra de 274 participantes fluentes na língua Portuguesa, a fim de investigar a validade do trabalho de adaptação transcultural. As qualidades psicométricas foram avaliadas em termos de sensibilidade psicométrica, validade de constructo e fiabilidade de constructo. O C-NIP apresentou dificuldades nestes aspectos, pelo que, neste momento, recomendamos o seu uso como forma de estabelecer o diálogo com o cliente sobre as suas preferências. Para uma avaliação robusta das preferências do cliente em psicoterapia, recomendamos o PEX.P1, que demonstrou boas qualidades psicométricas.
The dosage model provides a normative estimate of the overall pattern of patient improvement in psychotherapy. The phase model further specifies patterns of change in the domains of subjective well-being, symptom remediation, and functioning. The expected treatment response (ETR) approach uses patient characteristics to predict an expected path of progress for each patient. With repeated measures of mental health status, the treatment progress of an individual patient can be assessed against the patient's ETR to support decisions that would enhance the quality of a clinical service while it is being delivered.
The results of the development of expected recovery curves for an empirically driven patient profiling system are presented. Patients undergoing a course of psychotherapy (N = 11492) repeatedly took the Outcome Questionnaire-45 (OQ-45). Scores across all patients were combined into an aggregate dataset for use in generating expected recovery curves based on severity of symptoms at intake. SAS PROC MIXED was used to create a mixed linear model of recovery curves based on OQ-45 scores across sessions and the log transformation of session number. Mean estimates were established for each session from one to 20. Tolerance intervals were then created around each estimated mean score. Expected recovery curves were combined with tolerance intervals to create an early warning system capable of identifying patients whose slow progress suggests that they might be expected to have a negative therapy outcome (terminate treatment prior to obtaining a clinically significant benefit). Current efforts to establish a systematic quality improvement procedure using these curves are discussed. Charts of expected recovery values are plotted, and a straightforward system of patient profiling, early identification of treatment failures, and feedback to clinicians is described. Copyright (C) 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The phrase primum non nocere ("first, do no harm") is a well-accepted credo of the medical and mental health professions. Although emerging data indicate that several psychological treatments may produce harm in significant numbers of individuals, psychologists have until recently paid little attention to the problem of hazardous treatments. I critically evaluate and update earlier conclusions regarding deterioration effects in psychotherapy, outline methodological obstacles standing in the way of identifying potentially harmful therapies (PHTs), provide a provisional list of PHTs, discuss the implications of PHTs for clinical science and practice, and delineate fruitful areas for further research on PHTs. A heightened emphasis on PHTs should narrow the scientist-practitioner gap and safeguard mental health consumers against harm. Moreover, the literature on PHTs may provide insight into underlying mechanisms of change that cut across many domains of psychotherapy. The field of psychology should prioritize its efforts toward identifying PHTs and place greater emphasis on potentially dangerous than on empirically supported therapies. © 2007 Association for Psychological Science.
The evidence-based practice movement has become an important feature of health care systems and health care policy. Within this context, the APA 2005 Presidential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice defines and discusses evidence-based practice in psychology (EBPP). In an integration of science and practice, the Task Force's report describes psychology's fundamental commitment to sophisticated EBPP and takes into account the full range of evidence psychologists and policymakers must consider. Research, clinical expertise, and patient characteristics are all supported as relevant to good outcomes. EBPP promotes effective psychological practice and enhances public health by applying empirically supported principles of psychological assessment, case formulation, therapeutic relationship, and intervention. The report provides a rationale for and expanded discussion of the EBPP policy statement that was developed by the Task Force and adopted as association policy by the APA Council of Representatives in August 2005
Change is constant in everyday life. Infants crawl and then walk, children learn to read and write, teenagers mature in myriad ways, and the elderly become frail and forgetful. Beyond these natural processes and events, external forces and interventions instigate and disrupt change: test scores may rise after a coaching course, drug abusers may remain abstinent after residential treatment. By charting changes over time and investigating whether and when events occur, researchers reveal the temporal rhythms of our lives. This book is concerned with behavioral, social, and biomedical sciences. It offers a presentation of two of today's most popular statistical methods: multilevel models for individual change and hazard/survival models for event occurrence (in both discrete- and continuous-time). Using data sets from published studies, the book takes you step by step through complete analyses, from simple exploratory displays that reveal underlying patterns through sophisticated specifications of complex statistical models.
Dropping out of psychotherapy among children and adolescents is a significant problem affecting 40-60 percent of the cases receiving outpatient care. I review research on premature termination from treatment and current issues raised by that work. Our research work on dropping out of treatment among children referred for conduct disorder is highlighted to convey a risk factor and burden-of-treatment model to identify and explain who drops out of treatment and why. Factors that predict dropping out of treatment, the clinical outcomes of children who drop out and influences that moderate the impact of risk factors are discussed. A risk-factor model can aid clinical practice. Those in practice can readily test a variety of factors to determine whether such factors predict premature termination. Once at-risk cases are identified, interventions can be used early in treatment to retain cases. Efforts to establish a therapeutic alliance at the earliest points of contact within families is one such strategy. Some factors that place families at risk (e.g. high stress) may guide foci of treatment or initial clinic contacts. Clinical practice is an excellent venue for testing hypotheses about factors that place families at risk for premature termination and for intervening to improve participation in treatment.
Because they have been tested in research and shown to work, the treatments for child and adolescent mental health problems in this book are called “evidence-based”. Chapters cover treatments for the most commonly referred youth problems: anxiety, depression, ADHD, and conduct problems. John Weisz describes the concepts and theories underlying each treatment and details procedures, illustrating them with case examples. The book closely examines each treatment's potential use in everyday clinical practice and will be valuable to practitioners, clinical supervisors, and clinical program directors. It also summarizes and critiques the evidence on each treatment, for those planning courses on youth treatment.