This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Clinical Experience of Therapists in a Training Program as a Predictor of the Therapy Alliance, Client Dropouts, and Duration of Therapy




Houghtaling, Austin

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Little research has addressed the effect clinical experience during graduate training has on students’ ability to improve therapeutic effectiveness. This study examined the relationship between student-therapists’ clinical experience and three therapeutic factors shown in the literature to be associated with client outcome—the therapy alliance, the number of dropouts, and the number of completed sessions therapists have with their clients. Data were gathered from 24 student-therapists and 420 cases seen at the Marriage and Family Therapy Center at Auburn University. Therapy alliance scores, whether or not the client dropped out of treatment, and the number of completed sessions was tracked for each therapist’s cases seen at the university clinic. Clinical experience was measured using two formats: time in the training program and the number of client-contact hours accrued by student-therapists throughout the program. Results showed a negative, significant relationship between clinical experience and the number of dropouts—with more clinical experience, therapists had fewer clients drop out of treatment. There was also a positive, significant relationship between clinical experience and the number of sessions completed with clients—therapists with more clinical experience had, on average, more completed sessions with their clients than therapists with less clinical experience.