Treatment Initiation and Dropout from Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Processing Therapy in a VA Outpatient Clinic

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261 Scopus citations


Emerging data suggest that few veterans are initiating prolonged exposure (PE) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and dropout levels are high among those who do start the therapies. The goal of this study was to use a large sample of veterans seen in routine clinical care to 1) report the percent of eligible and referred veterans who (a) initiated PE/CPT, (b) dropped out of PE/CPT, (c) were early PE/CPT dropouts, 2) examine predictors of PE/CPT initiation, and 3) examine predictors of early and late PE/CPT dropout. We extracted data from the medical records of 427 veterans who were offered PE/CPT following an intake at a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) PTSD Clinical Team. Eighty-two percent (n = 351) of veterans initiated treatment by attending Session 1 of PE/CPT; among those veterans, 38.5% (n = 135) dropped out of treatment. About one quarter of veterans who dropped out were categorized as early dropouts (dropout before Session 3). No significant predictors of initiation were identified. Age was a significant predictor of treatment dropout; younger veterans were more likely to drop out of treatment than older veterans. Therapy type was also a significant predictor of dropout; veterans receiving PE were more likely to drop out late than veterans receiving CPT. Findings demonstrate that dropout from PE/CPT is a serious problem and highlight the need for additional research that can guide the development of interventions to improve PE/CPT engagement and adherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-114
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • evidence-based practice
  • patient adherence
  • posttraumatic
  • stress disorders
  • veterans


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