• Posted by TheraSmart on October 30, 2020

“Even the most expert clinicians using treatments with the strongest empirical support cannot be effective if patients drop out of treatment prematurely.” – Roger Greenberg, PhD[8]

We, as practitioners, want to prevent clients from stopping therapy too early, yet it is something we see that happens often. If clients leave without a word while their treatment plan is still ongoing, it can be worrisome for us practitioners.

To improve client retention, we should explore the reasons why they are leaving prematurely in the first place. By doing so, we can work on strategies to improve customer retention.

Here are some things we can do to retain clients.

Why Do Clients Drop Out Even If Therapy Is Not Over?

Clients dropping out of therapy is common. In fact, in 2018, a study found out that about 40 to 60 percent of clients in the United States opt-out of their treatments before they are over[1].

Why is this the case? Each client is different, and each has his or her own unique set of characteristics and circumstances. There are many factors that may cause our clients to stop going to therapy even if it is unfinished, and here are some common ones that we should consider.

  1. Specific Disorders

client retention

Clients with personality and eating disorders are observed to leave therapy prematurely. The exact reason may vary per client. Having these disorders seem to make them more prone to dropping out of therapy before it is completed.

A study links this to poor practitioner-client relationships [2], where an expectation mismatch exists. Other studies say specific personality aspects (temperaments, impulse control, and more) contribute to the therapy dropout rates of people with these disorders[3][4].

  1. Demographics and Status

Another factor that can cause our clients to drop out is their socioeconomic status and their demographics. It has been observed that more younger clients, specifically those in their 20s, tend to drop out of therapy prematurely, compared to those in older age groups. Moreover, clients who earn less tend to drop out as well, likely because they cannot afford to continue treatment[1].

  1. Client Distrust

If clients stop coming back for therapy, they may have stopped trusting us. Multiple things can contribute to this factor of distrust, including our possible inexperience in handling similar treatments, undefined goals and expectations, a blunder we may have committed during previous sessions, or even an uninviting therapy space.

How to Stop Clients From Dropping Out Of Therapy

There are many methods we can undertake to keep our client retention rates high. However, most of them would require us to work on our professional relationship with our clients. As practitioners, it is within our role to help our clients follow through their course of therapy until the end. To fulfil this role, here are some strategies that we can apply[5].

Strategies To Keep Client Retention High

  1. Set Goals Right Away

At the beginning of therapy, we should set realistic goals with the clients. We should make sure that they understand what these goals are. As their therapists, we will help them make realistic expectations of what therapy can do for them and help them understand the therapy process.

One common reason for client dropouts is the miscommunication of goals and purpose, and one way to prevent this is by setting and communicating them clearly right from the start[5].

  1. Make Constant Reminders

During therapy, some clients may get disheartened because they fail to see immediate results from the few sessions they had. The effects of therapy appear gradually, and we, as practitioners, should remind them of this to keep them on track and for them to know where the sessions are heading to.[6].

  1. Avoid Using Only One Method Per Client

Every client is different, and one way to keep client retention high is by knowing how to adjust to each of their individual needs. We should approach clients’ treatments individually instead of applying only one mould for all of our clients.

While one person may need weekly sessions, another may call for more than that. Different goals call for different methods[7]. Perhaps doing group therapy sessions occasionally can help, too.

  1. Collaborate With Clients

Clients can get bored during therapy sessions and they may mistake it as the treatment being ineffective. They can get demotivated and stop coming to sessions altogether.

To prevent this from happening, we can keep them engaged by letting them collaborate with us on which direction they want the therapy sessions to go. By allowing them to be more involved, they will feel that they have an active role in creating the pathway in achieving their goals through therapy[8].

  1. Re-connect

Another strategy we can apply to keep client retention high is to contact clients with whom we have lost touch. We can re-establish a connection with them and seek conversations to understand why they stopped their treatment. Many factors may have caused them to pause therapy for a while, and failing to reach out again may end it permanently[7].

Let’s Walk Together With Them

Client retention is a widely known challenge among practitioners. Many professionals from all over have likely experienced some of their clients dropping out of therapy too soon. As a therapist, we may ponder on what we did wrong or why the client didn’t push through. It is beneficial to engage in some reflection.

However, the key takeaway here is to learn from experience and apply strategies and methods that can help prevent clients from stopping therapy while it’s still ongoing. Show clients that we are on this journey together with them. Express genuine care and concern. If a client feels our willingness and passion for helping them, it will establish trust and confidence in us easier.



  1. Keep Your Clients Coming Back
  2. Why do eating disorder patients drop out?
  3. Factors associated with dropout from treatment for eating disorders: a comprehensive literature review
  4. Why Do People With Eating Disorders Drop Out From Inpatient Treatment?
  5. Dealing with Dropout: Client Retention
  6. Improving Client Retention: 7 Strategies for Ethically Keeping your Clients (Part 1)
  7. Improving Client Retention: 7 Strategies for Ethically Keeping your Clients (Part 2)
  8. Are your clients leaving too soon?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Menu