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Premature termination in couple therapy with veterans: Definitions and prediction of long-term outcomes

APA Citation:

Doss, B. D., Hsueh, A. C., & Carhart, K. (2011). Premature termination in couple therapy with veterans: Definitions and prediction of long-term outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(5), 770-774. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025239

Abstract Created by REACH:

Pre- and post-survey data for Veterans and their spouses were used to examine the frequency of premature termination (PT) of treatment for couples in therapy. In addition, given that multiple definitions are used for PT, the authors determined which of seven definitions of PT was most predictive of loss of gains made during therapy (e.g., declines in relationship satisfaction) between the final session and an 18-month follow-up. Most couple ended therapy prematurely and two definitions of PT significantly predicted reduced relationship satisfaction and stability.



Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)


Empirical Study
Quantitative Study


Doss, Brian D., Hsueh, Annie C., Carhart, Kathryn


Premature termination (PT) has been identified as widespread in individual, family, and couple therapy. Unfortunately, research on PT utilizes numerous definitions of PT without providing guidance on which definition may be most clinically useful. The current study investigated seven definitions of PT (three based on therapist ratings and four based on quantitative measures) utilizing a sample of 177 couples seeking treatment at two Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers. Results indicated that PT occurred in 50–80% of couples; however, agreement between the definitions of PT was generally only in the slight to fair range, making it difficult to determine whether a particular couple was ready to terminate treatment. Additionally, many commonly used definitions of PT were unrelated to level or maintenance of relationship functioning following treatment. In contrast, two definitions of PT (ending treatment in the distressed range and therapist-rated likelihood of future unhappiness) significantly predicted larger decreases in relationship satisfaction during the 18 months following therapy, as well as lower levels of satisfaction and relationship stability 18 months after termination. Additionally, long-term relationship functioning was especially poor when both these definitions of PT were met, suggesting that both qualitative and quantitative definitions should inform decisions about termination in couple therapy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, University of Miami, BDD
Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, ACH
Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, KC


military veterans, veterans, humans, united states, couples, time factors, adult, female, male, personal satisfaction, surveys, questionnaires, couples therapy, united states department of veterans affairs, marital therapy, couple therapy, dropout, forecasting, patient dropouts, premature termination, treatment termination

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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